Sunday Dessert – An 86th Birthday Cake

Since my 86 years have started to catch up with me, I don’t cook as often, particularly experimenting with new recipes that I can share. I do still cook the family holiday meals, though, and every Sunday fix lunch for my two daughters which features a favorite recipe and is followed by 3 hours of various kinds of needlework and chatting. For these lunches, I always make something they especially like from my blogs of over 10 years and I thought it might be fun to share my Sunday desserts each week.

Today’s dessert is special because it commemorates my 86th birthday – a White Velvet Cake with Caramel Frosting made by my younger daughter. She made her first county fair prize-winning cake as a teenager and made this Best-of-Show cake as a young mother. It’s the cake I always request for my birthday. From my 2008 post, two wonderful cake recipes:

My youngest daughter’s adventures with baking award-winning cakes for our county fair started in 1983 when she was a 13-year-old 8th grader and never that interested in fairs – to attend or to exhibit. But her older sister and her mother were immersed in getting things ready for the Hamilton County (Cincinnati) Fair and she decided to enter the cake division.

Cakes were not allowed to be frosted, so all of the attention was centered on the attributes of the cake itself. She made the cake, I took it to the fair and she won a Blue Ribbon and even got her recipe printed in our community newspaper. Here is the recipe:

Blue Ribbon White Cake

2-3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1-2/3 cups granulated sugar
4-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
2/3 cup Crisco shortening
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
5 egg whites
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In large mixer bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add one cup milk and Crisco. Beat with electric mixer for 2 minutes at medium speed. Add 1/3 cup milk and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold into batter. Pour batter into two greased and floured 9?x1-1/2? round cake pans. Bake approximately 25 minutes until cake tests done when a toothpick is inserted near the center.

Cool in pans for 15 minutes, remove from pans and cool on wire rack. Frost as desired.

The years passed by, she married, had two children, and out of nowhere in 2006, 23 years after her first blue ribbon, she decided to enter again. But this time she was adamant that she was going to get a Best of Show Rosette. Her sister and I, seasoned fair exhibitors, tried to tell her it was very difficult to get the rosette which would represent the best cake out of all kinds of cakes – white, chocolate, spice, layer, sponge, angel food, pound, etc. She said the Rosette was all she really wanted and she would retire from fair competition after winning it. In spite of a broken oven, coping with two young children and taking the cake to the fairgrounds on a day so hot that we were afraid the cake itself would dissolve – she did it. She won the blue ribbon and the Rosette for Best of Show.

The cake was a favorite she had been baking for quite a few years as my birthday cake – White Velvet Cake from the Cake Bible cookbook.

4-1/2 large egg whites (4 full liquid ounces)
1 cup milk, divided
2-1/4 tsp. vanilla
3 cups sifted cake flour
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 Tblsp. plus 1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
12 Tblsp. butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl lightly combine the egg whites, 1/4 cup milk and vanilla.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and remaining 3/4 cup milk. Mix on low speed until dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed and beat for 1-1/2 minutes. Scrape down sides. Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition.

Pour batter into prepared pans and smooth surface with a spatula. Pans will be about 1/2 full. Bake 25-35 minutes or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean. Cakes should start to shrink from the sides of the pans only after removal from the oven.

Let cakes cool in pans on racks for 10 minutes. Loosen sides with a small metal spatula and invert onto wire racks. To prevent splitting, reinvert so the tops are up and cool completely.

Frost as desired.

Note: Two 9×1-1/2-inch cake pans should be greased, bottoms lined with parchment or wax paper and then greased again and floured.

Can be frozen for two months. Texture is most perfectly moist the same day as baking.

The fair exhibit rules called for a single layer with no frosting, but I’m including the recipe for the luscious caramel frosting that she always uses for my two-layer birthday treat.

QUICK CARAMEL FROSTING (Fannie Farmer Cookbook)

6 Tblsp. butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
3 cups confectioners’ sugar

Melt butter and brown sugar in a heavy-bottomed pan, stirring over moderate heat until sugar is dissolved. Add the milk and blend. Cool in the pan. Then beat in the confectioners’ sugar until the frosting is thick enough to spread.

