happy birthday, mom!

Dear Mom,

Happy birthday!

This mother’s day, I saw a lot of “omg, my mom was right about everything” posts circulating online. I’m reminded of this every single day. You were right about everything and I only have myself to blame!

But then, I got a small “win” this time. You said you didn’t want a birthday party this year while I insisted that I was going to host one. Granted, a part of me felt a tiny bit guilty because it wasn’t what you wanted. But sometimes your daughter knows best.

Then came the day of the party. You were constantly smiling and laughing when you saw people that care about us show up and you ended up having a great time at the party. We got to catch up with relatives and friends we hadn’t seen in a long time. So next time, trust me when I say I’m going to throw you a party.

For your tropical themed party, I made a chocolate cake, filled it with matcha buttercream, and decorated it to make it look like a pineapple. I’ve been wanting to make a pineapple cake in so long, ever since I saw Lyndsay‘s on Coco Cake Land. Of course, mine ended up looking nothing like her’s, but I had wanted it to! I ended up using a different star tip (by accident) to pipe. And then I really over-thought the leaves, I meant to do the simple leaf cut-out and stick, but went and tried something different. Regardless, Lyndsay inspires my cake creations a lot!

Pineapple Birthday Cake

I used my go-to chocolate cake recipe (as I did for Jackon’s birthday) because it stays incredibly moist and delicious even when I make it ahead of time.

Matcha Buttercream
Makes enough to fill a 6-inch cake

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
3-4 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons matcha powder
2-4 tablespoons milk

  1. Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and icing sugar together.
  2. Add in the matcha powder and mix until combined.
  3. Work on the consistency of the buttercream by adding milk, one tablespoon at a time until it is smooth. If you accidentally make it too runny, just add more icing sugar to balance it out.

Pineapple Birthday Cake

I then made a vanilla buttercream and coloured it yellow. I piped on a thin layer to create the crumb coat. Got to cover that Frankenstein.

Pineapple Birthday Cake

Then used a star tip (1M) to pipe all over it.

Pineapple Birthday Cake

It ended up looking like ruffles than stars!

Pineapple Birthday Cake

But that’s ok, it still created a nice texture over the cake.

Pineapple Birthday Cake

Pineapple Leaves
Makes 1

1 sheet green foam
1 small plastic cup
tacky glue
elastic bands
1 pen or marker

  1. Give the sheet of foam a rinse. Because I bought it from the craft store, there was some glitter on it, plus, there could have been dust and dirt, so it’s always a good idea to wash something that is going to come near food. Lay it out to dry on a clean kitchen towel.
  2. Place the plastic cup upside down. Wrap the foam sheet around the top, mark it with a pen or marker where the sheet forms a complete circle. Cut out spiky shapes (unfinished triangles) to the place where you marked it.
  3. Add a line of glue to the bottom of the spiky crown you just cut out. Carefully place it around the top of the cup. Loop an elastic band around it to hold it into place while the glue dries.
  4. Measure out the circumference of the cup about half an inch down. Again, mark it with a pen and cut out the leaves. Attach it with glue and hold it in place with an elastic band. Repeat until you’ve covered the entire cup and when you reach the base. Set it aside to dry.
  5. Once the glue has dried, carefully remove the elastic bands.

Pineapple Birthday Cake

I ended up using new elastic hair ties because to my dismay, I only had one elastic band at home.

Pineapple Birthday Cake

There it is, in it’s crowning glory.

Pineapple Birthday Cake

I decorated mine by adding a green ribbon around and tied it off with a bow.

Pineapple Birthday Cake

I hope you have a great birthday, mom. I can’t wait to spend it with you today!

And I know you’re worried, but we’ll get through this week.

Pineapple Birthday Cake

Love,
Sylvia

not quite blackout cake

Dear Jackson,

Happy belated birthday!

Your dearest mom asked me to make you a birthday cake, since I did the same for your sister when she turned two. Between you and me, I think your cake turned out way better. That’s a win for being the second child, trust me. And it’s all due to the fact that I didn’t have to work with fondant – yay! Your godmother is a bit rusty working with fondant now since the cake trend moved away from that sugary dough.

When your mom showed me the image of Blaze and the Monster Machines, I was like hmmm why couldn’t you be into something simple like Pac-Man? That I can easily make. Luckily your mom came to the rescue and bought two Blaze toys and candied rocks for me. All I had to do was repay her kindness by making her favourite cake combination – chocolate and peanut butter. I then pitched the idea of making the outer later a blackout with crumbs to continue with our outdoor soil and rocks theme. She was all for it.

