Sunday, September 19, 2010

It's His Party: Vanilla Birthday Cake

We've been asking Ian for about three months how he'd like to celebrate his birthday this year.  Somewhat unfortunately, he goes to a school where many of the children come from families of means, and have elaborate parties to which they invite his entire class: renting out a movie theater, paying admission for his whole class and family members to the Crayola factory, renting out the county art museum.  I've always preferred home parties, at least for younger children, because I feel like the child is more likely to feel celebrated without feeling overwhelmed.  One of the best parties I think Ian attended (well, at least, one of the best ones I attended with him) was in a friend's back yard, bug-themed: they played old-fashioned party games, ate home made cupcakes, and even had little containers to collect and look at ladybugs, which the mom had ordered from a garden company, figuring that the escapees would do her garden good.

Last year we rented a pavilion at our local park for Ian's party, but unfortunately it rained on the day of the event, so we wound up having the kids over to our house anyway, for what turned into a large (though small by his classmates' standards, at only 8 children) playdate.  Though they all seemed pretty happy, I'm not sure if it was that experience or something else that make Ian decide that he wanted an "adults only" party this year; he was pretty insistent that he was going to invite his only grandparents (all three sets), his uncle, and our next door neighbor.  There would be pizza, and presents, and party blowers, and vanilla cake with vanilla frosting.  He even made goody bags with rainbows on them, saying "Thank you For Coming," for the adults to take home, complete with a pack of rainbow goldfish, granola bars, a multicolored click pen, and parachute farm animals.

This plan was just fine with me ... I love a sane party (except that I'd see my mother, who, as predicted, did not ask how I was feeling or about my recent ultrasound and did not express any interest in knowing the sex of the baby ... but that's not what this post is about).  But of course, it meant that I had to make the perfect birthday cake.  This recipe comes from the Magnolia Bakery cookbook, and though I'm not really a fan of Magnolia cupcakes, I think it makes a wonderful layer cake.  I microwaved some Polaner All Fruit (apricot) for about 30 seconds to spread between the layers, and it lent just the right amount of tang and sweet.  I even pulled out my piping tip and pastry bag, and decided, as I finished piping around the edges, that even if it wasn't perfect, I still rock ... after all, it was my first attempt at doing anything besides the standard frosting job.  (Well, it's good to pat yourself on the back once in a while, isn't it?)

My friend, who is a much better cake-baker and designer than I can ever hope to be, bakes it for her son's birthday every year, and every year, I consider whether it might be impolite to try to hide a hunk in my bag to take home.  Luckily, we'll have our own leftovers this week.

Happy birthday, I-bug ...your giggles and hugs and hilarious comments remind me what's really important in life.

Vanilla Birthday Cake

1 1/2 c. self-rising flour
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 c. sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 c. milk
1 t. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers (or grease and flour 2 9" cake pans).

In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.

In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended.

Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about three-quarters full. Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean. (If you would like to make a layer cake instead of cupcakes, divide the batter between two 9-inch round cake pans and bake the layers for 30-40 minutes.)

Cool the cupcakes in the tins (or cakes in pans) for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

Vanilla Frosting
Makes enough for one 2-layer 9-inch cake or 2 dozen cupcakes

1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6 to 8 c. confectioners’ sugar
1/2 c. milk
2 t. vanilla extract

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. (Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled.) Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
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  1. The simple things done well can be so rewarding. The cake sounds and LOOKS wonderful!

  2. Wow Ian's cake looks so delicious with all that frosting! I have only had Magnolia cupcakes once (they have opened a store in Bloomingdales Dubai) and they were so rich I don't think I was able to eat dinner that night.

    I am glad he had a good time and that he enjoyed his "adult" only party this year!

  3. That is a delicious looking cake and how cute he anted all adults. That movie Cars rocks, impeccable taste all the way around.

  4. what a beautiful cake! My nephew always prefers adult parties too. I hope Ian had a wonderful birthday celebration and you did too!

  5. The cake looks fantastic. Happy Birthday to your boy!

  6. Happy birthday to yous son :-) The cake looks the decoration as cute!


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