My family’s color-coded, Google-calendar lives were upended two weeks ago when our daughters’ school abruptly closed, and my husband and I began to work from home in an effort to flatten the coronavirus curve. Suddenly, we went from being busy commuters, who typically see our 5- and 7-year-olds on the weekends and for brief stints in the mornings and evenings, to working full-time at home, while home schooling our girls. Our once color-coded life has become a colorful circus.

So I decided to channel my inner Pollyanna. As a parent, if I approach this “break” with more pluck and less fear (and um, yelling), my girls might very well look back on this time with fondness. They’ll recall that weird, not unpleasant, lull in their otherwise-busy childhoods when Mama and Papa were home all day, they all but lived in their pajamas and “music class” was Papa playing the guitar in the backyard under a budding 150-year-old oak tree.

They’ll remember heading into the kitchen to bake with me. Not just because we needed an activity to keep us busy as I pondered the thought of many days together at home, but because the act of baking brings comfort. (I’m also pretty sure it counts as “science.”) We make simple, uncomplicated things like shortbread, drop cookies, quick breads and one-bowl cakes like this one, a tender and chocolaty affair made with pantry items that can be found and measured by little hands: flour, sugar, cocoa, oil, baking soda and vinegar.

This recipe, which I first wrote about in an article about the best kids’ cookbooks a year ago, is adapted from Mollie Katzen, a chef and author best known for “The Moosewood Cookbook.” It’s an ideal recipe to make with young kids (or for older kids to make alone) because it calls for just a handful of ingredients, and it’s mixed and baked in one pan. (It’s also vegan.) It’s surprisingly moist and delicious on its own or dusted with confectioners’ sugar, but in times like these, a layer of buttercream frosting and a rainstorm of colored sprinkles are a very good idea. A couple weeks ago, my 5-year-old made it while I looked over her shoulder. She took a bite of the finished cake, looked me in the eye with pride and said, “My cakes are better than Mama’s.”