Grace's Vanilla Cream Birthday Cake

8

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


I love how Gracie's cake turned out -- and clearly, the birthday girl did, too!! I was selfishly hoping she wouldn't want to eat it all so her mama could have some - ha. She did feed me a few bites with her whipped cream covered little fingers and it was so very delicious. I cut a few flowers from our rose garden and a peony from a vase in the kitchen, along with fresh mint to wrap around the base. If you keep the fresh whipped cream light and airy with just a hint of vanilla and sugar, this cake really shines.  I hope you enjoy it as much as my sweet little girl did!


Grace's Vanilla Cream Birthday Cake

1 C butter or 226 grams soft and at room temperature, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 1/2 C fine sugar
2 1/2 C cake flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 whole large eggs, at room temperature
1 C buttermilk: 1 C whole milk combined with 2 TBS of fresh lemon juice, let sit for 5-10 minutes
1 vanilla bean or 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, 175 degrees C.

I've found that it's really important to not over-mix or under-mix the batter. Beat ingredients on a low speed (if using an electric mixer) until they have just combined.

Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl until just combined. Set aside.
Sift together flour and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
It's also important to have all of your ingredients at room temperature, otherwise it can cause the cake to become dense. Mix the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla (if you are lucky enough to have a vanilla bean, slice it length wise and scrape out the tiny seeds with a knife), almond, baking soda, and apple cider vinegar in a separate bowl.
Alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture to the large bowl of butter and sugar, mixing until just combined after each addition.
Grease the cake pan(s) -- I used these 5 Layer Cake Pan Set. (I made three layers for Gracie's cake and set aside the rest for the boys). Pour batter evenly into each pan at 2/3 full to ensure they all bake uniformly. Bake for 15-20 minutes (my oven cooks very quickly). Carefully run a butter knife around the edge of the cakes and remove from the pans to let cool.

Whipped Cream
1 C heavy whipping cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2-3 TBS sugar (depending on how sweet you'd like it! I prefer 2)

Whisk until soft peaks form. Stack the cakes upside down so that the whipped cream sits on the flat side. Spread whipped cream between each layer of cake, after they have completely cooled, and all over the sides and top. Have about a 2 inch layer of cream on the top. Decorate with fresh flowers and mint, chocolate shavings, fresh fruit, or just leave as is! Enjoy!

Simple Summer Meal: My Favorite Salad & Fresh Bruschetta 4 Ways with Creamy Ricotta

16

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


I've said it before and I'll say it again, simple and fresh ingredients are the best kind! Cam and I love sharing this for lunch when he's not in class or for dinner (I usually separate everything for the kids). Sweet Gracie would literally eat the whole bowl of creamy ricotta if I let her!

This is a meal that takes little time to prepare but is refreshing, so full of flavor and perfect with a glass of wine...  which to me is the very definition of a great summertime meal to share around the table together.


Summer Salad & Fresh Bruschetta Four Ways with Creamy Ricotta

Bruschetta:
1/2 lb/250 grams fresh ricotta
1 clove fresh garlic, pressed
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 loaf fresh french or italian bread, sliced into 8 1" pieces
1 nectarine, sliced
1 C strawberries, sliced
6-8 slices salame
2 heirloom tomatoes, sliced or 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
handful fresh basil
handful fresh mint
drizzle of honey
drizzle of sweet white wine vinaigrette (below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F / 175 C.

Drizzle olive oil over the pieces of bread and bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for about 10 minutes or until the bread lightly browns. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, fresh garlic, olive oil and salt. Spread the ricotta evenly amongst the eight pieces of bread. Add the salami to two of the bruschetta. Return to the oven for about 5 minutes. Remove and top with:
1. nectarine slices, a drizzle of honey and fresh mint
2. strawberries, a drizzle of honey and fresh mint
3. salami, drizzle of vinaigrette and fresh basil
4. tomatoes, drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil and a dash of sea salt

Summer Salad:
4-6 C fresh baby salad, arugula or your favorite!
1 apple, sliced
1 nectarine, sliced
1 C strawberries, sliced
2-3 C rotisserie chicken, cubed or shredded
1/2 C walnuts
fresh goat cheese, optional

Sweet White Wine Vinaigrette:
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
1/2 C white wine vinegar
3-4 TBS honey or raw sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
dash of fine sea salt

Combine all ingredients for the vinaigrette in a lidded mason jar, shake and taste. Add more honey or raw sugar if it's not sweet enough for your taste. Toss all salad ingredients with the vinaigrette and serve immediately with the warm bruschetta. I usually don't add any cheese to the salad since there's already a good amount of ricotta on the bruschetta. Enjoy!!

