Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Classic White Birthday Cake


Let's dive right into birthday season, shall we?

I have 2 cake recipes for you this month! I know, I know, most month's don't even have 1 cake recipe. April is a popular month for the hubby's family and their birthdays. Lots of birthdays around this time of year. This equates into lots of baking experience for moi. This cake was baked for the hubby's aunt's birthday. I had asked her what kind of cake she wanted me to make, and at first she came back with "Surprise me!". Upon further questioning, I got her to reveal that she loves white cake with white frosting. Done and done.


White cake is white cake due to the fact that there are no egg yolks in it. Separating eggs is not my forte, however, I successfully pulled it off with this cake. You know, without wasting any eggs or having to start over. This is a great recipe for white cake. Moist, flavorful, pretty. I was pleased as punch with the final result.

What's a birthday cake without at least a few candles?

Aunt's birthday was 2 weeks ago, and it ended up being a fabulous Spring day. We (we being the hubby, I, aunt, uncle, and mother-in-law) all took Aunt out for a birthday lunch, then ended up back at home for cake and ice cream. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, the bees not quite out of hibernation yet- we took full advantage and got our sweet tooth on outside. Spring is just, quite frankly, the best.

I ended up going with a smattering of sprinkles on top. White on white on white was a tad too much... white. I sprinkled with a touch of reserve, always with the notion this was an adult birthday cake :)

The birthday girl with her cake :)
Special birthday kisses from Gizmo.
All dogs were present, and equally disappointed they didn't get any cake or ice cream. They had to settle for chicken jerky and some kisses :)

All right. That herb garden I mentioned yesterday that the hubby was building me? It's done, and it's super-duper cute. I'm so happy and in love with it. I think I'm going to sneak an extra post in this week so I can share photos. The hubby did a remarkable job. To this day, I'm still amazed at the things he can build (and fix!) with those two hands. I cannot wait until I can start harvesting my bounty. I also can't wait to dive in and learn about gardening. I learn so much better by doing.

For now, I bid you adieu, friends. Look at me, and my French today. I feel so cultured :)


Ingredients:

Cake-
2 1/4 cup cake flour
1 cup milk, room temp (I used 1%)
6 large egg whites, room temp
2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes

Frosting-
1 cup butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
4-5 tbsp half-n-half

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350ยบ. Flour and butter (2) 9 inch round cake pans.
2. Combine milk, egg whites, and extracts in a medium sized bowl. Whisk until well-combined.
3. Combine sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Toss to combine. Add butter to bowl, and beat with an electric mixer. Beat for 1-2 minutes. 
4. Add half of the milk mixture. Beat for another minute. Add the rest of the milk mixture, beat for 1 more minute.
5. Divide batter among 2 cake pans. Bake in pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Mine actually baked for 22 minutes, though I will add I have a convection oven. 
6. Cool cakes in pan for 30 minutes. Remove from pans, and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack before frosting.
7. To prepare the frosting, combine butter and sugar in a large bowl. Beat for 1-2 minutes. Add vanilla and 2 tbsp half-n-half. Beat until you reach desired texture. Add more half-n-half if frosting is too thick. 
8. To build cake, frost the top of one cake with a thick layer of frosting. Sandwich the other cake on top of the first cake. Use remaining frosting to cover the entire cake. Top with sprinkles, if desired. Serve with vanilla ice cream for best results. 
Cake recipe by I Am Baker. Frosting recipe adapted from The Kitchen Magpie.

Monday, April 21, 2014

This Homestead Has A Driveway!



Isn't it bee-u-tiful??

I'm taking a break from recipes today, mainly so I can show you what I've been yammering about for a week. 

I'm so delighted with how it turned out. I was talking to the hubby, and I mentioned how amazed I was by the effect of a little concrete on the front of the house. It really pulls the curb appeal together. The hubby actually worked in concrete before his current job in natural gas, so he knows his concrete pretty darn well. Therefore, he's been wetting the driveway with a sprinkler since it was poured. A couple times a day, in fact. He's wanting it to cure slowly, which means we also aren't driving on it just yet. 


