Anna Is 5!

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Anna turned 5 yesterday! I just can’t believe what a big girl she’s getting to be now. We had a party for her with her friends on Friday afternoon and made stick-bread upon her request over a wood fire in our barbeque grill outside. We got lucky that the weather was actually quite nice for this time of year and we were able to spend most of the birthday party with the kids and their parents outdoors. I served cut up Elstar apples from a local apple orchard and homemade caramel sauce for dipping. Anna and I made chocolate cake pops for the kids the night before and kept them in the freezer until just before the party and at Anna’s request we served her favorite salad: cut up cucumbers and cherry tomatoes with feta cheese served with olive oil, salt and pepper. It was a pretty basic party but we had fun grilling our own bread on an open fire and spending the afternoon outside with family and friends on a lovely fall day.

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Today we had a quiet day at home, as the weather was not as nice. And this afternoon we had a small family party, just Thomas, Anna and me, with a surprise birthday cake that I made for Anna while she was at Kindergarten yesterday morning. We gave her our few gifts that we had for her today and the big gift (Fluttershy from My Little Pony, as seen in the first picture above) she got from us on her birthday last night. She was very excited to turn 5 this year and I think her birthday weekend has been pretty full so far with family, friends and fun. She even told us last night after everyone went home after the party and we cleaned up and were getting ready for bed that she loved her birthday day but it was almost “too much birthday”! Oh I love my little, big girl!

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Strawberries & Cream Layer Cake

Cake recipe adapted from Kristina’s Raspberry Cake via Sugar and Cloth
Frosting recipe adapted from Posie Gets Cozy’s Cloudburst Frosting

For the Cakes

  • 1 3/4 cups granulated Sugar
  • 2 sticks of unsalted Butter
  • 3 cups Cake Flour, sifted
  • 2 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 3 Eggs, room temperature
  • 3 Egg Yolks, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups whole Milk
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • Red Food Coloring (All natural if possible) *optional

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare 3 nine inch cake pans with butter and flour. Sift the flour into a medium sized bowl. Add the baking powder and salt and whisk together. In a larger bowl cream the butter and sugar with an electric hand mixer or in a standing mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs to the butter/sugar mixture one at a time and beat in well between additions to incorporate. Add the three yolks all together and beat until everything is well combined. Blend in the vanilla extract. Then alternating between dry and wet ingredients add the flour mixture and the milk (in thirds) into the batter, beating well between additions. Add food coloring at this point, if using, and blend in well. Divide the batter evenly between the three nine inch pans and bake for 20-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted. If you bake the cakes on more than one level in your oven you’ll need to rotate them half way through the projected baking time. Let the cakes cool slightly and then remove them from their pans to cool on a rack.

For the Frosting

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose Flour
  • 1 cup of whole Milk
  • 2 sticks of softened Butter
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract or 1 packet of Dr. Oetker’s Bourbon Vanilla Extract
  • 2 cups sifted Powdered Sugar
  • Red Food Coloring (All natural if possible)

In a saucepan over medium heat combine the flour with the milk, whisking in the milk very slowly to avoid clumps. Whisk constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and is the consistency of pudding. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap and allow to sit at room temperature until it has completely cooled. This may take a couple of hours. I left mine to cool for three hours so plan accordingly. In a large bowl cream the butter with the vanilla extract and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add the roux to the frosting and continue to beat until well incorporated and becomes fluffy again. Add the desired amount of food coloring, if using, and blend in well.

To Assemble

  • 1-2 jars of high fruit content Strawberry Jam (I used 75% fruit jam)
  • 1 pint (about 400-500 ml) of Heavy Whipping Cream, whipped firmly
  • 1-2 packages each of fresh Strawberries/Raspberries

Place a cooled cake on your serving platter. Spread evenly almost to the edges, but not quite with a layer of strawberry jam. Cover the jam layer with a generous layer of whipped cream. Lay a second cake on top of the cream layer and press down gently until the filling comes out to the edge and the top of the cake is even. Repeat with a layer of jam and whipped cream. Place the third cake on top pressing down gently again until level on top and the filling just comes to the edges. Cover the entire cake with frosting and smooth it out as best you can. Let the cake chill for at least 3 hours before serving and up to one day. Smooth the frosting out again if needed, it will be easier once it has chilled thoroughly. Add whole strawberries to the top and raspberries along the bottom before serving. Enjoy!

 

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Plum Pie

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Ok, so I’ve been feeling a bit like a large plum lately. Quite a bit like Violet from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in that scene where she blows up like a big balloon to be exact. But I suppose that’s par for the course since I’m in my fifth month now and I’m expecting not just one baby but twins! Everything has been much more amplified this time around… it has been a much more difficult pregnancy than when I was pregnant with Anna. I suppose that’s also to be expected though with two babies taking up twice as much space in there!
We had gorgeous, unseasonably warm weather this weekend and Thomas and I were able to enjoy a long walk yesterday (see the pictures below) while Anna was out with her aunt. Today Anna and I took a walk around our neighborhood to collect fall chokeberries to make colorful necklaces with and then we all headed over to a nearby playground for a bit this afternoon before a friend of Thomas’ stopped by for tea and plum pie. This plum cake recipe is one that I found in a German magazine recently and is a little bit like this plum clafoutis that I’ve made before but it’s a bit more cake-like. I think it came out really good. I hope you get the chance to try it if plums are in season where you live.

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Plum Pie

Adapted from LandLust Magazine’s Sept/Oct 2014 Issue  

Crust
2 cups Flour
4 Tbs Sugar (75g)
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
1 stick + 1 Tbs Butter (125g)
1 large Egg
1 tsp Vanilla Extract or 1 packet of Vanilla Sugar

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl until well combined. Cut tablespoon sized pieces of butter into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter or two butter knives until only small pea sized pieces of butter remain. In a small bowl beat the egg and vanilla extract (if using) together. Pour the beaten egg over the butter-flour mixture and with a fork or a large spoon work the egg into the mixture until less crumbly and starts to come together as a dough. Make sure all of the dry flour gets incorporated into the dough and large wet crumbles form (see pictures above) it doesn’t have to come together as one solid dough but should be wet enough to start to stick together. Put a piece of plastic wrap over the bowl and refrigerate the dough for at least an hour.

Filling
1 pound (500g) Plums
about 4oz (115g) Butter Cookies (I used 20 Leibniz Butter Biscuits)
1 1/4 cups (300g) Heavy Cream
3 Eggs
1/2 cup Sugar (I used demerara = unrefined cane sugar)
1 Tbs Vanilla Extract or 1 packet of Dr. Oetker’s Bourbon Vanilla Extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Wash, pit and cut the plums into quarters, if they are small like the ones I used, or smaller wedges if they are large plums. Press the chilled dough into a buttered deep dish tart pan or large pie plate. Make sure the dough comes up the sides of the pie dish and is evenly pressed into the pan (see photos above). Crumble half the cookies onto the bottom of the crust spreading them out evenly. Lay the cut plums out on top of the cookies. In another bowl whisk the heavy cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla together until well combined. Crumble the other half of the cookies evenly over the top of the plums and pour the cream/egg mixture over everything. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until the top is golden and the middle of the pie is set and no longer wet. Let the pie cool for a bit (half an hour at least if you can wait that long) before cutting it. Serve warm or chilled. Enjoy!

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