Raspberry-Pistachio Brown Butter Cake

When one gets the crazy idea to become a mother, people come out of the woodwork with tales of joy and woe and generally way, way too much information. Everyone has an opinion, everyone seems to give unsolicited advice. I definitely found this to be the case while expecting Little C, and it made me all stabby on more than one occasion. But on the plus side, a few of those nuggets of wisdom did manage to cling to my already deteriorating memory, and by the time the tiny being who had set up camp in my body for the better part of a year became an outside baby, I felt pretty ready for this motherhood thing. After all, millions had gone into it before me and millions more have chosen to do it multiple times, God bless 'em. It couldn't be altogether impossible, right? Right?

Well, it's true--it's certainly not impossible, though some days, especially early on, it absolutely felt that way. Never before had I ever had such an odd sensation, like laboriously wading through space, as though underwater, for weeks (months) on end. The long hours that my husband was at work and I was home alone with a strange newborn creature who was colicky, nursing on demand every 45 minutes and who refused to sleep at all, trying to keep her fed and clean and content on very little sleep myself were some of the most trying moments of my life. And I was more than a little depressed about the whole thing. Not. Awesome.

I've heard it said that you're given the sort of child that you need in order to learn something from the experience. True. Even the very wee infant Baby C, so tiny and fragile, and yet so generally relentless, knocked my self-centered, poor time-managing behind so far down my personal totem pole, it took the better part of two years to even consider what I might like to do with the remainder of my life, outside of being a mother. This is something I've just started to mull in the past couple of months. And guys, it's freaking me out.

Arriving at this point after so much time completely consumed with the day-to-day tasks of raising my baby has been sort of mind-blowing. I think about the next steps to move forward with personal goals and making long-held dreams come true and returning to projects I started before Little C, and I shake with anticipation, the thrill of doing something just for myself, and an incredible amount of fear. Because what if it's too much? What if I drop the ball at home? Can I manage to shift focus without changing my priorities? And I feel such intense guilt, just thinking about focusing on something other than my family, before I've even done anything at all. I am convinced this is some kind of biological thing, because it's a weight so heavy that it's enough to hold a mother down in her nest, so that she'll never go anywhere or see anything that might take her focus away from her brood. It's a weight that is equal parts welcomed and wonderful, crazymaking and suffocating. The random well-wishers with all their fancy advice in the grocery checkout line never threw that one out at me while I was expecting. Would've been nice, randoms. Thanks.

But I keep returning to these ideas that I have brewing, these new opportunities I can create for myself, and think that maybe in the end, it would be about more than just me. If I can accomplish certain things on my Bucket List, even if they take me away from home here and there, I'm able to cross off the first thing on that list, which is to Be the Best Mother I Can Be. And I'm pretty sure part of that job description is to live by example. To show my little girl that anything worth having is worth working for, and that following dreams should be a lifelong journey. That the journey to realizing those dreams might slow down or get interrupted sometimes, but it should never stop altogether, no matter what circumstances come up. Even if those circumstances involve raising a beautiful, smart, funny, perfect baby girl who brings me more joy, more fulfillment on a level that I just can't explain. The grocery store randoms did tell me about this bit, but I never could have imagined the depth of this love.

It's a big deal, being a mother. I try to play it down sometimes to childless friends or other people I meet or even to my own mother, maybe to make it seem like I've Got This or to hide my own insecurities, but it's a big, Biden-expletive deal. It's why strangers feel like they can share war stories with pregnant people in grocery stores, why there's a million blogs and books on motherhood, why we have our very own holiday and why you should make a beautiful, rustic, flavorful Raspberry-Pistachio Brown Butter Cake for every mother you know, and then invite them for tea this Mothers' Day. It's so good, I made one for myself.

Raspberry-Pistachio Brown Butter Cake
Adapted from The Craft of Baking

To make 1 cup of pistachio flour, grind 1 cup unsalted pistachios with 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour in a food processor or clean coffee grinder until fine. Note that this recipe uses kosher salt, so for regular salt, halve the amount. The Demerara sugar is for sprinkling over the batter, and makes for the most delicious, slightly caramelized, crunchy layer that really makes this cake--so don't skip it.

Serves 8-10

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for the pan
2 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup pistachio flour (see note)
3/4 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
7 large egg whites
1 cup fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons Demerara sugar

In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt and cook the butter over medium heat until it is browned and smells nutty, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, pistachio flour, cake flour, and salt. Whisk in the egg whites to combine. In a slow and steady stream, gradually whisk in the browned butter. Cover and chill the batter until thickened, about 1 hour (or up to 1 week ahead).

When you're ready to bake, position an oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the berries evenly over the top, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edge. Sprinkle the Demerara sugar generously and evenly over the batter. Bake until the edges of the cake are golden and the cake springs back slightly when touched, about 35-40 minutes (I needed more time here, about 45 minutes).

Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool for a few minutes before removing the ring from the tart pan and letting it cool completely, or serve slightly warm. This cake is best eaten the day it is made, but can be wrapped tightly and stored for up to 2 days.

CakeShauna Sever