Monday, 28 January 2013


This past weekend my eldest child turned 9.  I know every parent says this, but really, where is the time going?  I remember those early days when we used to nap together, go for walks and hang out at story time at the library.  Now he still likes to hang out with me, thankfully, but instead of story time, we watch shows like The 1900 house and talk about how things have changed in the past century.

As nostalgic as I am, I actually really love this age.  He is now getting to a place that I remember being as a kid.  I can't say I remember being 2, but I sure remember being 9.  It is so interesting to be able to relate to him on such a different level and it challenges me to be compassionate to where he is at right now.  9 felt like a big birthday, one so big that it won't come around again until 12.  It is the last single digit birthday and he is closer to his early teens than he is to Raffi.   He didn't want wooden trucks for his birthday, he wanted an MP3 player.  Picture books have turned into Tintin and Sushi was on the dinner menu.  Such a significant birthday required a significant day.  He skipped the big birthday party and opted for a super fun day with his friend and his family.  We made pizza, he and his buddy played, we went bowling, out for supper, back home for a movie, popcorn and a sleepover.  And of course a Sunday wouldn't be complete in our house without pancakes.  He had the time of his life and I got to share such a special day with him, it was an amazing experience really.

When I asked him what kind of cake he would like, it was without question the Buttermilk Birthday Cake.  While this cake is more homespun than a fancy theme cake (which one day, I will attempt), it has a near story book quality to it.  It has an amazing flavour, moist crumb and the raspberries in the middle offset the sweetness of the icings.  I love the drippy, chocolate icing and it is a great excuse to use as many colourful sprinkles as you like.  I love this cake so much, I think I may make it for myself for my birthday this year.  If you don't consider yourself a baker, not to worry, this is the kind of recipe your grandmother would have made; you don't need to be a TV chef to make it wonderful.  And if you are thinking, I would love to make this but I don't have any birthdays to make it for, have yourself an un-birthday party and enjoy with someone you love, candles optional.

Buttermilk Birthday Cake
Adapted From How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup soft unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs

1 9-inch square cake pan or 2 8-or-9-inch round cake pans, lined with parchment paper and greased

Preheat oven to 350℉.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a bowl and set aside.  Pour the buttermilk into a measuring cup and stir in the vanilla.  Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed (or by hand, of course) until light and fluffy.  Reduce the speed if using the mixer and add the eggs one at a time, beating for 30 seconds between additions.  Add alternating increments of the flour mixture and the vanilla-buttermilk, blending well after each additions; this should take 3-5 minutes.

Pour into the prepared pan or pans, and bake for about 40 minutes, 30 if you are using the round pans, until the tester comes out clean.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before unmolding to let cool completely.

Spread buttercream icing on one layer and add some lovely berries if you so choose.  Add the top layer of the cake and cover in chocolate icing. Recipes below.

To make the buttercream icing:
1 1/3 cups butter
4 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of milk

(if you are using this icing only for the centre of the cake as I did, cut the recipe in half)
Beat the sugar until soft and fluffy in a large bowl.  Slowly add the confectioner's sugar and a bit of milk and vanilla.  Cream until it is the consistency you like and sweeten to taste, you don't have to use all the sugar if you don't want to.

All-Purpose Chocolate Icing
This makes enough to ice a two layer cake, if you are using it only for the top as I have, cut the recipe in half.

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large eggs, beaten
3 1/3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark rum (optional)

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler.  Beat in the eggs, then the sugar.  Add the extract and rum, then leave to cool a little before using.  Pour overtop of your assembled cake and decorate liberally with sprinkles, happy candles and whatever else you can find that celebrates the life of who you love.

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