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So that is how I ended up baking the night before your birthday party. Three delicious chocolate cake layers cooling on the rack. The next morning, I whipped up some peanut butter buttercream (and perhaps did lots of taste tests with a spoon) and assembled your cake.

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake
Recipe from Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes
(Makes three 9-inch layers)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
1 cup sour cream
1 ½ cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Have your three cake pans ready, line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  2. This creates a lot of batter, so make sure your bowl is big enough or use an electric stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine.
  3. Pour in the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually add in the water. Then mix in the vinegar and vanilla extract. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended.
  4. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 10 minutes. Take them out and let them cool completely on a rack. These cakes are very soft, so use extra care!

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Peanut Butter Frosting
Recipe from Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes
(Makes enough to frost a two 9-inch layered cake)

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups icing sugar
⅔ cup smooth peanut butter

  1. Make sure your cream cheese and unsalted butter are at room temperature. Leaving it out for 1-2 hours will work too.
  2. Using a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until combined.
  3. Add in 2 cups of icing sugar, mix well. Add the remaining 2 cups of icing sugar and mix until combined. Add in the last cup of icing sugar and mix. Doing this in portions helps prevent the icing sugar from flying everywhere.
  4. Finally, add in the peanut butter and mix until the frosting is smooth.

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Jackson, when you’re older, you should make this for your mom. Just take the first layer of the cake and place it on a plate. Add a layer of peanut butter frosting on top, about 1-2 centimetres thick. Carefully place the second layer of cake on top to sandwich it. Again, top it off with frosting. Then add frosting on the sides of the cake and frost until the entire cake has been covered. The best part is that it doesn’t have to look perfectly smooth because it’ll be crusted with crumbs after.

To make the blackout crumb, take that third cake layer and put it in a bowl and use an electric whisk to break it apart. Stop when it looks like soil and gently pat it onto the sides and top of the cake.

Totally worth it. You were so thrilled with the toys on top of the cake. And you seemed to enjoy the cake, but I know your first love is JELL-O. Just like your godfather!

Sincerely,
Syl

festive lime cake

Dearest Diana,

Happy birthday!

I know that I didn’t make this cake specifically for your birthday – but you did get to eat it because it was for a party you threw! Thanks again for inviting us to your annual holiday party. DIRT came early this year, I remember we used to celebrate your birthday at midnight when the party was winding down (or still going).

02_festivelimecake

I decided to go with a lime cake and frosting because I figured most people would bring chocolate desserts to your potluck. And also because I had a lot of limes to use up (just like how you do now from the amount Kurt bought). As much as I love chocolate cake, the lime flavour would help cut any heaviness from the carbs, cheese, fried food, and other delicious treats we were consuming that night. The frosting was so smooth this time, I was quite pleased with it, but the clear crystal sprinkles coated on the outside of the cake gave it a crunchy texture.

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I saw this simple decorating trick from a blogger I follow, Style Sweet CA, and knew that I had to replicate it. I mean, how easy is that?!

Okay, giving the cake a smooth finish wasn’t easy (still need Santa to bring me that bench scraper) and I think my cake is a little slanted, but it’s totally going for that rustic look on purpose (shhh). Making the sprinkles stick to the sides wasn’t easy either, I really need to read up on that because I had sprinkles all over the floor after. But you know what was easy? Sticking five rosemary sprigs on top. That I can do without any problems. I gave the rosemary a wash, dried them thoroughly, and then plucked off a few leaves so that I would have a stalk. Gave the “trees” varying heights and tried to look for ones with a thicker stalks.

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I love how the rosemary look like Christmas trees – even though they go against what I was taught. In grade four, our teacher made us all draw pine trees, he then gathered them and at the front of the class look at each page and made a really large “no” pile. Because as fourth graders, we all drew the pine trees as Christmas trees, with the branches angled down. Interesting teaching method, no? It’s something I never forgot!

I mean, I guess I could have inserted the rosemary twigs the other way, but this was just too darling to be corrected.

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Lime White Cake
Makes three 6-inch cakes or 18 cupcakes (as intended from the cookbook)
Recipe from Butter Baked Goods: Nostalgic Recipes from a Little Neighborhood Bakery

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
¾ cup whole milk
¼ cup lime juice, freshly squeezed from 2 limes
Zest of 4 limes, save the 2 other limes for the frosting
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of your cake pans with parchment paper. Or line your muffin pan with cupcake wrappers.
  2. Using your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until it’s light and fluffy.
  3. Add in the eggs one at a time, scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.
  4. In a bowl, whisk together the milk, lime juice, two-thirds of the lime zest and vanilla.
  5. In another bowl, lightly mix the pastry flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.
  6. Back to the stand mixer, add a third of the dry ingredients in and mix on low. Pour in a third of the liquid ingredients. Do this two more times, scraping the side of the bowl as needed.
  7. Fill the cake pans about three-quarters full (same with cupcakes). Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a wooden skewers inserted into the center comes out clean. If you’re making cupcakes, you only need to bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
  8. Remove the cake from the oven, transfer to wire racks and let it cool completely.

