If you just want a recipe for a really good homemade birthday cake with buttercream icing, scroll on down to the next picture to get to this Easy Peasy Birthday Cake From Scratch.
I’m often asked how SouthernPlate started. I’ve told the story countless times when speaking to groups or folks at book signings and get togethers so today I thought I’d share it here with you.
Waaaay back in 2008 ~wink~ I was a stay at home mom with my oldest in school and my youngest close to starting. I had a Home Ec degree hanging on my wall collecting dust and a heart wondering what I was going to do with myself once Katy started school.
Now before I go further I need you to keep something in mind: My dreams had already come true. I was married, in a nice little house, with two very happy children. That was everything I’d ever wanted. Still, I was battling depression off and on (learn more about that here and here) and felt an urging to do something even though I didn’t know what that something was.
Sometimes, even after all of your dreams have come true, God puts a longing in your heart for something that he wants to give you.
I remember one day, when I was feeling particularly mired down by depression and that undefinable urge saying to Him “God, I just know if you gave me a chance I could be good at something.”
I pleaded with Him to give me something else, an additional purpose to direct my life. Now, when I think of that pleading in my heart reaching out to His, it’s like I can feel Him smiling down on me as if to say “I’m glad you asked because….”
At the time I had this little free blog (As in, it didn’t cost me anything to operate it). I’ve used writing as an outlet ever since I was seven years old and I wrote daily posts on this blog about what I was doing with the kids, what books I had read, etc.
One day, I posted step by step photos of how to make Banana Pudding from scratch. The next day, the main blog site featured it on their home page – I was thrilled! So I did a post on Mama’s Mandarin Orange Cake and IT was featured on their home page. The third day (I was on a roll, y’all), I did a post on how to make Fried Green Tomatoes and it was featured in the homepage headline, right next to a picture from a story about Llamas.
I called Mama and said “Mama! We are as famous as the llamas!” I was so excited. I called my husband at work and said “I bet if I got my own domain I could get 400 or 500 readers.” That was my lofty goal. So Mama and I sat down with paper and pen over the phone and wrote down a list of words we liked, which eventually led to the name “SouthernPlate”. Ricky bought it when he got home that night.
Ricky had a blog at the same time and we were both starting out. So we used to make a little sport of seeing who got the most hits each day. (We enjoy debating and spirited competition with each other from time to time. It keeps our brains sharp.) After the second weekend of SouthernPlate’s existence, we all went out for lunch on a Saturday. We were in the car on the way home and I said “I bet you I’ve had 100 new visits since we’ve been gone!”. He grinned back and said “Yeah, right.”
We got home and checked the stats. My first post had gone viral and I’d had over 10,000 visits in about an hour’s time. That is when we stopped competing. Ricky’s sound logic was that everyone has to eat, but not everyone has to read about mechanical engineering.
That first month SouthernPlate had over 50,000 page views. The first year ended at over 18 million. The second year 43 million. And beginning on the third year it was easily that each month. At the start of this year we had 80 million page views just during the month of January. Isn’t that crazy?
And to think, just six years ago, I thought I’d never leave the South, much less have more than 400 or 500 people read my ramblings on the best of days.
As of today I’ve been on the Today Show, Paula Deen, 700 Club, Hallmark Home and Family, The Talk, Fox News, QVC and a few others I’m probably forgetting about, was a judge on the entire run of Beat The Chefs (Experienced my first earthquake while in Los Angeles for that one) in addition to local stations I’ve visited around the country.
I became the Editor at Large for Southern Living magazine and spent a good bit of time traveling around the country doing television appearances for them as well. I left Southern Living to be contributing editor to Taste of the South Magazine and have really enjoyed the platform they give me to share my heart in every issue. Oh, I’ve even had my own magazine published! It was a single issue special publication. I’ve had two books published with some big dog publishers up in New York. I’ve traveled on mission trips with Operation Christmas Child to Ecuador and the Dominican Republic and with Compassion International to Nicaragua. I’ve worked with a whole passel of famous people and I even knew who some of them were! (Dolly Parton!) I’ve spoken to groups around the country on topics ranging from the importance of family meals, to overcoming depression, to why senior citizens are our greatest national treasure.
I didn’t know I had it in me! And you know what? I don’t. Because this isn’t about me. This is about that purpose I asked for. This is about Him equipping me.
You know the best thing about SouthernPlate though?
It has shown me so much good in the world.
I mean seriously. Have you looked at the news lately? Downright disheartening. If it weren’t for SouthernPlate, it would be easy for me to think the world has gone to heck in a hand basket.
