My grandmother arrives with gifts in her hands for the kids, as she always does. My uncle, who we call uncle because we only have one, walks in behind her carrying even more stuff: fruit, wine and homemade banana bread, of course! She can’t help herself, I think. I thought we are celebrating her birthday. He gives me a hug. He knows.
She sits on the couch and the kids snuggle up to her to look at their loot. I pass her the baby. She smiles and he coos. She is in good spirits today. (Her infectious smile doesn’t come as easily as it once did; not since my grandfather died 3 years ago.) I suggest we head outside. It is a beautiful day: sunny, dry and 70 degrees. She agrees, but pauses in the kitchen to make herself a drink: VO on the rocks with a splash of water. Now she is ready.
The rest of my family arrives: my dad, his wife, my brother, sister-in-law and their Newfoundland, Rosie. We sit around the table eating crostini, farm fresh tomatoes and mozzarella, shrimp cocktail and an Italian truffle cheese. She is laughing, she is happy. Some of her favorite people are here, today, celebrating her 85 years. I know she feels the absence of her favorites who couldn’t be with her; she smiles anyway. We eat a roasted vegetable lasagna for dinner and a simple salad. We chat. The kids busy themselves in the yard; chasing the dogs and playing on the swing set.
“Mama, let’s have cake!” they yell in unison. They love birthdays.
We sing and eat cake. The cake is tender and moist; the frosting sweet with a hint of vanilla. The cake is simple, but delicious, and after all it is not about the cake, but the person you are celebrating.
Simple White Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
recipe slightly adapted from King Arthur Flour
makes 2 8″ rounds or 9″ rounds, a 9×13 sheet cake or about 24 standard cupcakes(I used 2, eight inch rounds)
Ingredients for Cake:
2 3/4 cups unbleached cake flour
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs whites, plus 1 whole large egg
1 cup whole milk
3 tsp. vanilla extract
Directions for Cake:
Pre-heat your oven to 350F. Grease and lightly flour cake pans and set aside.
Using a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, mix all dry ingredients on lowest speed to blend. Add the softened butter and mix until the flour looks like wet sand.
Add your egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Next add the whole egg, beating well and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk whole milk with the vanilla extract. Add this mixture, slowly, in thirds to the batter. Beat for a couple of minutes after each addition, until combined.
Pour the batter into your prepared pans. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the cake springs back when touched with your fingertip or a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. I baked my cake for about 35 minutes. ( 23 to 26 minutes for a 9×13 sheet cake; or 20 minutes for cupcakes, same time for 9″ rounds.) Once baked, remove from oven and allow to cool in the pans on a wire rack for about 30 minutes. Remove from the pan and allow to cool completely. Once cool, frost with vanilla buttercream frosting or any frosting you desire. The cake will last in air-tight container stored at room temperature for 2 days. Enjoy!
*I made and frosted this cake the day before I served it. I stored it in a cake carrier in our refrigerator for a day and then removed it several hours before serving and it tasted great!*
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Recipe from Savory Sweet Life
makes about 2 1/2 cups
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3-4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted ( I used 4, but next time I think I will stick with 3 cups.)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
3-4 tbsp. milk
Optional: food coloring
Using a paddle attachment, beat butter for a few minutes. On low-speed, add sifted sugar. Start with 3 cups of sugar. Add an extra if you think it needs it. Once the sugar is well combined with the butter add the salt, vanilla extract, milk and food coloring, if using. Decorate your cake as desired. For tips on frosting a cake, head here.
**Frosting can be made a couple of days ahead! Store in an airtight container, in the refrigerator, allow to come to room temperature before using. You may need to beat it for a couple of minutes so it is light and fluffy again.**
5 Cake Links You Must Check Out!
Looking for a cake that takes 15 minutes to prep, and only uses one bowl? Hummingbird High has a recipe for one bowl chocolate cake with mocha buttercream frosting that promises just that!
My grandmother makes the best angel food cake I have ever tasted. This recipe, by Sweet Sugar Bean, for raspberry and cream angel food cake gives her some competition!
White chocolate buttercream. Tender yellow cake. Lemon curd filling. Yes, all three come together in this fantastic recipe I found Saveur.
If love carrot cake, check out my recipe for carrot cake with maple cream cheese frosting. It is delicious!
Over the red velvet cake craze? Sweetapolita’s recipe for red velvet cake might change your mind. This is not your traditional red velvet cake recipe. Her is the twist: pink whipped vanilla cream with raspberries, marshmallow cream cheese filling and chocolate frosting. Wow!