or wear one, if that's what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.
She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold face-cloths on my forehead,
then led me out into the airy light
and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard."
- from "The Lanyard" by Billy Collins
The beginning of May is always a busy time in our family. My mother’s birthday and Mother’s Day usually fall in the same week, and they did again this year. That calls for double the celebration.
I wanted to make a cake for her birthday, but it was complicated by the fact that she, my oldest daughter and I were out of town until just before dinnertime on her birthday. (More about that in Thursday’s post.) I made this cake ahead of time and froze it, which meant I just had to frost it when we got home.
I was thrilled with the results. This is the best vanilla cake I’ve ever eaten. (And it freezes beautifully!) The frosting is lovely, too, but a touch rich; I used jam between the layers instead of using all the frosting, and would definitely do that again.
Happy Mother's Day!
Vanilla Birthday Cake
1 cup milk, at room temperature
6 egg whites, at room temperature
2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla paste or vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks butter (3/4 cup), at cool room temperature
For buttercream frosting:
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) butter, at room temperature
1 Tbsp vanilla paste or vanilla extract (first amount)
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar (icing sugar)
1 tsp vanilla paste or vanilla extract (second amount)
2 Tbsp heavy cream
Peach jam or apricot jam (optional)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter two 9-inch pans and line with parchment paper.
Make sure milk and eggs are at room temperature. Pour milk, egg whites, almond extract and 1 tsp vanilla paste into a medium bowl, and whisk to combine. Set aside.
Measure cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on the slowest speed, just until combined. Cut 1 1/2 sticks butter into small pieces and add to the batter. Beat for a couple more minutes.
Add half of the milk mixture to the flour mixture, and beat at medium speed for a couple of minutes. Add remaining milk mixture and beat for about one minute.
Pour batter evenly between two prepared cake pans. Bake until toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes. Allow cake to cool to room temperature.
To make buttercream, beat 2 1/2 sticks of butter at medium-high speed until smooth. Add 1 Tbsp vanilla paste and beat until combined.
Add powdered sugar and salt; beat at medium speed for a minute. Scrape down the sides and beat until mixture is fully incorporated, another minute. Add 1 tsp vanilla paste and heavy cream and beat for 4 minutes at medium-high speed, stopping to scrape down sides as required.
Frost cooled cakes. If you like, spread a thin layer of peach or apricot jam between cake layers instead of vanilla frosting.