Strawberry Birthday Cake


I’m celebrating my birthday today, and everyone’s invited!

My favorite birthday tradition revolves around eating the most delicious strawberry cake you will ever taste. It’s a ritual I’ve had ever since I can remember. When I was younger, my mom always baked this cake for my birthday. I even remember her making it for my roommates and I when we were in college. It’s a recipe that’s been passed around between friends and family for years and has become one of my favorite cakes to bake… and eat.

This year was no different. I made my birthday cake last night and got to spend a few peaceful moments to myself in the kitchen. As I was baking, I started thinking about how 31 years of collecting knowledge is pretty cool. Tucking lessons away like lint collected in a  pocket. Saved tidbits from parents, friends and strangers. Things I’ve learned from wild successes and blunt failures. Afterwards, I was inspired to make a list of life lessons and truths that I’ve learned thus far. So without further ado, in no particular order, here are 31 things I have learned and know to be true on my birthday this year.

1. Surround yourself with people who love you and want you to be happy.
2. Remember to be true to yourself in all things you do.
3. Do things that are uncool. Later on, they usually end up becoming cool anyway.
4. Don’t take action when you’re angry. Take a moment to calm down and ask yourself if what you’re thinking of doing is really in your best interest.
5. Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself.
6. You don’t need to stuff your feet into shoes that hurt just because the shoes are gorgeous.
7. If I tell myself I can do something, I can usually do it.
8. If I convince myself I can’t do something, well then, it won’t get done.
9. Even though I might think I’m right, it doesn’t mean I always am.
10. Everybody is entitled to their opinion. I don’t have to agree with it, nor pretend I do. But their opinion belongs to them and it’s not up to me to judge.
11. A sore knee/shoulder/wrist doesn’t have to mean giving up exercise; it just means doing it differently.
12. No matter how many weights I lift, there is no way I will ever have Michelle Obama’s arms. In fact, I’ll probably injure myself instead.
13. It’s okay to wear earplugs when you’re at a concert/wedding/bar with ear-splitting music.
14. Saying no or “Sorry, I’m too busy” is okay.
15. It’s okay to ask someone to speak up or slow down if you can’t understand what they’re saying.
16. It’s okay to eat dessert first—and only.
17. It’s okay to take a nap in the middle of the day if you’re tired.
18. Don’t compare yourself or try to be someone else.
19. It’s easier to take a small action now instead of a big action “some day.”
20. Telling someone they’re wrong never leads to anything positive. Even if they’re wrong.
21. It’s OK if you don’t like something. Just don’t pretend that you do.
22. Stop watching so much TV.
23. Don’t listen to anybody who tells you “you’re missing out” by not going somewhere or doing something. You’re only missing out if you believe you’re missing out.
24. Do activities by yourself. Solo social activities (movies, dinner, concerts, travel) can be a lot of fun.
25. Stop texting or checking your phone when you’re with other people. It’s rude and it’s sad.
26. Drink more water.
27. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Compare yourself to you.
28. Friends really do come and go. Some come back. Some don’t. That’s OK.
29. You will make mistakes. So what?
30. It’s OK to feel sad.
31. It’s hard to accept your privilege in life. Doing so will make you more aware of the challenges and obstacles others face.


Strawberry Birthday Cake
Serves approximately 12 people 

Cake Ingredients
1 box white cake mix
6 oz box strawberry jello
3 tablespoons flour
4 eggs
3/4 cup oil
3/4 cup frozen strawberries (thawed and chopped)
1/2 cup water

Frosting Ingredients
16 oz box confectioners sugar
1/4 cup frozen strawberries (thawed and chopped)
1/2 cup butter

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9 inch round baking pans and set aside.

Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl, mix wet ingredients together, including strawberries. Slowly stir wet ingredients in with the dry being careful not to over mix the batter. Pour batter into baking rounds and bake in the oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in the pan and then invert onto a baking rack to cool completely before frosting.

For frosting, cream together butter and powdered sugar using an electric mixer. Make sure butter is at room temperature prior to mixing. At very end, slowly add room temperature strawberries and blend until well mixed.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Working with buttercream frosting can be tricky. If you’re frosting is “broken” the fat and liquid won’t emulsify, and you’ll be left with a bowl of fat globules that look like cottage cheese with soupy liquid in the bottom. The first potential issue is inconsistent temperature. Both your egg/sugar mixture and your butter must be at the same temperature. Another issue might be excess liquid. Unwanted liquid can result either from the addition of fruit or other moist flavorings. The best plan is to avoid a broken buttercream in the first place. You can do this by adding fruit and flavorings a little at a time. However, broken buttercream happens to even the best of us. Here’s how to get yourself back on track.

Step 1: Try mixing it a little longer and see if it comes together on its own.
Step 2: If it doesn’t come together with additional mixing, scoop out a cup of curdled mixture and microwave 5 to 10 seconds, until melted but not hot.
Step 3: Pour melted buttercream into the mixer while on medium speed and whip until combined. This works every time.

The Young Baker