Two major life events happened last weekend… No, Brian and I didn’t buy a car together (that would have been MAJOR), and no, there is still no puppy (sorry Mom). I did, however, run my first ever full marathon on Sunday. Then on Monday I decided it would be ok if I turned the big 3-0!
Last year I watched my Brian run the Napa Valley Marathon and thought to myself, “No Thank You! I hate running.” Flash forward another four months into our relationship, and he had me convinced of two things: 1) he is a very charming Irish man whom I wanted to keep around for a very long time, and 2) I can totally run 26.2 miles without stopping and feel good after.
I cannot tell a lie (despite the stories my Mom might tell you), the training leading up to the race was brutal! It was way more of a mental game than I thought it would be. Fighting through months of fatigue, aches, pains, and the screaming of my muscles and my brain, I made it to the Napa Valley start line, and eventually across the finish line, this past Sunday and… it was totally worth it. Not only did I finish well ahead of my four hour goal time (I clocked in at 3 hours 41 minutes), but I felt amazing afterward. Partly because my bestest girlfriends were there cheering me on and partly because I accomplished a goal I never thought I would.
You see, the thing about me is I am very stubborn and extremely competitive. If I don’t think I will be good at something, especially a sport related activity, I generally won’t even try. I know! I know! I am a poor sport. I hope I can avoid passing this trait down to my own children.
Now, as I look back at my 30 years of life, I am most proud of the things I had to really push myself to do. Especially in the last five years, I have grown to appreciate my natural abilities; I hesitate less when trying something new and outside of my comfort zone; and I trust my instincts much more. It sounds so cheesy, and this is not exactly the tone I intended for Belly Laughs, but there is an important message that has to do with cooking and baking here. For new or inexperienced bakers, the kitchen can be a scary place. It's not easy to willingly put yourself out there for criticism. Not everything you bake will be perfect the first time out of the oven. But trust in your abilities, your taste buds, and the process. Find recipes that interest you. And experiment! Sometimes the “training” is annoying and you may not want to do it, but in the end, I promise it will all be worth it. We all have a marathon runner (or pastry chef) somewhere inside of us and just have to be willing to push through the pain.
I run to eat birthday cake… seriously… I said so… out loud… during the race. You can ask Brian.
Recipe: Lemon Cake with Honey Buttercream
The Bits and Bobs:
for the Lemon Cake
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp lemon juice (just a little more than half of a large lemon)
2 tbsp lemon zest (about 1 large lemon)
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp unsalted butter, cubed (one stick plus a bit)
for the Honey Buttercream
1 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp (3 sticks)
6 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted or whisked to make fine for easy mixing
3/4 cup full fat plain greek yogurt
3/4 cup wildflower honey
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
for the LemonCake:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside
Beat the eggs together until thickened and pale in color (if using a stand mixer, the paddle attachment is perfect). Slowly add the sugar to the eggs, turn mixer to medium-high and continue to beat for another 4-5 minutes until the eggs are light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, lemon juice, and zest and beat until just combined.
Gradually add the flour mixture on a low setting and stir until just combined.
In a small saucepan, heat the milk and butter until butter is just melted and milk is hot. You are not scalding the milk so do not allow to boil. Swirling the pan will aid the butter to melt. Add the liquid to the rest of the cake batter and stir until smooth. The batter will be thin.
Pour into the prepared cake pans, distributing evenly between to the two. Lightly tap each pan on the countertop to remove some of the bubbles from the batter. Pop each pan into the middle rack of the preheated oven. Bake for 30-32 minutes turning once to ensure even baking. A toothpick (or if you are like me a butter knife) inserted into the middle of the cake should come out mostly clean, and the cake will have started to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Allow to cool then cut each cake into two layers.
for the Honey Buttercream:
Beat the room temp butter with the paddle attachment on high until light and fluffy. Turn to a low speed and gradually add the sugar. Once the sugar has combined with the butter and returned to a fluffy texture, add the honey, yogurt and vanilla extract. Continue to beat on a medium-high speed for just a few minutes until all the ingredients have combined and the frosting looks smooth.
This will be enough frosting for a 4 layer 9-inch cake with frosting between each layer, a crumb coating, and the finish frosting. You may have some left over, depending on what your frosting to cake ratio preference may be!! I used about 2/3 of the recipe above to get the result below.