Happy Birthday, My Little Cupcake

October 22, 2010

double chocolate birthday cupcake

Last Thursday was my little one’s first birthday.

One. Already.

double chocolate layer birthday cake candles

And guess how I spent the day? Apple picking with his big brother’s class. Yup. I spent my baby’s first birthday with his older brother. I had promised the Hungry Boy that I’d chaperone the trip (before I realized the date) and he needed me to make good on that. Even more than the Hungry Baby needed me to be around on the day that he crossed into life measure by years.

It all worked out. Apple picking was tons of fun. The Hungry Boy was ecstatic to have mama on his class trip. And the Hungry Baby, well, he didn’t know the difference. He had a great day with his sitter and we had a party over the weekend. But, still. How fitting. Poetic, even, that my first year as a mom of two was punctuated with loving accountability to my older child, and gratitude for my younger child’s resilience.

It won’t be this way forever. I know that soon I’ll be reciting my mantras about sharing, family and there always being room on my lap for two to the little one also, not just to his big brother. And soon my gorgeous older son will request that I stay as far away as possible from his school. (It will break my heart.) But, in this past year, my baby’s first, he’s taught me a whole new way to love. A quiet, flexible, easy going way.

Thank you, my little cupcake, for showing me that deep, unconditional love—the profound love that I feel for you and your brother—can be intense and easy going. Both! At the same time! A revelation! You and your wisdom, bright (toothy) smile and willingness to share me this past year with your brother, your papa, my work and my friends has made me a better person. More adaptable, more laid back (despite myself) and more patient. Thank you. I love you to the moon and back.

I know you mamas who have more than one child understand. You think you know love and then you have your first child and you’re sure that you do. But it’s all different the second time. You learn a whole new way connect. I imagine this happens with every new child. It’s amazing.

One of the many small ways in which I’m more easy going this time around is with food. I LABORED over what to serve at the Hungry Boy’s first birthday. He hadn’t really had sugar. At all. This time around? I made a huge ass chocolate cake and cupcakes with chocolate frosting dotted with strawberries. And I made them with glee. It was gorgeous. Decadent. Sweet and buttery delicious. I felt more and more joy and at ease with every messy, sugary bite that the birthday boy took.

ollie eats cake

By the way, we have Ina Garten to thank for this killer recipe. Perfection as written. I tripled the recipe below with no problem, ending up with a layer cake that could have easily fed 15-20 plus a dozen cupcakes. Even though they are a small touch, the consensus was that the strawberries made a big difference to mellow the chocolate intensity (in the same way that the birthday boy mellowed my mama intensity). One 16-oz package should be plenty. Cut most into 1/4″ slices and layer on top of the middle layer of frosting.

double chocolate layer birthday cake interior

Top the cake with berries, too. I think leaving them whole is prettiest. Don’t you?

double chocolate layer birthday cake

Enjoy. And thank your little ones, each of them, for teaching you how to love in all different ways.

Double Chocolate Layer Cake, recipe by Ina Garten for Food and Wine
makes one 8-inch layer cake

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules

1. MAKE THE CAKE. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and line them with parchment paper; butter the paper. Dust the pans with flour, tapping out any excess.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour with the sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt at low speed. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the oil, eggs and vanilla. Slowly beat the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients until just incorporated, then slowly beat in the hot coffee until fully incorporated.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then invert the cakes onto a rack to cool completely. Peel off the parchment paper.

4. MAKE THE FROSTING. In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the chocolate at high power in 30-second intervals, stirring, until most of the chocolate is melted. Stir until completely melted, then set aside to cool to room temperature.

5. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat for 1 minute, scraping down the side of the bowl. At low speed, slowly beat in the confectioners’ sugar, about 1 minute. In a small bowl, dissolve the instant coffee in 2 teaspoons of hot water. Slowly beat the coffee and the cooled chocolate into the butter mixture until just combined.

6. Set a cake layer on a plate with the flat side facing up. Evenly spread one-third of the frosting over the cake to the edge. Top with the second cake layer, rounded side up. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and side of the cake. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before slicing.

Make Ahead:The frosted cake can be refrigerated for 2 days. Let stand for 1 hour before serving.

10 Responses

  1. Awww. How sweet–both the cake and the moment. Yay! What fun to be one.

  2. Christina says:

    Love this post! And thank YOU for be honest enough to share just how wonderful and challenging it can be to share your love. Being pregnant now with # 2 (another boy!) I am constantly trying to figure how how I am going to *split* my love. But the more I think about it and talk to friends, it’s almost as if the word *split* isn’t appropriate. My love for my first born is so strong that I can’t even imagine loving another child with the same intensity. I know everyone goes through this doubting stage. I picture myself splitting in half and yet, that’s not it at all. Your heart doesn’t split, it grows. And grows. And grows. I have faith, but still need little reminders every day, like your beautiful words about your beautiful family. Happy Birthday Oliver. Wishing you a lifetime of happiness, health and love.

    xoxo C, J, G

  3. One Hungry Mama says:

    Thanks Nicole! And, Cee, I totally remember that feeling. There’s NO way I can love another child the way I love my first. Well, in a strange way, that’s true. You cannot (and should not, if you ask me) love your second child in the same way. It’s too much… for the kids! So, it all works out: the first has the love they need, the second has a different love from you that’s all their own, and you learn and grow, as does your love. I cannot wait to meet your second little boy. He (and G!) are lucky, lucky children. Xox

  4. Rosie says:

    Happy Birthday Hungry Baby! Wonderful post.

  5. Beautiful cake, beautiful story. We had a strawberry shortcake for my son’s first birthday; I may have been “afraid” of chocolate, can’t remember. But turns out he hates chocolate, literally cannot stand it. So we have spent many years finding non-chocolate desserts to love. My two girls totally love chocolate, though, and we’ve recently come to embrace it as our “girl thing.” You never know what surprises each child brings…

  6. Collette says:

    What a lovely post! Happy (belated) birthday, Oliver!

  7. debbie says:

    Happy birthday, little one! That’s one gorgeous cake.

  8. Susan says:

    perfect timing! My DS turns 3 in a couple of weeks and wants a chocolate cake. I might just steal this whole idea, tripling and all.
    and love the words about the second baby thing — I am constantly fearing that my heart could never accommodate another love like the one I have for my first, but I know rationally that can’t really be true!

  9. Brenda says:

    You should update the recipe – the original calls for 1 and 3/4 cup flour….I was trying to figure out why there was so much sugar, besides the large amount of cocoa powder…

  10. One Hungry Mama says:

    D’oh! What a type-o, huh?! Thanks for the catch, Brenda. I didn’t notice that the “1” didn’t show up before “3/4” when I first published this. All fixed now.

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