Gracie Turns One! Our Family Party at Home

20

Monday, May 23, 2016


It's easy to get excited about celebrating these sweet kids. We never want them to go a day without knowing how loved they are, but what a fun thing to really make that stand out on their birthdays. My parents were always so good at that!

Our princess started her first birthday early with just her parents while big brother was still sleeping. She had her favorite breakfast in bed (Cam's palańćinke - crepes) and had the most precious, surprised face when we brought her downstairs and she saw the living room covered in balloons - a tradition we started with John Shea. Her brother helped her unwrap her presents, though haa, this was actually his second time (he found them in the storage room last week and it seriously looked like a wild animal had gotten to them...) The whole day was so sweet but I think her favorite part by far was devouring her cake! Along with the rest of her favorite foods all day long.

This little girl is an absolute joy. We are so thankful for the gift of her. Happy first birthday to our darling Emina Grace, who could not be any sweeter.  Thank you again for celebrating with us through photos!


Baby Steps

10

Thursday, May 19, 2016


I was thinking about a couple things while we were at the Zagreb Botanical Gardens, watching Gracie power through her stride with her alligator walker. The first was: how sweet is she!! She was so proud of herself, so happy being outside in the sunshine with her family cheering her on, taking breaks only to sit and play/chew on gravel and stare up at all the pretty roses.

The second thing I was struck by is, how beautiful is this image? Here is precious Gracie taking steps... which is how life tends to move for all of us, moment to moment, whether we're young or old. Babies don't just go from being a newborn to waking up the next day walking. Gracie has been building up to this over the months, learning to sit, then scoot on her belly, then crawl, now practicing her stride before she's ready to let go and really walk. We know those are the general progressions most babies take, but they don't have the hindsight yet to know what comes next. I remember my Dad telling me in college that the older we get, the more the next step is usually blurred until we get there, that the Lord uses that to lead us by faith, to trust that He is right there with us, just as Cam is here for Gracie, even though she can't see him. She knows he's there though -- she can hear his voice gently encouraging her and guiding her back when she veers off the path, cheering for her, reassuring her that he's right there to catch her when she falls.


Vanilla Cream Cupcakes

8

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


This is the recipe I'm using to make Gracie's birthday smash cake on Friday. I turned it into cupcakes because I wanted to test it out again, and because I really wanted a cupcake! Both John Shea and Grace (and especially their Daddy, haha) scarfed these down so fast and were all disappointed there weren't more. I think it's safe to say our sweet little girl is going to LOVE having her very own cake to demolish!

Happy Tuesday, I hope you enjoy these!


Vanilla Cream Cupcakes
makes about 18

1 C butter or 226 grams soft and at room temperature, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 1/2 C fine sugar
2 1/2 C cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 whole large eggs, at room temperature
1 C buttermilk (1 C whole milk combined with 2 TBS of fresh lemon juice, let sit for 5-10 minutes)
1 vanilla bean or 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

I've found that it's really important to not over-mix or under-mix the batter. Beat ingredients on a low speed (if using an electric mixer) until they have just combined.

Cream butter and sugar until just combined. Set aside.
Sift together flour and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
It's also important to have all of your ingredients at room temperature, otherwise it can cause the cupcakes to become dense and not fluffy. Mix the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla (if you are lucky enough to have a vanilla bean, slice it length wise and scrape out the tiny seeds with a knife), almond, baking soda, and apple cider vinegar in a separate bowl.
Alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture to the butter and sugar, mixing until just combined after each addition.
Line a cupcake tray. Pour batter evenly into each liner at 2/3 full to ensure they all bake uniformly. Bake for 15-20 minutes (my oven cooks very quickly, about 15 minutes). Carefully remove the cupcakes from the pan and let cool.

Whipped Cream
1 C heavy whipping cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2-3 TBS sugar (depending on how sweet you'd like it! I prefer 2)

Whisk until stiff peaks form. Cupcakes tend to dry out quickly, so after they have cooled, top with the whipped cream and eat immediately :) They can be stored in an air-tight container for 1-2 days. Enjoy!



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