Random Recipe: Birthday Spice Cake

Monday was Chris’ birthday and I decided to make him a birthday cake. While I should have selected a cake that he would have loved, my food cravings are minimal these days and so when I saw a spice cake recipe, and it actually sounded good, I decided to make it.

I have to say though – the frosting is what makes this cake. The cake itself was a little dry. Some cake recipes get “moister” with age. This one does not.

I have a different cake base recipe that is moist (I know, I hate that word too) and would make a stellar cake if I make the cake with that recipe and used the below frosting recipe. I might just have to try doing that in a few weeks.

If you look at the photo, my 4-H days would tell you that I over stirred (or in this case, used of my mixer) as you can see there are quite a few holes or what 4-H judges might call craters in the slice. A big no-no for making cakes.

Birthday Spice Cake

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg and/or allspice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 cups milk (we used almond milk)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter or spray two 8” or 9” round cake pans.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, spices, and salt.

In a larger bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer for about half a minute, until it’s pale and creamy. Pour in the sugar and continue to beat for 3-4 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each.

Stir the vanilla into the milk. Add about a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir it in by hand or with the electric mixer on low speed, just until it’s combined. Add about half the milk in the same manner, then another third of the flour, the rest of the milk, and the rest of the flour, mixing just until the batter is blended.

Divide the batter between the pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cakes are golden and their tops are springy to the touch. Cool completely before frosting.

Browned Butter Brown Sugar Frosting

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup half & half
2 cups powdered sugar, plus more if you need it

In a small saucepan, melt half of the butter. Continue to cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until it turns brown and smells nutty. Pour into a large bowl and add the rest of the butter.

Put the brown sugar into the same saucepan along with the half & half, put it over the heat and stir until it starts to bubble and the sugar has melted. Scrape it into the bowl with the butter, add half the powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Add the remaining powdered sugar and beat until smooth; add a little extra sugar or half & half if it needs it to achieve a spreadable consistency. Oooh this frosting is good!

Be grateful, not entitled.

Entitlement. Feeling worthy. I think of both ideas often. Of course we all (admit it, you do) judge others when we look at choices they make and think “well, they sure act entitled.” Maybe they are and should feel that way. We most likely judge because we think maybe we are not worthy of what they received. “Why did they get so lucky? How did I not?” Assumptions are made by many that someone is or is not deserving of getting things, especially if they think they did not have to work for them.

Just like my dad used to always tell me: “Money does not grow on trees.” He was right, and I think the same about entitlement. Most things in life are not easy. Most things require work. Often we see people take the easy way out, and then take credit for it. You know it has happened to you. A colleague I worked with a few years ago mentioned a project he worked on recently with another individual — she did nothing to help him on the project and took all the credit. What made her do that? Did she feel entitled to do so?

Seth Godin recently posted a blog on entitlement and worthiness that resonated with me. I love this idea:

“When you receive something you feel entitled to, something expected, that you believe you’ve earned, it’s not worth much. And when you don’t receive it, you’re furious. After all, it’s yours. Already yours. And you didn’t get it. Whether you’re wearing a hobo costume or showing up as a surgeon after years of medical school, entitlement guarantees that you won’t get what you need.”

He has a good point. We need to do work that we care about and feel worthy regardless of whether we get what we expect and regardless of whether others get what we think is everything without having to work for it. And…you know what? Sometimes life is not fair.

I want to teach my son that you have to work for things in life. When they are given to you, be grateful, but not entitled. Know when something is earned from your hard work and when something is handed to you. Do not take anything for granted.

He keeps my world going

I recently saw a post on Facebook sharing a husband’s absolute adoration of his wife. They had just had a baby and were basically living in the NICU. His wife was in school and at the times their baby was sleeping she was writing papers for her classes, and he was in awe of what she was able to handle. I myself was in awe of her. I cannot imagine what it must be like to have your little baby need to be in the hospital for a long period of time, and basically living there with them while also trying to stay focused in school (or work if that is what you need to do).

