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goodbye 22, hello 23!

As I get older, I become more indifferent to birthdays. Remember when you were a kid, and you thought that your birthday was the best day of your life? The earth practically revolved around you. No one could argue with you because HELLO! It was your birthday, duh. This year, I decided that it was time to revert back to my childhood glee. I guess it helps that my last day of college coincidentally falls on the same day as my birthday. It’s the universe, giving me permission to run amock! 

When I look back at this past year, one word pops in to my mind: rough. I think I read somewhere that beginnings are normally scary, endings are sad, and the middle is the best part. 22 was filled with both beginnings and endings. New jobs, lost friends, graduation, tough classes, budget woes, etc. I feel like he past 12 months has been all about transitions. From kid to adult, college student to grad… It’s enough to make my poor head ache.

I won’t lie, this year was a huge roller coaster for me. Alot of hard, heavy stuff was going on outside of the blogosphere, and while I won’t go in to details, at times I wanted to pull my hair out or hide under the covers.

But I pulled myself together with the help of friends, family, and this blog. You guys are so sweet and kind to come here every day and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for following along. I never claim to be the biggest or brightest blogger but I am a dedicated one and hearing your thoughts and opinions is always a pleasure.

But I am so excited to ring in 23. I can tell it’s gonna be a good one. And what’s the best way to usher in a new year? With cake, obviously!! Well, cake and numerous drinks.. What, did you not read the part of the… And I picked the best cake a la Martha Stewart to celebrate my 23rd year. Forget those storebought bakery cakes, only she could do it right. 

I normally don’t go for yellow butter cakes, but this year I wanted to try something a little different. Instead of the heavy CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE stuff I stick to, I baked her yellow butter cake with swiss meringue chocolate buttercream. I kicked up the recipe from a plain yellow cake to a rum flavored cake, and it was out of this world. Seriously. Screw all the stores, this cake should be mandatory for all birthdays. The rum added a nice sweet dimension to the cake, giving it enough bite to make you wonder what was in it, but not strong enough that it would overwhelm you.

Tall and majestic, it will render you and all your guests speechless. The texture of this cake is perfect. Soft but sturdy enough to withstand copious amounts of buttercream. Moist with a light crumb. If I could eat this cake every day (fully equipped with elastic pants) I’d do it in a heartbeat.

The frosting was damn addicting as well. I mean, with butter, sugar, and chocolate, how could you go wrong? It’s the same recipe used for the chocolate peppermint cupcakes, with the addition of chocolate obviously. I can’t rave enough about this frosting. I have a lot left over and believe me, every night at around 8 p.m. I find myself digging a little spoonful of the buttercream out. It’s completely versatile and user-friendly, and while it does take about 30 minutes to make, it’s totally worth it. It’s my favorite frosting, hands down.

As for birthday wishes, I have only one for myself, and I better put it in writing. 

Be happy.

Nothing more, nothing less. No matter how bad it gets, just remember that there can happiness even in the worst of times.

*ps. I added in my baking notes in italics for you all, just in case.

Yellow Butter Cake
Origin: Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook
Yield: Makes two 9-inch cake layers
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 20 minutes

● 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
● 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
● 1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
● 1 tbsp. baking powder
● 1/2 tsp. salt
● 1 3/4 cups sugar
● 4 large eggs
● 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
● 1 tbsp. dark rum (optional)
● 1 1/4 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter parchment, and dust with flour, tapping out excess; set aside. Into a medium bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla. If you are using the rum, add it in here. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until combined after each addition.

Divide batter between the prepared pans, and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until cakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. My cake took about 45 minutes to bake, but my oven could be off. Make sure to check with a cake tester! Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 20 minutes. I had to let mine cool longer and even after cooling for 30 minutes, it was still a little too crumbly when I took it out. Lesson: let it cool for a lot longer! Invert cakes onto the rack; peel off the parchment. Reinvert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up.

Swiss Meringue Chocolate Buttercream
Origin: Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook
Yield: Makes 5 cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

● 4 large egg whites
● 1 cup sugar
● 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
● 8 ounces melted bittersweet chocolate, cooled

In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine egg whites and sugar. Cook, whisking constantly, until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch (about 160 degrees).

Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg-white mixture on high speed until it holds stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until the mixture is fluffy and cooled, about 6 minutes.

Switch to the paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low speed, add butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. (If frosting appears to separate after all the butter has been added, beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, 3 to 5 minutes more.) Add in the melted bittersweet chocolate. Beat on lowest speed to eliminate any air bubbles, about 2 minutes.

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December 18, 2008 - 8:28 am

Caitlin - Happy Birthday! The cake looks fantastic, and that last photo is just adorable.

December 18, 2008 - 8:29 am

ovenhaven - That cake looks like heaven. I might just have to bake myself that for my next birthday :D

Happy 23rd, sweetie! :) I’m sure it’ll be one helluva great year for you! May you be happy with your loved ones always :)

December 18, 2008 - 8:45 am

Amy - Happy Birthday!!! That cake looks amazing! I have the WORST luck with butter cakes. Mine always come out dry and tasteless. Looks like I’ll have to give Martha’s a try!! :)

December 18, 2008 - 8:45 am

liz2024 - Awwh Happy Birthday Amanda! Hope 23 is MUCH better. :-D

December 18, 2008 - 8:55 am

Kristin at The Kitchen Sink - Happy Birthday, Amanda! And congratulations on the end of college. Oh, and one more thing: save a slice for me?