Handmade Birthday Gifts


I had a wonderful weekend celebrating my 84th birthday with my two daughters, son-in-law and two teenage grandchildren.  The three-day jubilee started on Friday with lunch at my favorite Italian restaurant and a ride on the brand-new downtown Cincinnati streetcar.  I especially enjoyed the ride through my old neighborhood where I grew up in the WWII years.

On Saturday, my son-in-law and grandchildren joined us for a fish taco lunch at our special Mexican restaurant and then the treat of riding for the first time while my grandson drove to a nearby cemetery on a beautiful sunny, blue-sky day.  There were small gifts on each of these two days.

Sunday brought everybody to my house for my younger daughter’s famous white cake with caramel frosting and gifts.  I received so many nice things, but my favorites are always the handmade ones.  My younger daughter, who has inspired me to take up knitting, made an amazing Elizabeth Zimmerman Pi shawl.


This shawl measures about 52 inches in diameter and is made in the softest possible yarn with her perfect stitching.

One of my older daughter’s gifts was a lovely vase setting on one of her hand-crocheted doilies.


At first glance, I thought this was an addition to my Roseville collection but didn’t recognize the floral design.  Then, I found out my daughter made the vase by covering a glass jar with polymer clay and using her painting skills to make it look very similar to a vintage piece.


Every year, the two girls go out of their way to give me the best birthday celebration ever.  I wonder what they’ll do next year?



Mini Beef Wellingtons – A Favorite Birthday Dinner

Happy birthday, Nancy
Happy birthday, Nancy

My older daughter who lives with me will be celebrating her 61st birthday today and I’m preparing her favorite birthday dinner – Mini Beef Wellingtons with mushroom sauce, mashed potatoes, and asparagus with Hollandaise sauce.  I thought it might be a good opportunity to re-post a blog from five years ago.  We’re having this exact family dinner today, including the cake.  Everybody enjoys it.

Mini Beef Wellingtons – April 26, 2010

My oldest daughter’s favorite birthday meal is Mini Beef Wellingtons with mashed potatoes, mushroom sauce and asparagus with Hollandaise.  It’s not a difficult meal to prepare, but time-consuming.  I make the pate and mushroom sauce the day before and cook the beef early in the day of the dinner to allow time for it to cool for easier handling.  I used to buy a beef tenderloin but found it easier to simply buy the filet mignons wrapped in bacon that my store handles.


  • Five 6 oz. portions of filet mignon
  • Sprinkling of salt and pepper
  • 2 sheets of puff pastry, thawed (Pepperidge Farm)
  • 2 Tblsp. milk

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F

Allowing time for the meat to cool well enough to handle, place the filet mignons in a baking pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cover and bake @ 300 degrees F for approximately one hour, depending on how  you like your meat (my family likes it well done, especially in this dish).  Allow to cool.  My filet mignon comes wrapped in a slice of bacon.  Remove the bacon.  Cut meat into 18 small portions.

Set oven to 350 degrees F

Cut the 2 sheets of puff pastry into 9 sections each.  Place one section on a floured board and roll thin (like pie crust).  Place one portion of meat in the center of the pastry.  Top with about a teaspoon of Chicken Liver Pate (recipe below), bring up edges of pastry to cover the meat and  seal.  Place on an ungreased baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining sections of pastry and beef/pate.  Brush the tops of the pastry with milk and bake @ 350 degrees F for approximately 30 minutes.

Serve hot with Beef Mushroom Sauce (recipe follows).

Makes 18 mini Beef Wellingtons


  • 1/4 lb. chicken livers
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 slice bacon
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 of a hard-boiled egg
  • 1/2 Tblsp. butter, melted
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • Grating of black pepper
  • 1 tsp. dry sherry

Rinse and drain chicken livers and cook in broth over moderately low heat for about 15 minutes until no pink shows in the livers.  Drain and set aside.

Cook bacon for 5-7 minutes until crisp and golden brown.  Remove bacon and in the remaining fat cook onions for about 7 minutes until soft but not brown.

Combine the cooked chicken livers, bacon, onions, egg, butter, salt, pepper and sherry in a mixer or food  processor and blend until fairly smooth.

Refrigerate until ready to use.  Makes about one-half cup of pate.

Adapted from Redbook Cookbook.  First made to use with Beef Wellington in 1989.


  • 8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 Tblsp. butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups beef broth, divided
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (depending on saltiness of broth)
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper

In a small skillet, saute the mushrooms in butter until they are just beginning to brown.  Set aside.

