We spent the weekend celebrating Kyle’s “day day” (Lucas). We visited the Cal Academy, we played at the playground, we took a long long walk. We had Gordo burritos and Carvel cake and Racer 5 (it was 100 % the dayday boy’s menu, as you can see). We made wishes in fountains and ate Gravenstein apples and listened to The Golden Gate Park Band – and through it all Kyle and I watched our boys run and laugh and marvel at the world, and we almost couldn’t believe it.
Kyle’s day day is secretly my favorite birthday of the year. I am so glad that this man was born. The fact that we met at all – the string of barely-there events that brought us together – and then the instant recognition we both had that this is it – and then the logistics of a cross-country love story … it all felt miraculous as it was happening. Each year since has brought more challenges, more wonder, more love than the one before. I am thankful every day for Kyle: this is just an especially good day to remind him of that.
And he really, really loves cake.
This is a cake for the special ones: the ones who don’t stay late at the office, but who instead come home early to see their kids and then work late into the night after they are in bed. For the ones who always plan a time to call you and connect, no matter how busy their day is with flights and meetings and conference calls and trying to get a bite to eat. For the ones who wash your car for you just because it’s dirty, and take both kids to soccer every single time so you can catch a break. For the ones who don’t push you when you’re feeling cranky, and who don’t point out that you’re cranky until days after it has passed. For the ones who always make the coffee in the morning, never complain when you opt out of dinner making and ask them to bring home sandwiches, unflinchingly allow their favorite t-shirts to become nightgowns, and in the entire history of your relationship hold not a single grudge. If you are lucky enough to have one of those special ones, then make them this cake.
And wish them a happy day day, from me.
Happy Day Day Cake
Adapted from Alice Waters’ 1-2-3-4 Cake in Fanny at Chez Panisse
This is my go-to cake recipe: delicious, easy, consistent, and I’ve yet to meet someone who didn’t like it. Like pound cakes or yogurt jar cakes, 1-2-3-4 cake recipes were handed down in families because people could remember them without having to write them down. This recipe makes a perfectly balanced cake, not too heavy and not too light, with a moist even crumb and pleasant density to the bite. We love to serve this cake with softly whipped cream that has been flavored with a touch of instant coffee, cocoa powder, and a pinch or two of sugar. The resulting mocha-cream is a nice balance to the just-sweet-enough cake. My changes to the original Waters recipe are to have cut out half a cup of sugar, and to use a stand mixer for the recipe. I have tried cutting a whole cup of sugar and the results were fine, but less perfect-tasting as far as cake goes. Using a mixer means a little finagling to get the egg whites stiffened and also the butter/sugar creamed, but I find it easier overall.
Although the recipe is written for cake flour, I usually use all-purpose flour here since I don’t tend to have cake flour on hand. The resulting cake is tasty either way. Also, this makes very fine cupcakes, if you happen to have little ones who love cupcakes above all other cake-ish items. This version makes two 8 or 9 inch layers, or about 30 cupcakes (fill the papers about 2/3 full). You can easily halve it (use 1 cup sugar if you do this) to make a single layer cake.
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups cake flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter and flour your cake pans, or paper your cupcake tins.
Separate the eggs. Set the yolks aside. Pour the whites into the bowl of your stand mixer, and beat with the whisk attachment until very stiff (they should easily hold tall peaks). Pour the whites into a separate bowl, rinse the mixer bowl, dry it well. Return the mixer bowl to the stand mixer, this time with the paddle attachment.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. In a separate bowl mix (or sift) together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Once the butter and sugar have lightened and are fluffy, add the egg yolks to the butter and sugar mixture, one at a time, beating each one in briefly. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and mix it in well.
Remove the bowl from the stand mixer, and then add the flour and milk in alternating parts, using a rubber spatula.
Once the milk and flour are incorporated into the batter, add the egg whites: very gently stir about 1/3 of them in to start. This will lighten the batter and make it easier to fold in the rest of the whites. Pour the rest of the whites on top of the batter and carefully fold them in, folding gently with a rubber spatula until just incorporated.
Bake for about 25 minutes, or until lightly browned and a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan on a rack.
Draw a crazy picture,
Write a nutty poem,
Sing a mumble-gumble song,
Whistle through your comb.
Do a loony-goony dance
‘Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
That ain’t been there before.
~ Shel Silverstein