Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Violet Cream Cake

Lavinia's birthday cake deserves its own post! I don't consider myself to be an expert baker or anything, but I wanted to create something special for our little girl's first birthday. I had some ideas floating around in my head, and I'm happy to say the end result was beautiful and delicious! Unfortunately, there's only a short time frame in the spring to make this with fresh violets, but you could easily substitute a different kind of filling and decoration at different times of the year. (Or, make violet jelly in the spring to use as the filling, and make or buy sugared violets for the decoration.)

Violet Cream Cake

FOR THE CAKE (adapted from Treasured Recipes from the Charleston Cake Lady by Teresa Pregnall):
  • 2 packages of (18.5 oz.) Duncan Hines white cake mix
  • 2/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. sour cream
  • 1 c. vegetable or canola oil
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 c. of freshly-picked violets from a herbicide-free lawn, stems removed
  • 1 c. water
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 3 tbsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 4 c. heavy whipping cream
  • powdered sugar, to taste
  • around 2 dozen freshly-picked violets from a herbicide-free lawn, stems removed
  • other flowers as desired
To make the cake: Prepare three 9-inch cake pans by generously greasing them with butter or shortening. Add a little flour to the pan and tap the pan around until it is evenly coated with flour, then shake the excess out. Trace three circles of wax paper using the bottom of the pan as a guide. Cut out the wax paper circles, then press one circle into the bottom of each pan (they should fit smoothly).

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, sugar, flour, sour cream, and oil. Add the eggs and mix on low speed for 1 minute. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat for four minutes, or until light and fluffy.

Pour 1/4 of the batter into each of the prepared pans (this will leave you with 1/4 of the batter left over, which will make you a dozen cupcakes if you like). Set the oven temperature to 325º F and bake for around 33 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool on wire racks. (I baked mine in two batches -- two cake pans in one batch, one cake pan and one muffin tin of cupcakes in the second batch, taking the cupcakes out after about 25 minutes. I have no idea if you could bake them all at once -- like I said, not a baking expert.) :)

To make the violet filling: Combine violets, water, and sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for two hours. Strain the syrup through a sieve, pressing on the petals to extract all the liquid. Add lemon juice. Mix cornstarch in 1/4 c. cold water. Add to syrup and simmer until thickened, stirring frequently.

To make the frosting: Pour the whipping cream into a large metal bowl that has been chilled in the freezer. Beat on medium-high until the cream becomes thick and spreadable. Add powdered sugar to sweeten to taste.

To assemble the cake: Spread the violet filling onto two of the cakes, half on each. Spread whipped cream over that. Place one of the violet/whipped cream cakes onto the other, then place the plain cake on top of those two. Make sure all three cake layers are centered. Spread whipped cream over the top and sides of all three layers. Decorate with freshly-picked violets by pressing the flowers gently into the whipped cream. Add additional decorative flowers as desired (making sure not to eat them if they are not edible).

Violet Cream Cake

I served the cake with homemade blueberry ice cream, which turns out to be the most beautiful shade of purple. I found that both the cake and ice cream are delicious enough that I preferred to enjoy them separately, but it was nice to have an extra punch of purple.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Miss Lavinia turns One

Lavinia's birthday was this past Sunday and we had a day of sweet celebrations. Both sets of grandparents, plus one great-grandmother and an aunt, were able to be with her on her special day. After church, we took a picnic to a nearby park. Some teddy bears of all sizes came along with us.

teddy bear picnic

Teddy Bear at the Park

We had chicken salad on croissants, strawberries and blueberries, crudités and dip, corn salad, and chevré bites. Also, your choice of sparkling white grape juice or pink lemonade!



The skies threatened but the rain held off. After eating, the kids played at the swings with their Grandpa and Grandad.


Back at Grandma and Grandpa's house, Lavinia opened gifts with the help of Daddy and Edmund.

opening gifts

Her favorite gift from Mommy and Daddy was a little baby doll. In the past few months especially, she has been so fascinated by other babies and has loved playing with baby dolls whenever she gets the chance. Now she has one of her very own. The baby's name is Violet.

baby doll

Thursday, May 9, 2013

"Where the nodding violet grows..."

We are having an exceptionally late spring in Nebraska this year -- flowers that have usually come and gone by early May are only just blooming out! It's been hard to wait patiently for warmer weather and the beauty of spring, but there is an upside. :) My sweet Lavinia's first birthday is coming up soon and I plan to bedeck the festivities with as many beautiful blooms as I can!

Violet varieties

I found all five of these color variations of violets in our backyard. In previous years, I've only picked violets for small bouquets, but this year I want to try a few culinary endeavors, which means gathering a lot of violets. It's hard to find the time to concentrate on such a task. I thought I could get Edmund involved in picking the violets but his attention span for such an activity doesn't last long. He prefers "mowing" the grass with his toy lawnmower or swinging under the crabapple tree. He did present me with a handful of violets and dandelions, saying, "I picked a posy for you, Mama!" He is so sweet.