Our time is coming, mamas. Mother’s Day is around the corner.
This is my third official Mother’s Day as a mom (not counting the one where I was newly pregnant and feeling all fluttery-excited over the idea that I was about to become a mom, with no real clue as to what it would be like), so I can tell you a few things about it.
Sleep in if you can. It’s a cliche, sure, but there’s not one of us that’s clocking enough hours in bed at this stage in life, so grab the chance if it’s offered. Breathe deeply and burrow back down into the comforter. Let someone else do the things for a while. Breathe.
Make sure someone snaps a few pictures. Hear me out, I know, I KNOW....your skin is tired and your hair is frizzled and wild from a million nights spent in messy mom-buns, and the last thing you want is to have this moment documented, but trust me. You DO. We have this tendency to melt into the background of so many of life's scenes, we mothers, to be the unseen support crew that makes the regular days run smoothly and the holidays extra magical. This goes double for those of us who are some form of "mom/photographer," since we have an extra layer of protection built into the excuses for not ever showing up in pictures: but I have to take all the pictures--it's for WORK!
As worried as you may be about the bags under your eyes and your tendency to always be chewing and/or blinking whenever someone snaps a photo (and believe me, I am not crazy about these aspects of my own photos, haha), years from now you won't even notice them. You won't see anything but the love in their eyes as they serve you a wobbly tray of breakfast in bed, or proudly bestow their handmade gifts on you (my two year old is forever giving me handfuls of damp flowers he's picked up from the ground--"For you, Mama!"--and I try to ooh and ahh over each one like they were exotic orchids). You won't see anything but the memories.
Finally, if someone offers to make you cake, take them up on it. I have JUST THE PERFECT ONE. This vanilla layer cake right here is an epic example of cake perfection: it's tender, flavorful, sturdy enough to stack with layers of frosting or jam but not dense. It's the perfect blank canvas onto which you can project all sorts of other flavors, like a zesty citrus buttercream, bitter marmalade, a deep chocolate ganache, a layer of fresh strawberries--make it your own! Here, I imagined a dreamy Mother's Day morning tea involving fresh flowers, linen napkins, small sweet bites, and a showstopping cake topped with faux succulents and piped buttercream. If your plans for your special day are a little more modest than this (and whose aren't, honestly?), let's say you're getting grilled cheese sandwiches and a misspelled construction paper card with only half-dried glue and glitter on it instead of a sugary pastel fantasyland party, that's one hundred percent okay. But insist on the cake anyway. It's worth it.
Happy Mother's Day, fellow mamas!
Vanilla Layer Cake with Citrus Buttercream
(lightly adapted from a recipe by Sally's Baking Addiction)
Makes: One 2-layer cake
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for pan
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup butter, plus extra for pan
- 1 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 eggs + 2 extra whites
- 1 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) softened butter
- 5 cups of powdered confectioner’s sugar
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon finely zested lemon peel
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Some kind of jam filling; choose one of these: marmalade (if you like your sweet things a touch on the bitter side), apricot jam, lemon or orange curd
For the citrus buttercream:
For the layer in between:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8" pans with butter and dust lightly with flour.
- Place flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl and stir until combined.
- Place butter in bowl of stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat on high until fluffy (about a minute). Add sugar, continue beating on high until they are creamed together and the mixture is pale & fluffy. Add eggs & egg whites, continue to mix on high. Add vinegar and vanilla, continue to mix. Decrease speed to low, slowly add dry ingredients until just combined. Slowly pour in milk and mix batter until just combined and smooth (batter will be slightly thick).
- Divide the batter evenly between the pans and bake for 25-30 minutes (times will vary according to oven, but each layer should be browned and puffed, and a tester inserted into the middle should come out clean). Remove and let cool completely.
- While cake is baking, whip butter in stand mixer with the paddle attachment for several minutes on medium speed, until butter is fluffy. Scrape down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula as you go. Lower mixer speed to low and begin adding sugar one cup at a time, continuing to stop once in a while and scrape sides of bowl. Increase speed back to medium and beat in cream and vanilla until smooth. Add salt, lemon juice and zest, and beat until smooth. Taste and add more sugar if frosting needs to be stiffer, or a splash more cream if it needs to be smoother.
- Assemble cake with jam filling between the layers. Spread buttercream generously over top & sides, smooth with a butter knife or offset spatula. Garnish cake with faux succulents, sprinkles, piped buttercream flowers & stars.