when it's easy.

I remember when nothing in life was complicated. Well, I suppose I shouldn't go that far, because even as I child I always found something to worry about: a bent clasp on my overalls,a forgotten brown bag lunch, or the time I brought Rice Krispie treats to school for my birthday but they were made with rainbow-colored marshmallows (which, consequently, are also obnoxiously flavored with lime and cherry) and, when melted together, turned the treats into an unappetizing brownish-gray color. I'm certain I wasted the better part of Language Arts worrying if the other kids thought they were gross. Even when cute David that sits next to you in music class tells you that your unfortunate-looking curly hair is well, unfortunate-looking, it's easy to recover by calling him wicked names in your head. But looking back, if all I had to fuss over these days was why the grape jelly creates that greasy looking purple ring against white bread after it's been sitting in my lunchbox all day, I'd say I'd be in pretty good shape.

But growing up brings a whole new set of worries: high heels that wear unevenly, buying car insurance, learning that break-ups aren't cured by name-calling (even if you actually verbalize it this time), etc. Really, I think that adult problems are different than kid-problems, but no less stressful. When I was 7, I tried out for cheerleading and after 3 days of camp and practicing my toe-touch until my hamstrings nearly ripped, I didn't make the squad. Oh the devastation! Fortunately, I think mothers know that ice cream can cure anything, and I let my tears drip into a vanilla-orange swirl outside Little George's convenience store until Mom convinced me I was better off. Honestly, that ritual hasn't changed, and we still go for ice cream when something goes awry in life.

There's a lot of things that are beyond our control in this world, pretty much everything if you think about it, but I like to think the kitchen offers a safe haven in the land of cheerleading cuts and squashed hearts and PBJ sandwiches. It's the chance to simplify things, to break it down into easier-to-digest slices of life. There's nothing that says you have to make a 14 layer cake or something that has so many flavors you get a headache while you chew. Life is complex, it's hard, but strawberry cake is simple. It's easy. It's wonderful. It's easy to forgot about cute David when the buttery, light crumb tumbles across your teeth and down your throat; you're not thinking that you've got a terrible cramp in your left calve from your crooked stilettos when sweet strawberry jam melts on your tongue. Finally, something easy.

Strawberry Simple Cake
Inspired by Flo Baker

1 3/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, soft
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup strawberry jam (I used homemade)
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; butter a 9 inch springform pan and line with parchment paper. In a medium sized bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of your handy-dandy KitchenAid, beat the butter for 1-2 minutes until it is light and smooth. Add the sugar and extracts, beat 2 minutes more. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for a full minute after each addition.

On low speed, add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk until it is just combined, do not overmix. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 45 minutes, but check it after 35. Allow to rest for 10 minutes, then remove the ring but not the base; cool to room temperature.

Once cool, slice the cake horizontally with a serrated knife and fill with the strawberry jam; replace the top half of the cake, dust with powdered sugar and serve. I wish every day was like this.

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