Reading this on Facebook and reading a book on gratitude made me think about Chris and how hard it would be to do all this pregnant business without his daily help. There are some days that I come home from work and am extremely tired. I guess that is a given for being 34 weeks pregnant. When we come home from work the first thing I need is help taking my shoes and pants off (by the end of the day I cannot wait to take my clothes off). The second thing I usually need is food. Yesterday for example I was starving, and immediately he helped me get into comfy clothes and then made me toast — my go-to snack these days.

Then there is the most recent shift in my body. I can feel my pelvis shifting, an odd sensation, but what is more alarming is that when I get up literally every hour to pee, my body feels unmovable in bed. I have to wake him up and have him help me sit up, stand, and walk me to the bathroom. Without his assistance, I cannot get out of bed, and there have been numerous occasions recently where when I have stood up I start to collapse because of the pelvic pain. Ah, the wonders of pregnancy.

Now you might be reading this and say yes this is part of pregnancy — and you would be right. I am not complaining. I am acknowledging his patience and sharing my gratitude for an amazing husband who 99% of the time never complains. Yes, lately he says how tired he is because he has gotten up so many times in the middle of the night, and I say: “Save it. This is what I have been doing since last April.” Regardless, he has been my crutch, my shoulder, my lotion-to-belly applier, the one who dresses me, and even the one that lifts me out of the car when I get stuck, and most importantly my cheerleader.

While I will not lie, women are amazing. I do not know a man who could make it through 10 months of pregnancy. Yet, we sometimes forget that there are men that rub our backs, our feet, and tell us what troopers we are. Sure we are doing the heavy lifting, but it sure helps to have someone who keeps the rest of your world going. Thank you, Chris.

It is an American issue.

Of course I have baby on the brain. I have six weeks left, and part of preparing for the birth of my son, is making sure I am prepared to leave work for maternity leave. Lots to do to make sure coverage is in place, and that I am not missing anything, all while trying to navigate the spectrum of “short-term disability” and use of my vacation time and how to make it all work. It is shocking that in our country having a baby is considered “short-term disability.” I am not sure how having a baby makes you “disabled.”

That is why I wanted to share this TEDx talk from Jessica Shortall. She discusses “The American Case for Paid Maternity Leave.” Her talk is just under 16 minutes and worth listening to — especially if you think it is absurd that the US is the 2nd to last country in the world in terms of benefits offered for mothers-to-be (fathers to). I love what she says near the end of the video: “It is not a women’s issue, or a mom issue, it is an American issue.” She is right.

What do you think after watching the video?

Random Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Coffee Cake

I know fall is almost over and I need to get on board with the fact that winter is on its way. The leaves are mostly off of our trees, and it is getting colder every day. Even as fall leaves us and we move into winter, I still want all things pumpkin. I even joined the silly controversy and the rest of the world in getting a Starbucks red cup for a Pumpkin Spice Latte. It was worth it.

I also love me some yummy coffee cake. Of course I am addicted to my mom’s version (thank you Betty Crocker) so thought it would be fun to try a pumpkin version – why not right? It was okay. It has this ribbon-like swirl of pumpkin in the middle that is a bit strange for someone like me with food texture issues. If you like a strong pumpkin flavor then this is your kind of treat.

Pumpkin Spice Coffee Cake

1 cup of sugar
1 cup of canola oil
4 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice, divided
1 (15 oz) can of pumpkin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×13 baking dish.

Beat the sugar and oil together in a large mixing bowl. Then beat in the eggs. Beat in the flour and baking powder. Beat in just two of the tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice.

Spread half of the batter across base of prepared baking dish. Open the can of pumpkin and stir in the remaining tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice. Spread the pumpkin over the batter. Spread the other half of the batter on top of the pumpkin. Gently swirl the three layers together with a knife.

Bake for about 40 minutes and enjoy!