Monday, March 07, 2011

Tradition-According to (Angela) Jean

I come from a large extended family, one with many traditions; seasonal traditions, religious traditions, holiday traditions, coming of age many it's hard to keep track of them all. But one of the very best parts of having my own young family is being able to start our own traditions. We can pick and choose the best ones from both sides of the family or we can blatantly steal from other people's families and pass them off as our own. Let me tell you about one such tradition.

My kids were both born in the summer. Their birthdays are only 3 weeks apart and my husband's birthday is only 5 days before my son's. Usually, we celebrate them all at once, with one big shin-dig in the backyard. It's loads of fun. All the cousins come. We BBQ up a storm and good times and noodle salad are had by all. The trouble is, that cluster of birthdays leaves us with a very long dry spell during the winter with no opportunities for cake, candles and singing. Insert new family tradition here.

Ruth was the first person I ever knew who celebrated her "half birthday". She told us the story of her Mom making half a cake for her and it stuck with me. We have fully embraced the half birthday tradition and the kids love it. It gives a festive boost to our January and February. This year Amelia helped make her own cake with her Dad.

Note the 3 and a half candles.
Thank you Henderson family, for sharing one of your traditions with us. We plan to carry it on for a long time.

Recipe for Half a White Cake* (adapted from the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook)
*I should mention that not only is my husband a full-time Dad, he is also a Math Teacher so this was a lesson in fractions disguised as baking.
  • 1.5 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 0.5 teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar + 2 tablespoons
  • 0.25 teaspoon vanilla
  • 0.5 cup milk
  • 4 large egg whites

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour one 9 inch round baking pan. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the milk. Beat until just combined. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Set aside.

Clean the bowl of the electric mixer and switch the paddle attachment for the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on low speed until foamy. With mixer running, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the eggs whites to the butter-flour mixture until just combined.

Pour batter into pan. Bake about 30 minutes until tester comes out clean. Transfer pan to wire rack to cool. When cool, remove cake from pan. Cut cake in half. Ice the top of one half and place the other half on top. Ice top and sides.

Buttercream Icing (adapted from Great Canadian Cakes by Pamela Steel)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 0.25 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 6 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • liquid food colouring if desired (Amelia wanted her cake half pink/half purple)
In a heavy bottomed saucepan dissolve sugar and cream of tartar in half cup water. Bring to a boil, uncovered and boil until syrup dropped into a glass of water forms a soft ball. (234 degrees F or 112 degrees C)
Meanwhile, beat egg yolks in a stainless steel bowl over hot water until light and thick.
Remove from heat and beat syrup into yolks in a thin slow stream. Continue to beat until the yolks have cooled. Beat in butter one cube at a time, fully incorporating each piece before the next addition. Stir in vanilla.


  1. I likey, and look forward to future blog entries... may even introduce you to my blogs at some point! ;)


  2. Suzanne! You're such a tease! You've been holding out on me!


  3. Bah! I use to be a Yahoo blogger, then they shut it down, and transferred all my blogs to some place called Yahoo Pulse where they are so fragmented now. I do have a blogspot account, but I do not think you can import old blogs on to here?