Yep, we're parking in the yard :)

The only thing I'm not thrilled about? How much we had to tear up the yard to put in the driveway. I miss my grass. That's ok, we're going to be re-seeding the areas that were tore up. I should have my lawn back in no time.


Looking out at the yard from the porch. 


I'm so excited about having a walkway to the front door! You have no idea how good it felt to trash those makeshift wooden stairs we've had for the last year and a half. As I've previously mentioned, now I can usher guests in through the front door. No more being embarrassed the UPS guy has to brave the muddy yard! People also get to see my door mat now, which I've been delighted to have for the last 16 months and no one has seen. 


Dog lovers unite!


Now that we have the front entry, I just had to put some flowers out. The front yard is sadly lacking in the floral department. I absolutely adore this big, bronze pot we found to put some impatiens in.


I braved the honeybees to pick out these flowers!


I don't know if I mentioned it before, but we also put a concrete pad out back. We plan to use it as a functional patio for the time-being. Our ultimate goal is to build a deck out back someday. This is obviously going to be a big-time project that probably won't happen in the near future. We'd like to eventually put a hot tub on the pad, and then build the deck around it. Until that day comes (it's going to be quite awhile before that happens!) we have something to put patio furniture and the hubby's grill on.


The hubby's actually built me a little herb garden to go out by the patio, but it's not quite finished yet. I'll have to post pictures later, but it's super freakin' cute. 

Obviously, we have some grass-seeding to do here as well :)


I couldn't resist a picture that screamed, "SPRING!". I love when everything comes back to life. 


One more step completed in our landscaping process. I'm a very happy girl!

Happy Monday friends! I hope everyone had a fantastic and sunny weekend!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Chocolate Oat Smoothies


Once again, I've saved the best for last!

These smoothies truly feel decadent. Indulgent. Kind of like a Wendy's Frosty. Kind of. But I will tell you, these are much healthier for you than a Wendy's Frosty. Because, you know, there's oatmeal in these.


There's also Nutella... Moving on :)

I loved these smoothies. Loved, loved, loved them. They would make a great dessert if you are watching your calories. Even the hubby enjoyed them. I'm not sure why, but I never think chocolate when I think smoothies. I think fruit. I think yogurt. But chocolate? Not so much. Well. Quite frankly, forget that! I'll be putting chocolate in more smoothies from now on. Many, many more.

So, Smoothie Week is now over. I'm pretty pleased with how delicious they all turned out, not to mention how well the photographs turned out. I'll be back next week with a few non-liquid recipes. Since it's been birthday season around here, I'll have a couple of cake recipes for you. I made a Pecan Pie Cake for my mother-in-law's birthday, I'm beyond excited to share it. It was a decidedly elaborate cake. A perfect share for blogging.


Some exciting news! I was a featured recipe over on The Country Cook's Weekend Potluck. This is my second time, and it still feels just as good as the first time. I must say, starting a blog is hard work, and a reward such as this every once in awhile really makes it all worth it. Sometimes, on those weeks where you get no hits and no one comments on anything, I get that nagging thought that I suck at this and I need to give it up. I follow a number of different blogs, I know this is a typical feeling among bloggers and one that no one is immune to. Sometimes you just need a pat on the back to keep going. And that's exactly what I got. Well played Country Cook, well played.

Between this and our driveway being completed, I'm heading into the weekend on Cloud 9. It's supposed to be a true Spring weekend here, with sunshine and nice weather without the nasty humidity of summer. I'm planning to get a couple of runs in, especially since I've been eating so much cake as of late.

No rest for the wicked :)

Have a great weekend everyone!


Ingredients (makes 2 smoothies):

1/3 cup Nutella
1 cup quick cooking oats
2 frozen bananas, sliced
1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
1/2- 1 cup almond milk

Directions:

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add more almond milk to achieve a thinner consistency. Distribute between 2 glasses. Serve immediately.


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