With the springtime falling of rain, our yard washed over with dandelions. As each came into its own puffy fluffy fullness, Lucas would find it. Each newly-found dandelion was a discovery, a delight, a cause for celebration. And after each celebration there was a pause, while he considered to what use he should put this particular wish. Then his lips would pucker like a kiss, and with a whoosh the seeds would sail into the air, off on their own adventures and (I suspect) eventually coming back round to our own weed-riddled grass, to sprout and to grow and to flower again.
In the midst of all this, and the sickness, and the rest, there was one wish that we had planned to share here; Kyle’s dad, the boys’ Papa Bob, celebrated a birthday worthy of a song. Also worthy of a cake. This is the one we would have made for him, if he lived a little closer. As it is, we’ll have to hope that when we see him next week we squeeze in a moment or two for cake, and dandelions, and wishes of all stripes.
A belated happy birthday to our dear BobBob. Looking forward to celebrating soon! xo
Barley Cakes with Fresh Mint Buttercream
Perhaps you have some barley flour leftover from making scones? If so, this might be the best possible use for it. That warm creaminess from the barley flour deepens a pretty standard cake into something noteworthy, with a hint of caramel sweetness and an almost-crackly top. It’s not a fancy cake or an “interesting” cake, but it is a deeply delicious one.
As for the icing – icing is not (usually) my thing. It is definitely not Lucas’s. But even we two icing-eschewers were charmed into dolloping little caps of this minty-sweet buttercream onto our cakes. As our friends in the cold, cold northeast are reporting mint sightings in their yard, this recipe seems perfect for now, to welcome spring and all that is green-growing. (Mint, yes – but a flavor nothing like a holiday-time extract would give. This buttercream showcases mint as living, leafing herb; green, zesty, wonderfully fresh.)
This is a riff on our half-batch weekday (cup)cakes, which recipe is heavily adapted from the 1-2-3-4 Yellow in Joy of Cooking. You can double it for 24 cups, or try the 1-2-3-4 cake if company’s coming and you’re in the mood to whisk egg whites. (Though I’d wager that no guest, whether for a playdate or a dinner party, would turn their nose up at this delightful-and-whiskless barley version.)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole grain barley flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 smaller (or 2 larger) eggs
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter and flour one standard muffin tin (12 cups) – or line with papers if you have them.
Sift or fork together the flours, baking powder and salt. Measure the milk into your measuring cup, then mix in the vanilla.
In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, three to five minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beating on low speed, add half the flour mixture, then half the milk. Mix until smooth, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add the other half of the flour and milk, and mix until smooth.
Scoop into prepared muffin tins, and bake for 18-22 minutes or until lightly golden and cooked through the center. Let cool completely before frosting.
I took liberties here because I wanted so much to try this but had no cream cheese and (shockingly) no sweet butter. I did have lots of fresh mint and (shockingly) powdered sugar. I’m sure that the version with the cream cheese gets a nice tangy edge. I opted instead to use the full cup of mint leaves on half the amount of butter – no doubt a different flavor profile. But the fresh mint idea is such a good one that I think it could probably work any number of ways.
This amount of sugar gave us a good consistency and a nice level of sweetness; adjust to your own taste as you’d like.
1 stick salted butter, soft
1 loose cup fresh mint leaves, finely minced
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 – 3/4 cup packed powdered sugar
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine butter and mint leaves. Beat on low with paddle attachment until well combined. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula then mix on medium low for one minute more. With the machine on low add the vanilla and then the powdered sugar. Once combined, increase the speed to medium high then beat for three or four minutes, until light and fluffy, but still very creamy. This buttercream is best eaten the day it is made.