A big birthday meant lots of celebrating and fete-ing around here.
Oliver turned 16 on Friday, and we spent all weekend toasting him and hosting his friends.
For the big night he was able to pick the menu, and he chose Flat Iron Steaks, Caesar Salad and Tater Tots.
But let’s be honest here.
Steaks, when grilled perfectly (and as you can see above, topped with Buffalo Milk Butter), are both luscious and satisfying
and it’s hard to beat a crouton-topped Caesar Salad
but sometimes it’s primarily about the starch.
And for most 16 year old boys, Tater Tots reign supreme in the world of side dishes.
(Mine were tossed with garlic powder and salt and baked until beguilingly crispy on the outside, steamy and potato-pillowy inside.)
I always love the opening of cards and presents, and it always gets me teary to listen and watch my family relate to one another.
Thanks to all the relatives from out of town that mailed cards and presents — you made his day.
Saturday night we went to Charlotte’s friend Aliza’s Bat Mitvah, and her ceremony was so beautiful.
It was held at the Elysian Ballroom downtown, and it was beyond lovely.
Every little detail of the event was perfect– from the decor to the tables to the food and crafty DIY stations.
Further, the ceremony was unbelievably moving as we watched beautiful Aliza be welcomed into her community as an adult.
For almost two hours the 200-plus crowd was rapt as we listened to family members, friends, and Aliza partake in readings from the Torah and elsewhere.
Congrats, beautiful sweet girl.
And then it was Sunday, the day of Oliver’s party, an event that started at noon with just one friend and movie and snacks.
Charlotte has been having fun playing around with my French paring knife and she’s been working on her strawberry roses.
Even when they’re not perfect, they’re so juicy and delicious.
By mid-afternoon the group included six kids, and they all had fun watching movies downstairs, running to the park to play, playing games outside and then descending at our house for homemade pizza (feta and four cheeses plus sausage and pesto) in our backyard.
Little did Oliver know that Charlotte and I’d had spent the better part of the afternoon baking up a storm for this big weekend with a recipe that is one of Oliver’s favorites.
Red Velvet Cupcakes.
Now regular readers know that I’m usually loathe to flit with superlatives lightly.
But trust me: this recipe calls them the BEST EVER, and it’s true.
This recipe is MONEY.
The cake is both spongy with the lightest, moistest crumb and when it’s topped with cream cheese frosting, it’s sublime.
I don’t include the recipe for the cream cheese frosting below, but it’s so easy. Start with an 8 oz. container of room temperature whipped cream cheese, 2 Tbs. of room temperature butter, a tsp. of vanilla, a couple Tbs. of milk or orange juice and enough powdered sugar to get your frosting to your desired consistency and sweetness (usually a couple cups).
I actually made two batches of both cake and frosting, and in the pictures that follow you can see one of the cream cheese frosting batches was made with orange juice, the other with milk — and personally I liked the one with the more pronounced orange flavor best.
With so many cakes and cupcakes to decorate, Charlotte broke out the new decorating tool we’d bought at Sur La Table.
We baked such a big quantity because there were so many occasions ahead and people I wanted to reach out to, like the friend of mine who’s son just broke his arm.
He got his very own cake, too.
I mean really — what else can you do for a 13 year old you don’t know well who’s in pain and struggling with a new cast?
So we made a surprise delivery with this.
And then we served some up for those teenagers at Oliver’s party.
And yet more were dropped off to neighbors yesterday on Memorial Day.
(I just love how little kids screamed with excitement when they noticed the red, white and blue component to them.)
Lastly, another tray was brought to a BBQ we were invited to.
Man, I just love a party that starts off with Kombucha toasts
and ends with cream cheese salutes.
Now that the weekend is over, I’ve been thinking.
It’s so hard to believe that it’s been 16 years since he joined us…
and I’m so grateful for the young man he is now.
So here’s to you, Oliver. I couldn’t be prouder of you or love you even one tiny bit more.
And for the rest of you, do yourself a big old favor.
Make up a batch of these incredible cupcakes. Like right now.
I guarantee you there’s someone in your life that could use a little cream cheese loving — and perhaps that starts with you.
Hope you all had a great Memorial’s Day weekend, too.
- 2 C. all purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 C. sugar
- 1 C. vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 C. buttermilk
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1-2 oz.red food coloring
- 1 tsp. white distilled vinegar
- ½ C. of prepared plain brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature
- a little butter and flour or non-stick spray to prepare pans
- Preheat oven to 325.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix together the sugar and the vegetable oil.
- Mix in the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla nad red food coloring until combined.
- Stir in the coffee and white vinegar.
- Combinethe wet ingredients with the dry ingredients a little at at ime, mixing after each addition, just until the combined.
- Generously grease and flour pans or muffins sheets (I used non-stick spray and they came out easily).
- Pour the batter evenly into pans.
- Bake in the middle rack until dough no longer looks wet and a toothpick comes out clean -- roughly 25 minutes for cupcakes to 35 for cake (depending on size and your oven).
- Allow the cakes to cool slightly in pan and then remove gently.
- Once the cakes have cooled completely, ideally, frost cakes with cream cheese frosting or in a pinch, just a light dusting of powdered sugar.