But y’all…oh my heart, y’all are some good people. I love it when you get to talking to each other in the comments and I just sit back and “listen” in. It’s like we’re all neighbors from the old way of life. I feel like SouthernPlate is my big virtual dinner table and over time I’ve moved that table out to the wrap around porch and it goes clear around the house now! I just walk around filling tea glasses, listening in, and chatting back when the opportunity arises. A table surrounded by some of the best folks I could ever hope to meet and I count myself as blessed to just get to linger among you as often as I do.
God has been so good and continues to be. My favorite thing is how He always draws my attention to the blessings in my life and the good souls who triumph in this world. So today, as I celebrate six years of a purpose He gave me, I want to thank you for being here and for sitting a spell, staying a while, laughing often, and loving much.
Life is good, and you make it even better.
Now let’s make us a good old fashioned birthday cake from scratch. This is a no fuss recipe like Grandma would’ve had on her table and after sitting through all of that chatter from me, you could use a little somethin’ sweet.
For the cake you’ll need: Sugar, Milk, All Purpose Flour, Baking Powder, Salt, Vanilla, Eggs, Butter, and Sprinkles if you’ve got a hankering for a rainbow flecked cake.
Note on the milk: I suggest whole but evaporated milk will work well also. Don’t let the “organic” part of my milk intimidate you. I only buy that kind because it lasts twice as long as the store brand and since we aren’t milk drinkers, that gives me more time to use it up before having to buy more, therefore saving me money even though it costs a little more than regular milk.
For the icing you’ll need: Milk, Confectioner’s Sugar, butter, and clear butter or vanilla flavoring.
Please note: I am making a double recipe of icing so I can decorate a two layer cake. The recipe posted at the bottom is also double a normal recipe size. If you want less, you can easily half it. Half will also work fine for a 9×13 cake or for those who want to challenge themselves to use as little as possible when decorating a layer cake. I figure life is challenging enough so I do things to take the easy way out when possible, such as when I make cake icing.
Place sugar and softened butter in a large mixing bowl.
Cream together with an electric mixer until it is nice and fluffy looking like this.
In a separate bowl, use a spoon to stir together flour, baking powder, and salt.
That is Come Home To Supper open on the table. One of the perks of having published cookbooks is that it is a whole lot easier for me to keep my recipes in one place.
In another small bowl (the hardest part of this recipe is the dishes afterwards), stir together the vanilla, milk, and eggs until well combined.
Now add a little of the wet mixture and a little of the dry mixture to the creamed butter and mix that well.
Then add the rest of each and continue mixing until it is smooth and fully blended, about 2-3 minutes.
Prepare two cake pans by either greasing and flouring them or by spraying the living mess out of them with cooking spray like I do.
I am using 9 inch cake pans but if you can find 8 inch you’ll have a taller cake (good luck with finding them though). You can also cut down on a whole lot of fuss by just baking this in a 9×13 pan and icing and serving it from the pan. That is my usual course of action but I went the extra mile for this birthday.
Note: If you have a pan with a reputation for sticking, then grease it with shortening and powder it with flour. If you have a pan like 90% of all other cake pans, a generous dousing of cooking spray will work just fine. A lot of people use a product like Baker’s Joy as well, which is shortening and flour in one spray. That works great but is a little more expensive so I just stick with my cooking spray that I buy in big old bulk cans at Sam’s. It takes ten forevers to use one of those up.
This is our fully blended cake batter.
Optional: Add in a handful of sprinkles. You can add a lot more if you want. I just grab a handful and go. I am using the tiny little ball rainbow sprinkles. You can try others and they will probably work well, too. I always have these on hand though (they are cheap).
You want to gently fold these in because they will bleed their color pretty fast.
Now divide it up between your two prepared cake pans.
Bake these at 350 for 30-35 minutes, or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Another way that I usually test for doneness is to press lightly in the center and see if it springs back – but you gotta have a good acquaintance with the fact that cakes are hot and burns are possible in order of this to happen. You get to a point in baking where your hands are pretty used to this and you don’t give it a second thought, plus you’re fast. If you are not at this point, use the toothpick method.
When they are done they will be all nice and browned like this.
Let cakes sit in pans for ten minutes.
Then turn them out and allow them to cool completely.
Now on to those icing ingredients…
One of my secret ingredients that I love to add to buttercream frosting is butter flavoring. You can use it in addition to vanilla or in place of vanilla depending on your personal taste or mood on any given day. A lot of bakeries use this, too. You know that delicious smell of buttercream icing when you walk into a bakery? Well, nine times out of ten it is actually butter flavoring. It lends a little extra oomph to the flavor and a whole lotta WOW to the smell.
