A Birthday Is Like A Hatchday, Well, Sort Of, Almost…

Everyone wanted to know what a birthday is since today is my birthday. “A birthday is like a hatchday, well, sort of, almost…” I said.

“So people do hatch from eggs!” they all said together, partly with amazement at what a big egg I must have come from and partly with satisfaction from finally figuring out the big secret of where people come from.

“Not exactly,” I said, “But that’s kind of close enough. We can discuss it all later, okay? Right now, I have birthday gifts for you.”

“Like what we chickens give to everyone on our hatchday celebrations?”

“Now that is exactly right!”

I was glad to have been able to navigate around the discussion about where people come from. It was tough enough to explain where chickens come from, but I had done the best I could since they never had a Chicken Momma to explain these things to them.

I spread out half of a straw bale into their run for them to enjoy. You may not think of that as much of a gift, but to a chicken, it is a goldmine and treasure hunt all rolled into one wonderful gift. You see, the straw bales from the previous winter have just been sitting in the yard and slowly decomposing. They have also been holding onto moisture. And if there are two things that the tastiest worms and bugs love, it’s decomposing stuff and moisture!

After they had thoroughly examined every bit of straw for delicious treats, Bessie came to me and asked, “So on a birthday, does anyone give you a gift?”

“Usually a birthday cake. It’s like a cupcake only bigger. When I was growing up, my mother and grandmother would always bake my favorite cake for my birthday. It was a strawberry cake with real strawberries in the cake and real strawberries in the icing.”

“I could bake you dozens of strawberry cupcakes or just one really big strawberry cupcake,” she offered. (Bessie loves to bake, and we have shared some of her own recipes here in the past.)

“That would be nice. But it is summer and the kitchen does get really hot when you’re baking in the summertime. Maybe you’d like to learn how to make something else my mother and grandmother made for me called banana pudding.”

The word “banana” caught Gracie’s attention because Gracie does love bananas. They are not an everyday treat because she needs to stay at a good weight for dancing ballet.

The two of them went off into a corner and put their heads together. They were obviously planning something. Whatever they come up with, it will be wonderful. It may be The Biggest Strawberry Cupcake Ever or a Real Meringue-Topped Banana Pudding or something in between. And if what they make doesn’t work out particularly well, there is always ice cream. It is amazing how many baking goofs can be turned into an ice cream topping! And, of course, Pearl may even put on her Let’s Go Bananas Hat and entertain everyone this evening.

All in all, I’m expecting today to be a perfect birthday as I already have five of the most wonderful gifts ever right here with me in my own backyard!

 

 

Bessie’s Best Ever Brown Sugar Pound Cake

Bessie’s Best Ever Brown Sugar Pound Cake

Bessie has been eager to make this cake again. She likes it because there are a lot of bowls an a lot of mixing, but I just like it because it’s seriously delicious with a cup of coffee.

I asked her why she drew herself five times in her recipe illustration. “That’s because it took that many pictures of me to show how excited I am about this recipe,” she said in her most matter-of-fact way.

We will make it again this weekend which will be the start of Shelter Week at St. John’s Church. That’s when we open our doors to feed and provide a nighttime home for our guests who have no home. While visiting, they will also receive gifts of personal items and brand new cold weather gear including items like boots and long johns. We always strive to give our best, and each night a different group provides the evening meal. My girls and I are in charge of the cakes for our group Sunday night because our cakes are the best. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, our cakes are the best because we use only the very best eggs!

Bessie likes to call this a “One Big Bowl” recipe because everything ends up in “One Big Bowl” before it goes into the cake pan. She was sorry she ran out of space and wasn’t able to fit everything into just one picture. Even so, her drawing should help you get everything set up correctly before the last bit of mixing, and then pouring, and finally baking.

Ingredients for Bowl One

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Ingredients for Bowl Two

1 bag toffee bits (8 ounces)
1 cup chopped pecans

Ingredient for Measuring Cup

1 cup whole milk

Ingredients for the One Big Bowl

1 and 1/2 cups butter, softened (3 sticks)
2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 cup white sugar
3 eggs

Directions For The First Part In The Picture

Preheat oven to 325°. Butter and lightly flour the inside of your 12-Cup Tube Cake Pan and set aside. Be sure to “bang out” the loose flour that doesn’t stick to the butter. Bessie likes this part even though it is a little noisy because it means we are going to bake a cake!

Bowl One Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix with spatula. Set aside.

Measuring Cup Add milk. Set aside.

Bowl Two Add toffee chips and pecan pieces. Mix with spatula. Set aside. (We use Heath’s English Toffee Bits in the 8 oz. bag.)

One Big Bowl Beat butter until creamy. Add brown sugar and white sugar, beating until fluffy. Stop and admire your work! What a beautiful color, right? This is called “creaming butter and sugar.” Bessie has a natural talent for this. If you have never creamed butter and sugar before there are excellent videos online that will help you. Now it’s time to add your “secret ingredients.” Add first egg. Beat until blended. Add second egg. Beat until blended. Add third egg. Beat until blended. Bessie insists that these must be done one at a time and not all together, and I trust her on this. She is much more of an egg expert than I am!

