Reba Cooks #4
It's my birthday!
Happy Tuesday! I didn’t intend to write a birthday post but hey here we are. Welcome to NeWsLeTTers!
Last year I turned 35, but the 365 days between that day and today feel like approximately 12 years. So Happy 47th birthday to me (unfortunately this fake age does not yet make me eligible for a vaccine). I’ve always felt a few years older than I am (a “perk” of having kids young and surrendering your 20s to strollers and keeping a nap schedule), and as each year passes I think, like many people, I feel more comfortable in my skin, more confident in myself, and more willing to let go of any sort of preconceived notion made up in my own little head of what I should be doing or wearing or listening to or…whatever!
Throw a pandemic in there and essentially unlimited time and no social obligations over the last year and let’s just say: It’s accelerated. The idea of a “guilty pleasure” has been eliminated from my vocabulary. There is no guilt! You like it? Say you like it. OWN IT. FLY THE FLAG. Wear what you wanna wear, listen to the music that makes you want to sing along. Get nerdy about the things you love. Memorize your favorite grocery store’s layout and write your list in order of shopping, make friends with the guy at the fish counter, find the highest rated joggers on Amazon and buy them in FIVE different colors. Give yourself a home uniform. Get yourself some dad-shoes while you’re at it. Spend hours watching youtube videos on piping flowers with frosting so you can decorate an extravagant cake just for fun. Listen to Taylor Swift’s quarantine albums more than is probably necessary. Buy and wear podcast merch because you love the show so much. Literally shed tears when it’s canceled. Read and admit to yourself that sometimes you believe in your horoscope even if you don’t 100% identify as an Aries. Donate to a gofundme that speaks to you. Evangelize your bagel dealer a little too enthusiastically to all your friends. Walk your dog around the neighborhood on a Saturday afternoon with a beer in your hand. Buy yourself some fleece lined “Utility Pants” with like, 9 pockets because they are practical and good for being outside. Go camping in the WINTER. Get really into backyard birds and work hard to attract them to your yard. While you’re at it, download an app to track all the birds you see. Try a thousand different ways to dry and style your curly hair. Do the New York Times mini crossword every day and look forward to it. Impress yourself with your quick solve times. Youtube how to perm your eyelashes and blend your eyeshadow. Buy a pair of Birkenstock clogs purely to wear around the house.
And on your birthday? You do you. Make your favorite cake. It’s going to be a great year.
Southern Style Caramel Cake
I made this simple and delicious cake last year for my birthday and while I’m not making it this year, it is one of the rare recipes I return to again and again and deserves a highlight on this page. Slightly adapted from America’s Test Kitchen.
For the Cake:
1/2 C buttermilk
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 C AP flour
1 1/2 C Granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
16 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1 Tbsp pieces and softened
For the Frosting:
12 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1 Tbsp pieces and softened
2 C packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 C heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 C powdered sugar
For the cake:
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 350F.
Spray two 8 inch cake pans with nonstick spray, line with parchment rounds, and spray again. Set aside.
In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, whisk buttermilk, eggs and vanilla until combined. In stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, whisk flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until combined. With mixer running on medium low speed, add one piece of butter at a time until only pea sized pieces remain. Pour in half of the buttermilk mixture to the bowl and increase speed to medium high until light and fluffy, about a minute. Add remaining buttermilk mixture and mix on low speed until fully combined. Detach from stand mixer and give it a good couple of scrapes with a spatula.
Add equal amounts to prepared baking pans and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Checking for doneness at the 30 minute mark. Cool cakes in the pan for 10 minutes and turn out onto a wire rack. Let cool completely (for real). If the top of each cake has domed slightly, carefully use a serrated knife (bread knife is perfect here) to level each cake layer.
If you’re making the frosting on the same day, clean out your stand mixer bowl and paddle attachment, you’ll need it for the frosting.
For the frosting:
A note about this frosting: It is simple but also can be a little finicky when it comes to applying it. The beauty of this frosting is the crystalline top that forms after it cools. Too warm and the frosting will slide down the sides of the cake and be glaze-like. Too thick and it won’t spread. You want to find a happy medium of the two and work quickly when you get there. If the frosting in the bowl gets too stiff, you can microwave it in 10 second increments to loosen it up.
In a large saucepan set over medium heat, add 8 Tbsp butter, brown sugar and salt until small bubbles appear around the perimeter of the pan, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the cream (mixture will bubble) and cook until the ring of bubbles around the edge reappears (about 1 minute). Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla.
Heat 8 tablespoons butter, brown sugar, and salt in large saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles appear around perimeter of pan (see photo at left), 4 to 8 minutes. Whisk in cream and cook until ring of bubbles reappears, about 1 minute. Off heat, whisk in vanilla.
Transfer the hot frosting mixture to bowl of stand mixer and on low speed, gradually mix in powdered sugar until incorporated. Pause to scrape. Increase speed to medium and mix until frosting is pale brown and still warm but not hot to the touch on the outside of the bowl, about five minutes. Add remaining 4 Tbsp of butter one piece at a time until light and fluffy.
To assemble: Place one cake round on serving platter or cake round placed on turntable (this cake can be tricky to transfer due to the soft frosting). Spread about 3/4 cup of frosting over cake and then carefully place second layer on top. Spread remaining frosting on top of cake, using an offset spatula to spread on the sides. Work quickly as frosting will cool and harden as you go. I prefer to go for a “rustic” look for this cake, no perfectly smooth sides or top necessary.
Top with candles, sing happy birthday, and enjoy a huge slice. You deserve it!