Some people might be offended at the very thought of using artificial butter flavoring. I’m not. If anyone is, they just scroll on down to the next pic. If folks are going to be offended, it is important to be offended at the right places. Me using an ingredient someone doesn’t like in my own kitchen and in my own home is not a justification for someone else being offended.
If a body really wanted a chance to take their indignation out for a walk, they could look into what is happening to babies, children, or even pandas or plankton if that is what gets your engine revved up. It’s a shame when passionate people looking for a cause stop and choose their neighbors window rather than really impacting the world. That’s why I have privacy blinds – And if you have anyone like that in your life, you should, too.
Little note of wisdom: If someone gets offended at something you do in your own life, let that be their cross to bear. That’s their issue and you don’t have to take out a subscription.
Back to icing…
Place your room temp butter and a little bit of powdered sugar in a mixing bowl.
I am not going to make a reference to a famous Michael Jackson song here because I feel I have overdone that – even though I cannot help that my brain automatically sings it whenever I type the words….but I will refrain. Because I love you so very much. I won’t even do a moon walk after I’m done typing this. Although, just so you know, I can do a pretty good moon walk when the occasion calls for it.
Beat that until fluffy.
Notice I used the word “that” instead of “it”. Self restraint in action, folks!
Add flavoring and half of the milk and then the rest of your sugar.
Most recipes will call for you to gradually add in the remaining powdered sugar but in my world we have things to do so dump all that in there and set the mixer going again until it’s mixed up real good.
Scrape down sides and add more milk during the mixing if needed.
When you are done it will be all prettified, fluffy, and creamy.
Place the first level of your cake, top side up, onto a cake pedestal. Add a big old wallop of icing.
Spread that around a bit. Be careful not to let your knife or spreader touch the actual cake because that will pull up crumbs into your icing. Just keep it smoothing over the top of the icing itself.
Although, if you served me a piece of homemade cake with crumbs in the icing, I wouldn’t think twice about eating it. I mean, it’s cake. In the grand scheme of things, how important are a few crumbs if someone went to the trouble to make you a cake?
Place the other layer top side down on top of the first.
Add another glob of icing on top of that and start spreading.
Eventually, you’ll spread it to the sides as well. I always add the globs to the top and spread to the sides from the top of the cake. That is just the easiest way for me to do it. You do it however is easiest for you. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to ice a cake written in any federal document that I am aware of.
Now I want you to do me a favor….
You see those spready lines and swirls on that cake icing? Please don’t smooth them. I’m not sure at what point we started trying to make homemade things look store bought but I’ve been guilty of it more times than I can count. This is a beautiful homemade cake and it looks like a beautiful homemade cake. Trying to make it look like a store bought cake just doesn’t make sense. It is gorgeous. You are gorgeous. You made a cake. Be proud of that. Why would you try to pass it off as something from Krogers?
If you want to add more sprinkles, do it as soon as you are done spreading the icing because soon the icing will set and the sprinkles won’t stick to it.
Happy Birthday Southern Plate 🙂
And Happy Birthday Southern Plate Family.
This recipe is one of the many from scratch options featured in my latest book, Come Home To Supper.
- 2 +1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 + 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temp
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 +1/2 cups milk
- 3 eggs
Buttercream Icing (This is a double recipe for a layer cake)
- 2 sticks butter at room temp
- 4 teaspoons butter flavoring Can use clear vanilla instead
- 6 cups confectioner's sugar
- 4-8 tablespoons milk
- Preheat oven to 350 and spray two 9 inch cake pans liberally with cooking spray, or grease and flour. (Can also use 9x13 pan or line 24 muffin tins with paper liners for cupcakes).
- Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl and cream together with an electric mixer.
- In medium sized bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt with a spoon. In a separate bowl, stir together eggs, milk, and vanilla until well combined.
- Add half of the wet and dry mixtures to the creamed butter and mix until well combined. Add the remaining and continue mixing until fully blended and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.
- If you want to add sprinkles, gently stir them using a spoon in after batter is fully blended.
- Divide batter evenly among cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until lightly browned and center springs back when lightly pressed. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pans for ten minutes before turning out to cool completely.
- In a large bowl, cream the butter and about 1 cup of confectioner's sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the butter flavoring, half of the milk, and remaining sugar and beat again until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides and adding a little extra milk if needed.
- Ice cooled cake (see photos and instructions in this post if needed) and enjoy!
“Live your truth. Express your love. Share your enthusiasm. Take action towards your dreams. Walk your talk. Dance and sing to your music. Embrace your blessings. Make today worth remembering.”