December 18, 2008 - 8:58 am

lillie - happy birthday! love this post and the photos and that CAKE! i am eating a bowl of chocolate frosting leftovers spoonful-by-spoonful this week too (:

December 18, 2008 - 9:04 am

nicole - Happy, happy birthday! This is the sweetest post — and the cake, oh, girl, you are killing me! I hope this next year is calmer and happier all ’round for you. xo

December 18, 2008 - 10:54 am

Amy - Happy, happy birthday! Hope it is just lovely for you and that this year is much happier. As a 25 (nearly 26) year old, I will say that the early 20′s are definitely a struggle and an experience with lots of growing up to do! I’m sure it only gets better from here.

Take care, and enjoy your cake.


December 18, 2008 - 11:36 am

eurydice - happy birthday!

December 18, 2008 - 1:38 pm

angela - HAPPPPPPY BIRTHHDAY!!!!!! what a exciting year for you, congratulations on finishing school. I’m almost there too.. your cake looks FABulous. really. i wanna leave work and go make it!

December 18, 2008 - 5:02 pm

Julia - Happy Birthday!
I’m about to turn 23 myself….feel the same way, I’ve lost my interest in birthdays but you’ve inspired me to bring it back. I just want to tell you, your blog is one of my absolute favorites…I read it everyday as a guilty pleasure. Thanks for all your thoughts, pictures, and most importantly yummy food. Oh and happy graduation!!! I’m going to graduate soon too (May!)

December 18, 2008 - 9:30 pm

Sally - Happy Birthday! The mid-20′s are definitely steps in the right direction from what can be the tumultuous college years. It all goes so fast…so just make sure you stop & remind yourself of the enjoyable aspects of each phase of life that you find yourself in. Each one has its own wonderful surprises :) I will be turning 28 in a month, and I look back at college years with great fondness, but I am also so glad to be where I am today after realizing all the work it’s taken to get here! Good luck to you with the post-grad transition…just be patient & remember to enjoy the moment!!!

December 19, 2008 - 9:57 am

maris - I think birthdays evolve from excitement….indifference…dread…and finally, ignorance!!

December 19, 2008 - 2:37 pm

DD - Happy Birthday! Here’s to more baking adventures and another lap around the sun!

December 19, 2008 - 3:26 pm

Robin - Happy Belated Birthday Amanda!!! Those photos of you are fantastic, you look so much like your former self. :)

23 was a wonderful, life-changing year for me. I wish you the same.

December 19, 2008 - 4:32 pm

Stephanie - Happy birthday! 23 was a great year for me and I hope it’s a great year for you too :)

December 19, 2008 - 6:39 pm

Erin - Like others, 23 was a life-changer for me too. I’m 32 now and think that year might have been the most fun so far! Have a great one!!!!

December 19, 2008 - 7:17 pm

Melanie - Happiest of days! I can’t really remember my 23rd birthday (I’m 34 now) but I’m sure yours will be more full of ups than downs. :)

December 21, 2008 - 8:05 am

purpley - Happy Birthday, Amanda. But if you think you turn into an adult at 23 what am I going to turn into next year when I’m 30?!

December 21, 2008 - 11:20 am

Ingrid - Happy Birthday!

Your cake looks and sounds good.

December 22, 2008 - 7:33 am

sarah the baker yoon - yay! happy birthday!
i believe in birthday celebrations 100%. what more reason is there to celebrate another wonderful year of life? whether it was filled with rain or shine, i think life itself is something to be praised.

but anywho. the cake looks fabulous! i just bought new cake pans from williams-sonoma and i am going to be putting them to the test soon. now only if i can put it up together beautifully like you can…

December 22, 2008 - 2:04 pm

Y - Happy belated Birthday! I love your blog, and hope you keep it going for a long time to come :)

December 22, 2008 - 4:48 pm

steph (whisk/spoon) - horray–happy birthday! a great cake, and it looks like you enjoyed it! here’s to a great year ahead!

December 29, 2008 - 8:44 am

Eunice - It’s no longer your birthday OR christmas but my best wishes for a great new year! i cant stop reading more of your blog now that it contains so many lovely foodie posts in addition to fashion! :D

December 29, 2008 - 8:47 am

Amanda - thanks… go on and read away :)

April 15, 2009 - 7:01 pm

calabaza_azul - hiiiii! I just made this cake today for my grandpa’s bday and it was a HUGE succes! I have rum so I added it to the batter and it was sooo good! the best part was the swiss meringue chocolate buttercream! I mean.. it was ORGASMIC! I’ve never done it before and It’s my favorite now! my cousin said that it tasted like ice cream <3 and my dad – he HATES swiss/italian/etc meringue- loved it! It was so hard to stop myself eating the whole thing hehehe well thank you for posting this recipe!

February 24, 2010 - 4:10 pm

Cupcakes + Champagne « Slow Like Honey - [...] frosting. I tend to favor yellow cakes as they are paired perfectly with chocolate buttercream a la my previous birthday cake. But this time I wanted a pure white cake that is soft, moist, and tender. Since I purchased White [...]

April 15, 2010 - 7:44 pm

Jackie - Hi

I was wondering if I could use buttermilk and instead of whole milk? They say buttermilk makes a moister cake.

May 4, 2010 - 5:22 pm

Yellow Butter Cake + A Frosting to Fight Over « i want seconds. - [...] Recipe from: Slow like honey [...]

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