Birthday Cakes


My second birthday- 1987

My earliest memory was on my second birthday. Some of my family members don’t think I could possibly recall moments from that early in life, but I absolutely do. There are pictures to prove me correct (see above). I remember it so well because my mom ordered me the most beautiful 2-tiered clown cake the world has ever seen.  It was 1987 and I was wearing purple courdoroy bibs. When I saw the cake, my toddler heart was so full that I wet my pants in pure joy. My body was still testing out the whole “fight or flight” thing. In this case- “faint or void your bladder.”  In an effort to avoid missing out on the magic of the moment, I chose the latter.


The cake was covered in fluffy white icing and decorated with colorful plastic clowns that were embellished with candy lifesavers. It was so beautiful I could hardly breathe. The only thing that seemed logical at the moment was to kiss the cake, and so I did. And I did it with the tender love and affection that sweet Fraulein Maria and Captain Von Trapp share during their first kiss in The Sound of Music. My sweet darling.


My clearest memory of that day is of me sneaking into the kitchen in the old farmhouse we lived in and trying to take just “one more taste” of heaven on earth. My mom came in after me and told me no (total buzzkill… it was my birthday, for goodness sake!) and ushered me back into the dining room. But what an impression that cake made on me. To earn a permanent spot deep in the hippocampus of my brain.


Every once in a while, I get requests to make birthday cakes and/or cupcakes for children’s birthdays. I always feel so honored and I take it very seriously. Childhood birthdays are big.  I’m not talking these out of control, Pinterest-crazed, everyone-gets-a-pony birthday parties. I am talking about the gathering of family and close friends to celebrate another year of life and the hope of a new year.


When I look back through old pictures of both me and my husband, there are lots of pictures from birthdays. My husband grinning widely while he stands next to a panda cake, me sitting in front of a frilly Barbie cake with my childhood friends smiling on. These are deposits in our memory banks that will last forever and my goal is to provide these kids with a special cake that makes an impression on them. Something that will make them “wet their pants” in excitement, literally or figuratively or both. I hope little Johnny or Susie will be able to someday look back through their childhood photos and see a picture of a birthday cake that I made for them; and I hope they smile fondly and remember what a happy day that was and the love that was shared and felt in that moment. The laughs, the singing, and probably the fights between siblings about sharing a toy. It’s all good stuff. 0Y0A7761


Food Memory Friday: Dining with Khaki

There was a fair amount of time while I was growing up when none of my mother’s immediate family lived in Ohio. However, for a short three years, my Aunt Khaki and cousin Camille lived only 10 minutes from us in adorable house; and, looking back, it was some of the most fun and memorable years of my childhood.

In those three years, Camille, Selby, and I took ballet and jazz classes (that really paid off for us ;) ),  we broke one of my Aunt Khaki’s favorite vases and successfully glued it back together with Elmer’s glue (she wouldn’t discover it had broken for several months ), and we went camping (where I wet my sleeping bag and subsequently ended up spilling over into my sister’s).  We had Easter Egg Hunts, sleepovers, and we went to movies and high school plays. And, of course, we fought; but we usually made up.

We spent a lot of time together and, although it was only for a very short amount of time in the grand scheme of things, I will always treasure those years above others. Camille was like our other sister and my Aunt Khaki was our second mom.

As a result, it’s always a special occasion when we get together (as it is with all of our extended family since we don’t get to see each other often). My Aunt Khaki and my mom were in town this week and it was so nice to get a chance to be together. Even more glorious, Khaki made delicious dinners for us twice this past week. I forgot how nice it is to have prepared food waiting when you get home from work. She even packed my lunch. How sweet is that? :)

On Wednesday she prepared a delicious spring salad with fresh fruit and walnut-crusted baked goat cheese along with a crusty baguette and handmade passion fruit truffles- it was truly scrumptrulescent.

Then, on Thursday, I came home to a lighter take on chili bowls with a delicious salad and fresh garlic bread. I could get used to my own personal chef.

And… some lovely fresh peonies as well…

Thank you, Aunt Khaki, for delicious food and fun conversation, as always.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Food Memory Friday: The Christmas Edition

Christmas is a really special time of year. It’s a time of reflection, appreciation, and tradition. Some of my most treasured memories are from childhood Christmases.

Every Christmas eve, my mom would make a variety of appetizers and my siblings and I would get to open one small gift. After that we usually watched Christmas movies and then we were sent to bed, where we were often too excited to fall asleep. In the morning my mom and dad would make us wait at the top of the stairs while they scouted out the living room. “The old boy has been here,” they’d say and, after what seemed like agonizing hours, we were finally allowed to scurry down the stairs to see the stacks full of presents underneath the Christmas tree. My mom usually had a breakfast casserole and some cinnamon rolls for us to eat after we opened our gifts and I can recall several Christmas mornings after the dust had finally settled, when I thought to my young self, “I don’t think life can get much better than this.” The gifts were a big part of the celebration, but the most fun- as sappy as it may sound- was having that uninterrupted time with my family. Now that my siblings and I are grown and out of the house, it’s getting more difficult to spend each holiday season together. Still, those fond memories of Christmas past make me so excited for the Christmas present and future.

These buttermilk cookies with brown sugar frosting are very similar to a cookie my mom used to make at Christmas time. They usually made it onto the plate of cookies we left out for Santa. I can very vividly remember my mom baking these cookies one year and I would sneak several spoonfuls of this icing while she wasn’t looking. In fact, I ate so much that I ended up getting sick later that night. And to this day I still love these cookies dearly, even after all that.

I hope you all have a wonderful and safe holiday and that the memories you make from this Christmas will be ones on which you can fondly reflect years from now.

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!

Buttermilk Cookies with Brown Sugar Frosting

Printable Version

Yield: 4 dozen cookies


For the cookies:

  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tsp baking soda

For the frosting:

  •  1/2 cup unsalted butter
  •  1 cup brown sugar
  •  4 Tbsp milk or heavy cream
  •  2 cups powdered sugar


Whip butter and sugar in a large bowl of an electric mixer. Add vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time until well-blended. In a a separate bowl, whisk together the baking powder and the flour. Pour the buttermilk into a liquid measuring cup and then add the baking soda to it. Alternately add the liquid and flour mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Chill the dough for 2 hours or overnight. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Use a cookie scoop to measure out equal ping pong ball-sized balls of dough. Roll the dough into smooth balls and then place on a cookie sheet. Pat down the cookies gently until they are slightly flattened (you may need to wet your hands slightly to prevent the dough from sticking to your fingers). Bake for 12 minutes or just until the cookies are baked even (don’t overbake!). Place on a cooling rack.

To make the icing, melt the butter in the saucepan; add the brown sugar and whisk together until smooth. Heat for two minutes, whisking constantly. Stir in the milk or cream. Bring to a boil, continuing to stir constantly. Remove from heat and cool until lukewarm. Place the mixture in a bowl of an electric mixer. Gradually add the powdered sugar and beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add in milk if it’s too thick.

Spread the icing onto the cooled buttermilk cookies. Store in an airtight container.