Now that you have Bowl One, Bowl Two, Measuring Cup, and One Big Bowl prepared using Bessie’s picture, you’re ready! You can finally put it all together into what may be the most amazingly delicious cake you have ever tasted! It’s practically guaranteed if you are using the very best eggs from well-loved chickens, of course!

The Last Mixing, And Then Pouring, and Finally Baking!

Begin beating your ingredients in your One Big Bowl again but this time on a low speed and gradually add about 1/3 of flour mixture in Bowl One to the butter and sugar mixture in your One Big Bowl.

Continue beating on a low speed and add 1/2 of milk from the Measuring Cup.

Continue beating on a low speed and gradually add about another 1/3 of flour mixture from Bowl One.

Continue beating on a low speed and add the last 1/2 of milk from the Measuring Cup.

Continue beating on a low speed and add the last 1/3 of flour mixture from Bowl One. Beat until just combined.

Use a spatula to fold in toffee bits and pecans from Bowl Two. Try not to get distracted by why it is called “folding.” This totally confused Bessie the first time she made this cake and it almost did not get into the oven. I can still remember her exact words. “How can you fold it if it is not paper? This makes no sense at all.” Just remember, sometimes “why” questions are best saved for after the cake is baked…because they are often forgotten by then!

Directions For Getting Your Cake In The Oven

Spoon batter into prepared tube pan. Bang it firmly on your countertop a time or two to release any bubbles. Bessie also likes this part because it’s the last thing to do before putting it in the preheated oven!

Bake 1 hour and 10 to 15 minutes (depending on your oven) and test to see if a wood pick inserted near the center of your cake comes out clean. You can add a few more minutes if needed. Cover with foil to prevent extra browning if necessary.

Let your cake cool in pan for 30 minutes. Remove from pan, and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Special Note: If some of the cake looks imperfect, don’t get crazy the way Bessie did the first time she made this cake. Once the cake is cooled, we get to cover all the imperfections with a Yummy Brown Sugar Blanket! 

Warm And Yummy Brown Sugar Blanket!

1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz.)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put sweetened condensed milk and brown sugar into a sauce pan and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Lower heat and continue to boil and stir for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, whisk in butter and vanilla extract.

Drizzle over the cake while it is still warm from the pan. It will be difficult to work with once cooled. Spatulas, fingers, and even very careful chicken feet can’t spread it very well once it has cooled. (Trust me on this.) There will be plenty of it, and you may want to put the extra into the center hole of the tube cake so it will ooze out when you cut the cake. A little vanilla ice cream on the side is nice too!

Bessie and I hope you will enjoy making this cake and sharing it with those who are special to you! And even if you don’t bake this cake, please remember what Bessie has so wisely said.

“Chickens don’t need blankets, but people do. Make sure you blanket people with a love that warms every part of them. And don’t forget that love covers imperfections.”

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated! 

Bessie’s Best Ever Sweet Onion And Walnut Mini Muffins

Bessie’s Best Ever Sweet Onion and Walnut Mini Muffins

Bessie was very eager to get this recipe out to you before the holiday season officially starts. We both agreed this is one of our favorite “good any time” recipes, especially when you need to dress up leftovers.

This is also an especially easy recipe for anyone who is new to baking, and that includes children and chickens. Her step-by-step illustration makes it especially easy too.

Onion and walnut may seem like an unusual combination, but as Bessie reminded me, “Julia Child said a great chef needs to be inventive.” I’m sticking with Bessie and Julia, and I hope you will too!

Bessie’s Best Ever Sweet Onion and Walnut Mini Muffins

Small Bowl Ingredients

1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs

Large Bowl Ingredients
1 and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F and lightly butter three mini muffin pans.

Part A

Chop finely 1 onion, enough to make 1 cup, and put in small bowl. Melt butter on low heat, and pour over onion. Mix with spatula. Make sure butter has cooled before adding two eggs. (This is so you don’t have scrambled eggs!) Mix with spatula.

Part B

In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix with spatula.

Add wet mixture in small bowl to the dry mixture in the large bowl. Mix with spatula until everything is nice and moist. Fold in the walnuts. The muffin batter will be thicker than most muffin batters, but that is okay.

Part C

With a spoon, scoop The muffin batter into the buttered mini muffin baking pans. Fill each one about 3/4 full. The batter will rise some, but not as much as a regular muffin. This is because of all the chopped onion and walnuts. Yummy!

Bake at 400° for 10 to 12 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

Additional Information Bessie is also considering adding some sprigs of fresh thyme to the butter as it melts to add a little more savory taste and maybe even some other herbs like chopped chives. She has a feeling this basic recipe has endless possibilities, and she may be right!

These are great warm and great cool. You can make them early in the morning and they will still be moist and tasty in the evening…or even the next day if there are any left! They are great by themselves or with most hearty wintertime roasts, stews, or soups. (And that includes soup made from all of that leftover turkey!)

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

(Bessie and I followed Emily’s smart advice and made individual cutout pictures for each part. This lets us move them around until they are just right, and Bessie won’t need to draw them all over again for each new recipe. Thanks, Emily!)