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Lime Buttercream

4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
¼ cup lime juice
⅓ lime zest

  1. Using the stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until combined. Add in the lime juice and zest.
  2. It’s tricky to write an accurate recipe for buttercream, I often tweak it depending on the consistency I want. If I want it softer and smoother, I add more lime juice or water, if the buttercream becomes too runny, then I add in a little more confectioner’s sugar.

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I remember making you birthday lime cupcakes with little fondant EVEs from WALL-E. How times have changed since then! I’ve watched you grow from student to graduate to employee to wife and now mother of two. It’s been a lot of birthdays and I’m so glad we’ve had the chance to celebrate many of them together.

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Have a great birthday and festive holiday. Hope to see you in our traditional new year’s eve get together!

Sincerely,
Syl

banana-fana fo-fegan

Dear Megan,

Happy birthday!

I know you don’t like celebrating this day with attention and festivities, but I feel like you should get some recognition for another year of awesomeness. You are an awesome friend, mother, wife, daughter, colleague, coach, and many other things to so many people. You should know that you actually gave me the push to start baking. You lent me all those equipment’s for my Wilton cake decorating classes at Michael’s. You gave me my first set of mixing bowls, measuring spoons, kitchen towels, and cupcake accessories. I still have all those things and often marvel at how many things in my kitchen are from you. Plus, you make these awesome caramel cookies, oh and those peanut butter cookies, and those scones that I still dream about from my bridal shower.

I love how talented you are in charades – it is truly a handy (maybe even lifesaving) skill to have. How is it that you know every song lyric? You are the best teammate to have in Cranium and Head’s Up because you have lines memorized from films and television shows. Or you know every actor and singer’s names. Oh and best of all, I admire your dance skillz (yeah, with a z). You’re also a whiz at crafting and party planning – it’s no wonder we’re friends!

And since you’re the first person to ever feed me homemade ice cream, I thought this would be a good way to celebrate your birthday. That delicious chocolate ice cream you made brought me back to childhood memories of chocolate milk in a carton. Then there was that creamy and rich peanut butter ice cream, in which you took the time to make even though you couldn’t have some.

I saw this cool video featuring ice cream using just bananas and different flavourings. It should be dairy, egg, and soy free as long as you ditch the cones.

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Neapolitan Banana Ice Cream
Recipe adapted from Food Network

Notes: The ripe bananas will require some freezing time, so plan for this a day ahead. After that, the ice cream itself will need some chill time in the freezer before serving as well, well you could also just eat it right away if you don’t mind it melting. You’ll also need a good strong food processor for this to work.

6 ripe bananas, frozen
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup berries, frozen
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 medium loaf pan (8½” x 4½” x 2½”)

  1. Remove the peels from the banana and chop them into even chunks. About 1-inches long and put them in a freezer bag. Freeze overnight.
  2. Using your food processor equipped with the knife blade, put 2 bananas in with the vanilla extract. Turn the machine on and watch the bananas go from gooey and mushy to creamy. When it looks like a delicious milkshake, it’s ready to be scooped out with a spatula and placed into one end of the loaf pan.
  3. Next, put in 2 bananas with some frozen berries. Go with strawberry, raspberries, red cherries, or even pomegranates. Same thing, turn the machine on and scoop it out when it becomes nice and creamy. Portion this into the middle section of your loaf pan.
  4. Put the final 2 bananas into the food processor along with the cocoa powder. Have the machine churn until it’s smooth and scoop it out to fill up the final spot in the loaf pan.
  5. Cover and place the loaf pan in the freezer for at least an hour before serving.

Megan, Megan, bo-began,
Banana-fana fo-fegan
Fee-fy-mo-megan
Megan!

Wait, I’m singing the wrong song aren’t I?

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Happy birthday, Megan!
Megan, it’s your birthday!

Sincerely,
Syl

PS: Megan, I can’t wait to bestow this ice cream garland on you. I made it while watching the Olympics, your favourite bi-annual event!

Paper Ice Cream Cones

Making an Ice Cream Cone Garland

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I have a PDF of the ice cream graphics I made here. Just download it, print it, and cut it out. I attached the cutouts to some string with tape and squealed at how cute it looked hung up.