Last night, we loaded up the car with the dogs and headed to my parents’ place for a family dinner to celebrate my mom’s birthday. Over the last few years, it’s been so rare that we’ve all been in the same place at the same time to celebrate together, so it felt extra special this year.
We had burgers and corn-on-the-cob for dinner, but the real highlight was my sister’s amazing cake – a bright white vanilla cake topped with strawberry buttercream and fresh Ontario strawberries. It was so good, that I just had to get the recipe to share with all of you (at the bottom of the post).
Before dinner, we went out to the backyard to hang out by the newly transformed pool deck for cocktail hour and look at mom’s perennial garden. I can’t believe how much her snowball hydrangea has grown in just a little over a week!
Some of them are almost the size of basketballs!
Cola was happy to spend a little time off-leash, running around the yard. I can’t wait until we have a backyard someday for the dogs to go crazy in. (I have no idea why he has such a concerned look on his face.)
Garrett got this great photo of Whiskey happily doing his favourite backyard activity – smelling the flowers. You always find him back there, given them a sniff.
Inevitably, hanging out back usually leads to a big game of chase between Shadow and the smaller dogs.
…that ends with everyone panting like crazy. What goodballs.
Back up at the house, we gave mom her gifts. I found this lovely tiny orchid at the farmers market from a guy who grows them locally. Let’s hope that they fair better than the last ones I took care of. Did I mention what happened to the old orchids? I went through all the work of repotting them and we even had some new growth coming in….then I brought them up to my parents’ place and forgot them in the car all day. They got cooked in the sun and withered up. This is why you don’t leave babies/dogs/plants in the car during the summer.
My parents got me some goodies from Paula Deen’s shop back in fall 2011 while they were down there for my dad’s work and I have to say that they’ve all held up really well over time. I also love that they have a little bit of Southern flair to them, while a little “y’all” thrown in there every now and then.
Then it was time for the epic cake my sister made. She really makes the most amazing cakes that look just as great as they taste…unless you count the armadillo birthday cake she made me. It tasted amazing (and is one of my all time favourites)…but it was a little creepy to cut into it.
Happy Birthday Mama!
My sister found the recipe for the cake in one of our family’s favourite cookbooks. Now that I look at it and see all the pictures, it makes me think of my own recipe posts. Maybe all the years of reading this book subconsciously inspired me. I find taking the pictures to be hard sometimes, but can you imagine drawing all those illustrations by hand?
If you’re every looking for an amazing cookbook, give The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook a try, but you’ll have to find the original 1980s version. This is the book we use when looking up not just recipes but also important kitchen info like how long to cook the Thanksgiving turkey, or how to cut a mango.
When my sister opened the book, she noticed that it was actually a birthday gift in 1983 to my mom from our Great Aunt Marian. It’s served us well for the past 31 years!
From The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, 1980 · Printable Version
- 4 egg whites
- 1-1/2 cups sugar
- 2-1/4 cups cake flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans; line pans with waxed paper.
In a small bowl with mixer at high speed, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.
Beating at high speed, sprinkle in 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tbsp at a time; beat until sugar is dissolved and whites stand in stiff peaks (do not scape bowl). Set aside.
In a large bowl at low speed, beat 1 cup sugar and remaining ingredients, constantly scaping bowl. At medium speed, beat for 3 minutes longer.
At low speed, beat in whites. Pour into pans; bake 25 minutes. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.
Meanwhile, prepare the frosting…
My family’s go-to buttercream icing recipe is always the one from Wilton’s. It’s a classic no-fail icing that we use for almost every cake we make.
Printable Version · Makes 3 cups of frosting, enough for a two layer cake
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar (about 1 lb)
- 2 tbsp milk
- 1 cup chopped fresh strawberries
In a large bowl, cream shortening and butter. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add in strawberries and beat to combine.
Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.
When she couldn’t find the other 8″ cake pan, my sister had the great idea to use the 9″ and make it into a mini tiered cake. She used the little edge to line up fresh cut strawberries and then make a little flower of more strawberries on top. It was so good – especially with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side!