Odette Williams, Australian cookbook author of 'Simple Cake,' gets real about cooking with her kids, avocado toast, and why you should eat cake for breakfast.

kids cooking with mom
Odette’s kids, Ned (left) and Opal, lend a hand with the coconut cake.
| Credit: Photography by Michael Graydon + Nikole Herriott

Odette Williams has advice for anyone looking to cook with their kids: "Sometimes you need to pour yourself a stiff drink." The author of Simple Cake and the woman behind OW aprons is only half kidding. Since it's 9 a.m. on a weekday in her bright and airy brownstone in Brooklyn, she's sipping an Australian flat white coffee, not a glass of wine. But she's bracing for a challenge as she preps the kitchen before corralling nine-year-old Ned and 12-year-old Opal to help make breakfast at the photo shoot for this story. "It's a long-term investment," she says. "You have to grit your teeth through the moments when they have a meltdown for no reason at all and you're left with this dirty kitchen and they refuse to eat what you've made. But then all of a sudden, they're into it and they've learned something." 

family on couch with dog
The whole family’s a fan of their fluffy labradoodle, Hank.
| Credit: Photography by Michael Graydon + Nikole Herriott

On the menu today is an avocado toast loaded with roasted tomatoes, feta cheese, and crispy prosciutto. Odette, a Sydney native, has been making avo toast for years, long before it took over your Instagram feed. But it's the avocado that inspires today's first revolt. Ned seems excited to make little crisscross patterns in the avocados and scoop the pieces into a bowl, but once he gets through one, he taps out, throwing his hands in the air and exclaiming, "This is so hard! I'm sweating!" After a pause, he turns to Opal and asks for assistance. She's busy, focusing on reaming lemons and grating garlic.

lemon juicing kid with tomato guac mash
Opal’s a fan of super-lemony mashed avocado (left). Ned steals a tomato when he thinks no one’s looking (middle). All hands are on deck for the avocado mash (right).
| Credit: Photography by Michael Graydon + Nikole Herriott

Odette expected the morning to play out this way. She's not interested in projecting the perfect family, and she likes to let her kids be themselves. Ned is usually a more adventurous eater than Opal, but he "needs to pull his weight" in the kitchen, jokes Mom. (He's a reluctant helper but an enthusiastic taste-tester.)

Opal, on the other hand, "is a wonderful little baker," which was a big help when Odette was testing the recipes for her book. Even though Odette isn't baking dozens of cakes a week anymore, they still show up regularly —even at breakfast. This morning, the family is making her not-too-sweet coconut cake loaded with shredded coconut and coconut milk.

kids holding dog
Credit: Photography by Michael Graydon + Nikole Herriott

Back to the avocados: Ned and Opal have sorted out the cutting and the mashing, but when it comes time to taste, they butt heads again. The lemon is "overpowering," Ned says. "No, it's perfect," Opal counters. Odette and her husband, Nick, stay out of it, and soon enough, the kids sort things out. 

Then the entire family starts eating the creamy mash by the spoonful, and the only sound in the kitchen is Ella Fitzgerald singing faintly from a speaker on a bookshelf. Even if they couldn't get to the rest of breakfast, the family seems pretty content with their bowl of mashed avocados. "It's the perfect comfort food," says Odette to silent nods of approval. And if she can get everyone to agree on something, it makes for a pretty perfect morning, too.

odette williams home baking
At Aussie cafés, kids can have babyccinos, steamed milk with marshmallows. Odette makes them at home, where Ned pairs his with her coconut cake.
| Credit: Photography by Michael Graydon + Nikole Herriott

Loaded Avocado Toasts

odette avocado toast
Credit: Photography by Michael Graydon + Nikole Herriott

Recipe: Try Odette's Loaded Avocado Toasts

Double Coconut Cake

serving double coconut cake
Credit: Photography by Michael Graydon + Nikole Herriott

Recipe: Try Odette's Double Coconut Cake