Strawberry Birthday Cake

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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.

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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

Directions
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

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16 thoughts on “Strawberry Birthday Cake

  1. Happy Birthday to you dear Heather, I hope you have a truly beautiful day and are thoroughly spoiled as you deserve to be :-) What a wonderful tradition with such a delicious cake, yummy! And I adore your photo, such a cutie! I can see that you began your love of baking very early on :-) Your list is great, and it made me laugh in parts – especially about Michelle Obama’s arms, haha :D You have a great life philosophy. I hope that the year ahead brings all you hope and dream for… :-)

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  2. Happy birthday!! This looks and sounds delicious – I’ve never tried baking a cake with Jello in it! Do you have any idea if it would still work if I used sugar free Jello? I love your list of lessons. It’s always nice to reflect on gems of wisdom like these :)

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    • Thank you for the birthday wishes! Funny you should ask that question, because I was thinking the exact same thing when I was in the store shopping for ingredients. I’ve never actually made it with sugar-free Jello but I can’t imagine that it would be a problem. If you give it a try definitely let me know how it turns out!

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  3. Happy belated birthday, Heather!!! :-) I love your tradition of having a delicious strawberry cake on your birthday, and the one you had was certainly no exception! :-)

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  4. Happy (belated) birthday, Heather! Your cake looks amazing and that pink is so vibrant! Hope you had a wonderful celebration day with your loved ones!
    I wish I was that wise when I was 31! My life would have been so much easier! Good for you, my dear!!! Enjoy and keep getting wiser! 😘

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    • Thank you Francesca! You always have such wonderfully kind words. Sadly the cake is now gone, but it was SO delicious to eat over the weekend ;) As I was making my list, I was thinking how it would be fun to revisit this list every 5 years or so and see what new life lessons I have to add!

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  5. Oh I love this cake. It can be made in any pan or shape and it is totally delicious and it brings back years and years of memories from birthday’s, to valentine’s day to just because. The only thing that keeps me from eating too much at any one sitting is that is is a very sweet cake. Glad that you posted it this year with your wonderful list of wisdom’s from 31 years in the life of Heather.

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