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Welcome, Peanut Charlie

Babies are wonderful. They're soft and warm and wiggly, like puppies without fur, and it's impossible not to smile at their prunish little faces.



And because of one -- a brand new member of the family -- I completely forgot how to think clearly and was very nearly late for work yesterday, I spent so much time looking at his first photos and then looking at them again.

Charles Michael is his name (say hello, there on the right), but they're going to call him Charlie, his mom and dad are, and what a couple of fine people they are. One of them freckle-faced and looking 13 when she's more than twice that age, the other -- please forgive me, nephew-in-law -- looking the way Charlie Brown might if he grew up tall and handsome.


Babies are blessed events, and they make you want to thank everyone responsible starting with the Architect of it all.


Babies are a cause for celebration, so here's a celebratory cake so easy to make you'll do it again and again. If there's something special you make for celebrations like this one, hit "comment" and share it with us.


We decided to give you two cakes, since neither is particularly difficult to do. The citrus one is Nigella Lawson's Clementine Cake which, since this is not the time of year to get clementines, you can make using oranges and a lemon or, we think, Meyer lemons alone.


The other we lifted from a story published by a sister newspaper and distributed through McClatchy Tribune News Service. It's a cake you can have for breakfast, maybe with chicken-apple sausages.


Either one will make a new mom and dad stop kissing their sweet baby child long enough to have a bite or two or three.




NIGELLA'S CLEMENTINE CAKE
4 to 5 clementines (about 1 pound total weight), or substitute a corresponding weight of valencia oranges plus 1 lemon or of Meyer lemons


6 eggs


1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar


2-1/2 cups ground almonds (you can do this in the food processor, but start with slivered almonds so there's not brown "skin" to rub away)


1 heaping teaspoon baking powder


Put the citrus in a pot of cold water to cover; bring to the boil and cook for 2 hours at the steady simmer. Drain and when cool, cut the clementine in half and remove the seeds, then chop everything -- skin, pith, fruit -- in the food processor.


Preheat the oven in the meantime to 375 degrees, then butter and line with waxed paper an 8-inch springform pan.


Beat the eggs. Add the sugar, almonds and baking powder. Mix well, adding the citrus. Nigella recommends doing this part by hand.


Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, and bake for 1 hour (have aluminum foil at the ready to cover the cake which may become too brown after about 40 minutes). When it's done, remove from the oven, and cool in the pan on a rack. When the cake is completely cold, remove from the pan. This gets better as it sits. And, yes -- or no, as the case may be -- there is no flour in this cake.




LEMON-FIG CAKE
1/4 cup light olive oil and 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus more for the pan


1/2 cup milk


1 large egg


1 cup all-purpose flour


1/2 cup cornmeal


3/4 cup sugar


1/2 teaspoon baking powder


1/4 teaspoon salt


1 package (10 ounces) dried figs (Calimyrna recommended), stemmed and coarsely chopped (about 1-1/2 cups)


1-1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)


1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped


1/2 cup pine nuts


Preheat the oven to 350. Oil a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom; set aside. We've not tried it, but we're betting a 9-inch springform pan will work, too.


In a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together oil, milk and egg; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add wet ingredients to dry using a spatula to combine just until smooth. Do not overmix. Fold in figs, lemon zest and rosemary.


Spread batter in the pan and top with pine nuts. Place pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until golden and done to the toothpick test, 35 to 40 minutes.


Cool 15 minutes in the pan, then remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack. Will keep one day wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature.


Yeah, sure it will.


The original source of this recipe is Carolyn Stewart-Snow at Chanticlear Vineyard Bed and Breakfast in Paso Robles, Calif.



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