15. Some Days Just Call For Cake

We awoke this morning to the sound of rain.  Pouring rain to be exact.

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So what do you do when you’re stuck inside with 4 kids ranging in age from 1 through 8?  You bake.  Among other things.  Like card games, board games, dress up, puddle jumping, swimming in the rain, movie time . . .you get the idea.

And so, we made my favourite vanilla cake.  And I happened to have one of my favourite helpers in the kitchen with me!

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And then we made chocolate frosting.  Again, because we have almost as many little ones here as adults, I used milk chocolate as the base for the frosting and added in some cocoa powder to make it taste a little more chocolate-y.  If you don’t have little ones, or you have little ones that like dark chocolate, go ahead and use whatever chocolate you like best.

This cake makes 2 9″ cakes, so it’s the perfect cake to make for a birthday.  And the frosting recipe will make enough to ice a 2-layer cake (with leftovers – which I just freeze and use up later if I make the kids cupcakes or sugar cookies that they can ice).  If you want to cut the layers in 2 (I’ve done this before), use 1.5x the recipe and you should have enough.  Just don’t forget, if you have little helpers in the kitchen with you, to let them lick the frosting bowl clean!  It saves little fingers attacking the frosted cake . . .

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My Favourite Vanilla Birthday Cake

  • Servings: 2 9-inch cakes
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 cup softened butter
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups buttermilk (or use regular milk with 1 tsp of white vinegar added to make it more acidic)
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 4 cups AP flour

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and butter and flour 2 9″ cake pans.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar.
  3. Add in the eggs and vanilla and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  4. Measure out the rest of the dry ingredients, and add half into the bowl along with 1/2 of the buttermilk / soured milk.  Mix lightly until the dry ingredients and milk are just combined.
  5. Add in the remaining dry ingredients and milk and mix well until all the ingredients are completely incorporated into the batter.
  6. Divide the batter into each of the 2 prepared cake pans.
  7. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cakes comes out clean.

Milk Chocolate Frosting

  • Servings: Makes Enough to Ice One 2-layer cake
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 6oz of milk chocolate (I prefer Dairy Milk)
  • 2 cup of cold butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder (I prefer Camino brand)
  • 1 1/4c powdered / icing sugar

Directions

  1. In a bowl set over (not in!) simmering water, melt the chocolate
  2. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a regular bowl using a hand mixer, add in the butter, cocoa powder, icing sugar, and vanilla
  3. Once the chocolate has melted, add it to the bowl holding the remaining ingredients.
  4. Beat the mixture until all the butter and chocolate are well mixed.
  5. Continue to beat until the mixture obtains the degree of fluffiness you prefer (I quite like a very fluffy frosting, so I let my mixer run for quite a few minutes.

*If your butter is soft, when you add in the chocolate, it will melt.  This is easily fixed – just throw the bowl int the fridge (or freezer if you want a really quick solution), and let it set up until the butter isn’t quite so melty and the mixture can be whipped

*I have found, after making this recipe on more than a few occasions, it works best if the butter is actually FROZEN before you start – I just slice it into pieces and throw it into the bowl.

 

Working In Joy (aka Sprinkle Cake)

I mentioned before that this year, I decided to jump in with both feet and commit to Ali Edwards One Little Word workshop.  As Ali says on her site, “a single word can be a powerful thing”.  And yes, my word for the year is JOY.  There are a million reasons why I think this is the absolute perfect word for me to work with this year, but I think this quote sums it all up quite nicely:

Joy quotes

Or, as Danielle LaPorte put it,

“Happiness is like rising bubbles — delightful and inevitably fleeting.
Joy is the oxygen — ever present.”

While the start of a new year is supposed to be filled with the excitement of fresh starts, new challenges, and first steps on the path to being a better person, the first few weeks of this year for me have brought more than a few reminders of how life doesn’t always go quite as we had hoped for or planned.

But rather than focus on the dark clouds in life that are sickness and setbacks, I actively looked for the joy in the situation.  For there was joy in snuggling with my little one on the couch while she was home sick from school for two days.  And there was joy in making special dinners with the kids as the Husband worked late.  And there was even joy in changing up my gym routine when I wasn’t able to meet with the Coach (and for those that know me . . . i do NOT like a change in my gym routine . . . some things are sacred and not to be changed . . . EVER).

As the days of January tick by, I’m also starting to realize that it’s a whole lot easier to find joy in life when you wake up each day full of vitality and refreshed from a good night’s sleep . . . the benefits of a clean diet, no alcohol, and lots of physical activity.

It’s also a whole lot easier to wake up early so I can work on my One Little Word project when I am so rested and full of life!

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While the gym is definitely one of my happy places, I am probably happiest in the kitchen.  And this weekend, because the majority of my family’s birthdays happen in January, I found myself in the kitchen all day on Sunday baking birthday cakes and making frosting.  In all, I made 2 four layer cakes and with two different frostings.  The first was a sprinkle cake, for which I am about to share the recipe, and the second was simply the sprinkle cake without the sprinkles.  As for the frosting, I made a simple vanilla frosting for the sprinkle cake and a mocha one for the plain vanilla cake.  I will freely admit that there is nothing nutritionally redeeming about sprinkles, or their appearance in cake.  And while I’m admitting to things, I also used vegetable shortening in my vanilla frosting (yeah, even I was horrified by it) . . .but it made for an excellent frosting that hardened on the outside just that little bit, you know, the way the icing is on a cake from a bakery.  And yes, I did have a slice of cake (the mocha one which didn’t have shortening . . . but cake nonetheless).  And yes, there was a whole lot of joy in that slice of cake!

Vanilla Sprinkle Cake

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 cup butter

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup greek yogurt

1 1/2 cups milk (any kind that you have on hand)

2 tbs vanilla extract

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

3 1/3 cups flour

1 cup sprinkles (I used the thin round ones, but you could also use the little ones that look like balls – other kinds of sprinkles may bleed too much into the batter)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and butter and flour 2 9″ cake pans.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and two sugars.  Beat until they are well combined.  Add in the eggs and continue to beat until the mixture is light, fluffy, and pale yellow in colour.
  3. Add in the yogurt and mix again.
  4. Measure the milk and vanilla into a bowl.  Measure the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into another bowl.
  5. Add half the milk mixture and half of the flour mixture to the bowl and mix until just combined.
  6. Add in the remaining milk mixture and flour mixture and again, mix until just combined.
  7. Add in the sprinkles and mix on last time.
  8. Distribute the batter between the two pans and use a spatula to even out the batter in the pans.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes and assess how well done the cakes are.  At this point, I put the cakes back in for another 10 minutes.  I then covered the cakes with tin foil and baked them for another 15 minutes until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cakes came out clean.
  10. If you are making these cakes without the sprinkles, baking time may be reduced by about 10-15 minutes.
  11. I cut each of these cakes in half to make a total of 4 layers!

Simple Vanilla Frosting

  • Servings: ices 1 2-layer cake
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

3-4 cups icing sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

4 tbsp milk or cream

Directions

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, shortening and vanilla together until well combined.
  2. Add in 3 cups of the icing sugar as well as the milk.  Mix well.  If the icing is not as thick as you’d like it, add in the remaining cup of icing sugar.  Depending on how “fluffy” you like your frosting, keep beating it until your desired state of fluffiness is reached.
  3. If you are making a 4-layer cake as I did, double this recipe.

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