Strawberry Buttermilk Birthday Cake + 5 Unique Birthday Cake Links


Wilson May didn’t care much for birthdays.  And yet he acquiesced, celebrating with family, [family he didn’t care much to see], at the request of his pushy daughter, year after year, cake after cake.

Why the hell does my daughter need to mark every goddamn birthday? He thought while his phone vibrated in his pocket.  It was her.  [Who else would it be?]  Calling to remind him about his birthday celebration later in the day.

As if Wilson needed a reminder that yet another year had passed.

He silenced the vibrating phone in his pocket [God damn phone.] just as the nurse he dreaded seeing pushed open the door to the long, stark hallway he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to walk down.

Wilson May?  Wilson May?  the nurse said, her squirrel like eyes darting around the waiting room.  [Did her nose wiggle too? Is she sniffing me out?]

Wilson removed his cheap, cockeyed reading glasses placing them in the 3 button placket of his pink polo shirt, adjusted his now wrinkled pants and debated leaving.  In 20 minutes he could be home.  Alone.  A beer in hand and sitting in the sun on a large wooden deck only one rocking chair occupied, where he’d have more time to think about what was next for his tottery body, his tired soul. [If the pain dissipated? Golf everyday. Gone entirely? Travel, fucking, drinking.  Wilson as he imagined himself 25 years ago.]

And yet, Wilson’s inner thoughts never matched his outer life.  For the past sixty-six years he had lived and loved two very different lives.  The life the outside world saw, a life well-lived [to others], consisted of obligations, dependability…sometimes love varied immensely from the impractical, reckless and solitary life Wilson imagined daily.

[At times becoming so engrossed in the romanticized version of his life, Wilson was unreachable. Lost to his castle in the air, his black coffee growing cold in his large, hairy hands, the local paper left unread.  His now ex-wife called them staring spells.  Wilson knew better.]

Wilson May…Wilson…?  He sensed a bit of hostility in the squirrel nurse.  He had aggravated her now and in turn she would likely be less gentle with him.  Tit for tat, like so many relationships he once knew.

Squirrel nurse surveyed the room one last time before giving up on Wilson.  The beige door gradually closed behind her, as if allowing chance to take over.

Wilson stared straight ahead, unmoving.  No decisions would be made today.



Strawberry Buttermilk Birthday Cake

Cake and frosting recipe adapted from Sweetapolita

Italian pastry cream recipe adapted from An Italian in My Kitchen

makes 1, 3 layer, 8-inch round cake

Serves 10-12

Ingredients for cake:

4 eggs at room temperature

2 egg yolks at room temperature

1 + 1/4 cups buttermilk, well shaken

1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

3 cups cake flour, sifted

2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup or 2 sticks, unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces

Ingredients for strawberry compote:

2 cups fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced

1/4 cup sugar (a bit more if strawberries are not sweet)

1 tablespoon orange juice

pinch of kosher salt

Ingredients for Italian pastry cream:

1 cup + 1/2 cup whole milk

4 egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon Grand Marnier

2 + 1/2 tablespoons flour

Ingredients for whipped vanilla frosting:

1/4 cup whole milk

3 sticks + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

good pinch of kosher salt

few drops of food coloring if desired

Directions for cake:

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.  Grab 3, 8 inch round cake pans and butter the bottoms and sides of each pan.  Line the bottoms with parchment paper and dust with flour.  Tap out an excess flour.  Set aside

Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, 1/4 cup of buttermilk and vanilla in a large measuring cup or small bowl.  Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Reduce the speed to low and add the cold, cubed butter, one piece at a time, leaving a few second in between each addition.  Continue to mix on low until butter  is well blended and looks like wet sand or cornmeal.

Next add the remaining buttermilk (1 cup) and mix on medium speed for about 4-5 minutes.  Stop the mixer and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to make sure everything is well incorporated.  On low-speed, slowly add the egg mixture.  Increase speed to medium and beat for about 1 minute.  Stop the mixer and fold the batter once or twice.

Divide the batter evenly among the three pans.  Bake two of the pans until the cake is golden and springs back gently when  touched in the middle or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a couple of crumbs, about 25-28 minutes.  Cool cakes on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing them from the pan to cool completely.   Next, bake the last pan for 25-28 minutes.  Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from the pan and cooling completely.

Directions for strawberry compote:

Combine 1 cup of strawberries, sugar, orange juice, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often until the berries start to break down, about 10 minutes.

Lower the heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.  The compote is ready when it covers  the back of a spoon.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Using a handheld masher,  mash the strawberries until juicy.  Add remaining fresh strawberries.  Store in an air-tight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

**The compote can be made up to 3 days ahead of time!**

Directions for Italian pastry cream:

Heat milk in medium sauce pan over low heat.  Do not boil.  Remove from heat.  Using another sauce pan, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until combined.  Next add the vanilla and flour.  Slowly pour in warm milk and cook over low heat, whisking constantly until it thickens, about 10 minutes.  Cool slightly and stir in the Grand Marnier.  Pour into glass bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the pastry cream.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

**Pastry cream can be made several days in advance.  Store in air-tight container with plastic wrap covering the surface of the cream and refrigerate.**

Directions for whipped vanilla frosting

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until very pale and creamy, about 8 minutes.  Add sifted confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, salt and milk.  Mix on low-speed for about a minute.  Increase the speed to medium and whip for 5-6 minutes.  Add food coloring, if desired.  Frosting will be very light and creamy.

Assembly Time!!!

Place first cake layer on cake stand, face up.  Using a pastry bag, filled with the Italian pastry cream, pipe a two-inch circle around the perimeter of the cake layer.  This will keep the compote from leaking out.  Add a few spoonfuls of the strawberry compote to the center of the cake layer.  Spread the compote just to the pastry cream.  Add your next cake layer, pressing gently in place.  Again, pipe a two inch circle around the perimeter of the cake layer.  Add the remaining strawberry compote to the center of the cake layer.  Spread the compote just to the pastry cream.  Next, add the final cake layer, pressing gently into place.  Cover the entire cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Once the cake is chilled add the whipped vanilla frosting  to the entire cake, decorating however you wish.   Flowers, sprinkles anything goes!  Serve at room temperature.  Enjoy!

**Cake can be made 2 days in advance.  Be sure to keep it refrigerated.**   

5 Unique Birthday Cake Links

Looking for a special gluten-free cake for the chocolate lover in your life?  Head to the Tartelette blog for Helene’s flourless chocolate cake with salted butter caramel sauce.

Take advantage of fresh summer berries and make Camille Styles’ summer berry ice cream cake.

My husband loves chocolate chip cookies so I may need to make him Pastry Affair’s cookie dough cake for his next birthday.  Check it out!

Key lime pie in birthday cake form?  Yes it exists.  Head to Bakerella for the recipe.

My birthday was last week.  I’m thinking I’ll take some me time and celebrate a new year alone with a fork and this angel food cake.

Simple White Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting + 5 Fantastic Cake Links



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!