When my son was born a little over a year ago, I made a pact with myself that I would teach him the joys of food that my dad taught me. Since my dad is no longer with us, I felt that it was my duty to make sure Davis understands that not only does food nourish us physically, it feeds our soul and is a wonderful way to bring people together.
One of the joys of being a mom has been introducing my son to new foods and watching him either cringe with disgust or open his mouth and lean forward like a baby bird looking for more food while pounding the tray of his high chair in a MOMMYIWANTMORERIGHTNOW manner as he sought out more of the food that he decided he liked. It may be silly, but I rejoiced the day he ate a homemade quesadilla that he watched me prepare for him.
As my son grew over this past year, I made him a part of anything I was doing in the kitchen, just as my dad had done with me. Once Davis started to enjoy his bouncy seat at around 1 1/2 months old, he would sit perched on the island in our kitchen as I prepared dinner for myself and my husband watching with interest as I chopped and sauteed.
As he got bigger, I gave him a spatula to play with while I cooked. He was in the kitchen with me as we prepared pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. He even started to cry after my husband moved him to his toys away from the kitchen action ... the child didn't want to miss a thing in the kitchen! He has evolved into my taste-tester as well. On Christmas Day, he sampled the harvest squash bisque I prepared. Davis was also my company at 5 am as I rose early to begin prepping a Southwestern Brunch for our New Year's Day party. As he grew out of his bouncy seat, he began supervising the action from his exersaucer, jumping up and down whenever he heard the whir of the food processor or the standing mixer.
As he began walking over the past few months, Davis plants himself underfoot in the kitchen as I prepare lunch for him, dinner for our family or prep for a party. He even loves kitchen tools like I do as observed from his fascination with my whisk (which has now seen better days since he got his hands on it), spatulas and mixing bowls.
Given my love of food that I am passing on to Davis, I felt an intense need to make Davis' first birthday cake from scratch and ensure it would be especially delicious should he decide to take a bite of the chocolate goodness that awaited him. So as not to be disappointed if Davis dissed his cake, I did keep in mind that although I enjoy sweets a great deal now, I was the child who would pass up ice cream in lieu of french fries during summer trips to the Dairy Queen.
For my little sous chef's birthday, I prepared a decadent double-layer chocolate cake with a recipe I found on the back of a Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa powder can. And delicious and decadent it was.
Now, please do not think this cake is just for kids. It is not. As expected, my son didn't even take a bite. The adults at the party seemed to enjoy the cake immensely. The cake turned out moist and rich with a perfect chocolate flavor. I frosted it with a vanilla buttercream frosting which was the perfect compliment to the cake. I also channeled my inner Martha Stewart and with an idea from her website and made the frosting a light blue color and placed fish made of sugar cookies on the side of the cake. To top it all off, I used her blueprint to make a paper sailboat to top the cake. Origami is not my strong suit but it turned out pretty good! Feel free to omit the fish, blue food coloring and origami and you will have a very chic chocolate cake to serve your guests.
The cake is extraordinarily easy to make as is the frosting. I did make the cake a day ahead and frosted it the day of the party and it still tasted perfect. Davis was not content to watch the cake-making from the floor of the kitchen so I ended up making most of it while holding him. The whir of the mixer caught his attention and he wanted to be eye-level with whatever was mixing up the sweet goodness that would become his birthday cake.
When I went to frost the cake the next day, I gently sliced off the top of one of the layers so that the other would lay flat upon it. My mother-in-law passed on a great tip when I shared with her my frustration of chocolate crumbs in my blue frosting acquired as I tried to frost the cake with care. She suggested freezing the cake though not fully and then frosting so that the crumbs would not come up off the cake as I frosted.
At last the big moment came for cake and we had to pry Davis away from his 1950s diner/kitchen he received as a birthday gift where he had been playing intently for over an hour. Once "Happy Birthday" had been sung, the Birthday Boy looked at the cake with minimal interest, attempted to touch the still burning candle, and rebuffed my efforts to encourage him to take a bite or play with the frosting. He then squirmed out of my arms and high-tailed it back to his playroom and got back to whatever he was cooking up in his kitchen to entertain his guests.
And I couldn't have been more proud of my son and partner in crime in the kitchen.
I can't wait for another year of kitchen adventures with my cooking partner in crime and the best sous chef a Mommy could ask for.
Davis' Birthday Cake
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*Lightly flour and grease two 9-inch round cake pans.
*In a medium blow, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
*In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar on a medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
*Reduce speed to low and add vanilla and eggs one at a time, scraping bowl after each addition.
*Alternately add flour mixture and milk (starting and ending with the flour mixture), while on low speed.
*Continue to mix until smooth. Pour into prepared pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center of cake comes out clean.
*To frost, wait until cakes are fully cooled. Place one cake on a plate and cut off top so it is flat. Spread frosting on cake, top with second cake. Using an offset spatula, continue frosting.
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
(enough to cover two 9-inch cakes)
3 cups confectioner's sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
*In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.
*Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.
Cake recipe from Ghirardelli Grand Fudge Cake recipe. Frosting recipe from Gale Gand, Food Network.