May 11, 2016

Patrick's Birthday & A Cake for All Occasions [A Recipe!]

When I find a delicious recipe that requires little work on my part, I keep it handy. When it involves chocolate and I have yet to screw it up, I frequent said recipe. And that's just what's happened. Thank you, Pinterest.

It occurred to me yesterday that I've made this particular cake a few times, so I might need to do myself a favor and write a quick blog post about it. Then I made it, put a new-to-me frosting on it, and surprised Patrick with it as a birthday treat. He posted about it on Instagram and someone asked me to message them the recipe. That solidified it. Blog post it is!



But before we get on with the cake, Patrick's birthday deserves a bit of attention first. He is more important than cake, after all.

Yesterday was Patrick's birthday... if you hadn't gotten that part. My sweet husband and I are the same age for approximately one month every year - and we're both 28 for the time being! I was a bit nervous about my ability to make anything special out of his day. Number one, we're abroad. That always complicates things. Number two, I make no money. Number three, I was sick for a week and only just returning to the land of the living. Number four, Patrick was only going to be at college until 1:00pm which gave me significantly fewer hours to get to work. Number five, I always wait until the roommates have vacated the premises until I start working in the kitchen (I don't enjoy small talk or being asked twenty questions as to what I'm making - I get distracted easily as it is). But the roommates vacated early, I felt mostly human, and I was able to pull it off: a from-scratch cake, frosted and decorated, with handmade card and wrapped present by the time Patrick got home. Hooray!

As soon as he came home, we had to walk to the dentist in the rain... because I'm an old woman and my life is a sitcom sometimes. One of my crowns came off about a month ago, much to my shock and dismay. We had no idea how to go about getting it fixed in a foreign country, and I have severe dental anxiety to top that off. We bought that temporary crown and filling cement at the pharmacy, I applied it, and we went to the dentist about a week later - but my crown wouldn't come off. So we had to wait until it came off on its own... which it decided to do yesterday morning as I was rewarding myself with a bit of chocolate for a job well done. Sigh. So off to the dentist we went, and my tooth is now back in its proper place for the first time in a month - hallelujah! Then we came back home for a late lunch and birthday celebrations. Patrick opened his gift, which he loved. Then we ate cake with a tall glass of milk, watched an episode of Full House (he was appeasing me), and took a short nap while the rain pattered against our open bedroom window.




The evening consisted of dinner with a couple of lovely percussionists, Miriam and Conper, at Buffalo & Rye - an American-inspired burger and hotdog restaurant in Birmingham's city centre. We were way too full from our late lunch and cake to even finish our meals (plus I'm still not back to my normal appetite), but it was delicious anyway. Then we went out for a drink at a local pub down the street called The Wellington where Miraim, Jonny (our pastor and friend), Stephen, and Leonie joined. It was mellow and full of good conversation and good people. I'm taking the liberty of speaking for Patrick here, but that's jus the kind of company I prefer.

Now, as for his birthday present. We don't do big presents anymore, especially for our birthdays. We decided several years ago to start doing joint birthday presents since our birthdays are so close to one another and neither of us really need/want big, expensive gifts anyway. Instead, we take the money we would have spent on each other's gifts and put it toward something we both want but feel a bit sheepish about just purchasing - which is where our record player came from (sitting in our storage unit back home... waaah....). We've also done birthday trips since experiences are better gifts than things in our book, and that's what we're hoping to do this year. So I kept it small for his gift, but he loved it just the same.

(SOURCE: RURAL KIND)

Patrick always listens to music or sermons on the way to/from college, so he always has his earphones in a tangled mess. A while back, I found a local company called Rural Kind who makes handmade leather goods in Wales, and they sell this leather cord wrap. I knew I had to have it, and it fit my small-birthday-present-budget. It came to our door extremely quickly and with a hand-written thank-you note. Rural Kind is a winner!

Alright... now for the cake!

The cake is, like I said, one that I've made a few times. I'll get to the other times in a bit (plus the recipe!), but this cake was especially for Patrick so I changed things up a bit. It's a chocolate cake, deliciously simple and moist, with a simple peanut butter buttercream frosting, topped with mini reese's peanut butter cups. Reese's are his favorite, and he really loves peanut butter, so I had scoured Pinterest a few weeks ago to see how I could top the cake with something that he would enjoy, and this was the ticket! Patrick was pleasantly surprised by the birthday spread, and he loved the cake. I know something's a winner when he mentions several times how good it is... which he did. And nothing makes my heart fuller than hearing the expression of my husband's satisfaction.








The first time I made this cake, it was decided on a whim as my friend Hillary was coming to visit that afternoon. A good hostess should always have a treat on hand for her guests, so I scoured Pinterest and found this recipe for a one-bowl chocolate cake. I had all the ingredients (which means it's definitely a simple list), and it didn't involve a ton of prep work or dishes. I was in! For the icing, I had a bunch of peppermint icing left over from some Valentine's Day cookies I had made. I simply decided to pour the remaining icing over the cake... and boy am I glad I did! The chocolate and peppermint is a killer combo. We had some fresh strawberries so we cut them up and served them with the cake, and it was delicious. It took the flavor to a whole new level. The cake turned out a bit topsy-turvy, but it was no matter. That cake was bomb.





The second time I made the cake, I had completely forgotten that I had done the pairing of the strawberries and decided to top my cake with my favorite fruit. I guess I just come by my good taste naturally, hah! I went with the peppermint icing again because it was so delicious and easy. Good heavens, that cake was fantastic. I took it to a girls' night and they all raved about how delicious it was, so it officially became a winner in my book.






So that's what I'll provide for you here - the recipe for the cake, the peppermint icing, and the peanut butter buttercream frosting that I used for Patrick's birthday. Plus the links to the appropriate sources, of course!



One Bowl Chocolate Cake

(source: Kitchen Trials)

Ingredients: 
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup boiling water
Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF with a rack in the middle position. Grease a large rectangular cake pan (13"x9") or two round cake pans.

2. Put the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and whisk together to combine.

3. Add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla and beat for two minutes. Stir in the boiling water until combined.

4. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes, give or take, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

5. Let cool to room temperature before icing or serving. (Original source recommends dusting with powdered sugar or serving with whipped cream.)



Peppermint Icing

(source: The Novice Chef)

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 5 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract

Directions:

1. Whisk together the powdered sugar and milk until smooth. Adjust milk/sugar amount to suit icing thickness (you don't want it too runny or too thick). Add peppermint flavoring and combine well. Half the extract amount of you want a less-intense peppermint flavor.

*Note: After making this icing twice, I much prefer the look of the icing if it is a bit thicker.



Peanut Butter Buttercream Frosting


Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup peanut butter
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tablespoons of milk
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

1. Beat the butter and peanut butter together until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, milk, and salt, adjusting the milk and/or powdered sugar as necessary to form a smooth frosting. Beat until light and fluffy and frost cake as desired.

*Note: I used 3 cups powdered sugar and about 2 tablespoons of milk. I also used crunchy peanut butter because that's all we had (much to my dismay... ahem), but it turned out to be a really beautiful aesthetic detail for the frosting. 






And there you have it, folks - a cake for all occasions. If you make it, be sure to let me know! And feel free to try out different frostings and decor ideas - the options are endless. I'm pretty sure this cake will suit just about any topping you can think of!

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