Monday, March 19, 2012

Pretty is Important

Saturday was Thatmom's birthday.  Her original plan was to come down and spend the day in San Diego.  Going to the Little Italy Farmer's Market, checking out the museums in Balboa Park, eating at her favorite restaurants.

But Saturday was also the day the skies above opened up and decided to dump buckets of water onto Southern California.  Which necessitated a change of plans because no one wanted to hang out in outdoor venues or drive all around San Diego.

Thatmom called on her way down and suggested we all hang out at our place and watch a movie.

Sitting 5 to a couch and watching a movie is not the way anyone should spend their birthday.

I suggested a change in plans.

We headed over to a restaurant for lunch that is home of Thatmom's favorite ice cream sundae.  Thatmom loves ice cream.

And then we headed downstairs for Arts and Crafts!  Paint your own pottery to be exact.  Thatmom painted a canister adorned with butterflies.  Thatboy spent hours painstakingly painting a mug.

Thatbrother and UDubb worked on matching coffee cups.  They're adorable, aren't they?  And the coffee cups are cute too.

My very own work of art platter.  I think it will work equally well for bread and cheeses.

Thatbaby didn't really get to join in, but he loved the family time.  And so did Thatmom who specially requested I blog about her day.

Painting pottery is an easy way to while away the afternoon.  Before we knew it, it was dinner time.  And so we headed to another one of Thatmom's favorite restaurants.  BUT even though the place was completely deserted, they told us they couldn't seat us for another 2 hours.  So we headed to our neighborhood Chinese restaurant.

I had attempted to make Thatmom a birthday cake.  Because, as her new boyfriend rightfully stated, everyone should have a cake on their birthday.  The cake part came out beautifully.  But the frosting?  OH MY.  Disaster after disaster.  After my success with the 7-minute frosting in the Lord Baltimore Cake I attempted it again.  Beautiful, fluffy, white frosting.  Except something went wrong.  I think I got a drop of egg yolk in with the whites, because try as I might, they just wouldn't stiffen.  No peaks, no froth, just water water water.  

Well I certainly couldn't frost the cake with that.  And Thatmom was already on her way.  Time to be resourceful.  I next attempted a quick fudge frosting  - chocolate and sweetened condensed milk.  Which turned out great.  BUT I didn't really have enough time to let it cool completely.  Or make a crumb coat.  Or frost it and refrigerate so the frosting would harden.  Which means that frosting spent most of its time pooling on the plate.  And it didn't fill the center of the cake well.  I called it my delicious disaster.  The cake was a mess.  Sure it tasted fine, but we all know that looks matter.  No matter what your mother told you. 

So I'm not going to share that recipe.  You wouldn't want it anyway.  But I will share with you another cake recipe.  One that is much much prettier.  You see, when I told Thatboy I needed to make a birthday cake for Thatmom, it reminded him that he needed to bring in a dessert for a party at work.  2 cakes in one weekend?  Why not.

This time I went with something frosting-less.  Can't make a fool of me twice!  A Boston Cream Pie is a light butter cake filled with a rich, vanilla cream.  A sprinkle of powdered sugar adds to the beautiful simplicity.  

I haven't gotten to try it yet, but Thatboy brought me home a slice I'll have for dessert tonight.  I do know that it went over really well at his work!  Which is all that really matters anyway.  Pretty, tasty, makes people happy - it's everything I want to be.  In cake form.

Boston Cream Pie (From the Fannie Farmer Cookbook)
6 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated
3 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cup cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 2/3 cup milk
3 Tbsp AP flour
2 egg yolks
powdered sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray 2 8inch cake pans with baking spray. Cream the butter in an electric mixer.
  2. Add 1 cup of sugar to the butter and continue beating until light and fluffy.
  3. Add 2 of the egg yolks and vanilla and beat until blended.
  4. In a separate bowl combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt.  Alternate adding these ingredients and 2/3 cup of milk to the batter, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
  5. In yet another bowl, beat the egg whites until they are stiff, but not dry. 
  6. Stir a third of the egg whites into the batter, then fold in the remaining egg whites.  Pour the batter into the cake pans.  Bake for 30-35 minutes.  Cool the cakes in their pans for 5 minutes before turning out onto cooling racks.
  7. While the cakes are cooling, make the cream.  Heat the remaining 1 cup of milk in a pan until very hot.
  8. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, flour, and 1/8 tsp salt. Continue cooking until very thick.
  9. Add the last 2 egg yolks and cook, continuing to stir for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla, and cool.
  10. When the cake is cool, spread the cream between the cake layers and dust the top with confectioner's sugar.


  1. That last family pic is sweet. Brings a huge smile to my face. :)

    Oh man, I love Fannie Farmer's cookbook. I have one at home and not a single recipe has failed me yet. I wonder if you've tried her semolina cake? To die for.

    1. I just looked through my book and I don't have the semolina cake recipe. I'm going to have to hunt it down.

  2. Happy belated bday to your Momma! I just made a cake for my daughter a couple weeks ago - my first attempt at making the frosting was a disaster - I am the type of baker that wants to "dump everything in and be done with it."

    I ended up throwing that out, and followed the steps exactly the second time, and it worked out beautifully!

  3. I'm SO GLAD you posted this! I love Boston Cream Pie, but I have been totally unable to find a good one here in Boston. Being able to make it for myself is just what I need!

  4. I love the story of your Mom's day and of the frosting. We all have those experiences and I look at them as part of the learning process. By the way, I stay away from frosting. I am fortunate that my hubby does not like frosting.

  5. Happy birthday to your mom! That is some clutch last-minute planning on your part. Thatboy has parties at work where people bring in homemade desserts? I want that lawyer job . . .

  6. Aww sounds like you made ThatMom's birthday great! Way not to let a little rain get you down!

  7. Happy birthday to That Mom. I am sure it was a great day for all!