In a small bowl whisk together the flour and 1/2 cup of beef broth.  Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, place remaining one cup of beef broth, wine.  When mixture is hot, whisk in the flour/broth mixture.  Bring to a boil and let cook for 2 minutes, whisking.  Stir in mushrooms, salt and pepper.

Makes about 2 cups of sauce to pour over the Wellingtons and/or potatoes.

Asparagus is good with this meal and we like this Mock Hollandaise Sauce.


For dessert, a big frosted cake from our favorite Cincinnati bakery,Servatii’s.

Looking Back on my 81st Birthday

Lillian at age one - 1933
Lillian at age one – 1933

As I celebrate my 81st birthday, I look back on some notes I made in 1983 – 30 years have passed, unbelievable!

Tomorrow I’ll be 51 years old.  Life for 50 years has been at times joyful, frustrating, exasperating, full of hope, full of despair, happy and peaceful, exciting, full of promise, loving, surprising (sometimes amazing), full of achievement and fulfillment, always holding the idea that I didn’t know what wonderful things were yet to come.

I think of other years in the “1” category – when I was 11 and in the 6th grade – the girls at school somehow found out my birthday was coming up and when I went to school on that day, each of them had brought me a little gift.  I don’t think any of the gifts were new – just things they had found at home.  I remember a Grimm’s fairytale book, a picture of the Sacred Heart – little things.  I was completely surprised and it was especially nice since that was my last year at that school.

Lillian at age 11 - 1943
Lillian at age 11 – 1943

At 21, it was a very special birthday because I was expecting my first baby.  Grandma gave me my last winter coat as she had promised for every year until I was an adult.  She also gave me a camera which I was able to use for years while the kids were little.

Lillian at age 21 - 1953
Lillian at age 21 – 1953

At 31, we were in our own home in Oakley and the three oldest kids were 3, 7 and 10.  I remember that particular year counting off all the many reasons I was so much better off at 31 than I had been at 30…maybe trying to rationalize for being over 30.

At 41, it would have been the first year we had our dog, May, on my birthday and that was the year my three-year-old youngest daughter made a birthday cake for me with her brother’s help and it seems to me that May got part of it.  

So, now we’re at 51 and looking ahead.  L – September 29, 1983

In the 30 years that have passed, I lost my husband, mother and sister, but I have my four children, a daughter-in-law and son-in-law, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.  One son lives with his family in St. Louis, but two of the children and their families live in the area and my oldest daughter has come back to live with me.

Of course, May, the dog, has been gone for awhile, but in the passing years there were several dogs plus a couple of cats  – and now, we have little Addie to keep us company.

Addie and friend - 2013
Addie and friend – 2013

I’m happy and grateful that I have reached the age of 81 and still look forward to good things yet to come.

The Birthday Angels Strike Again

When I got up early, I looked outside to see the tree in my front yard holding 80 balloons.  My two daughters had gotten together at 11 PM last night after I went to bed and taking the dog with them so he wouldn’t bark, hung 80 balloons in my decorative pear tree.

They also put up a sign announcing my 80th birthday.  Now, any of the neighbors who might have wondered about the age of the old woman who walks her dog 3 times a day up and down the street will know.   The 80th birthday is off to a good start.

The Birthday Angels

It Was a Very Good Year – 1996 – 2002

On July 13, 2012, my two daughters surprised me with a big box of wrapped gifts, informing me it was exactly 80 days until my 80th birthday and I would be able to unwrap one gift a day.  The gift items would commemorate a year in my life in some way.  This is what I received this week.

1996 – Two 1996 note cards by one of my favorites – Tasha Tudor.

1997 – My youngest daughter knitted 3 beautiful washcloths from a 1997 pattern – too pretty to use for washcloths.

1998 – A 1998 cookbook by Florence Henderson – Short-Cut Cooking.  This was intended as something of a gag gift from my youngest daughter who is still a huge fan of Mrs. Brady and The Brady Bunch (and I‘m not), but actually there are some good recipes in this book.

1999 – 1999 was an important year for all of us when my youngest daughter’s son was born.  The gift is an amazing fold-out picture book of photos of my grandson accompanied by his notes and sketches – priceless.

2000 – A beautiful Lenox Holiday Silver Millennium Ball.  It’s designed to hold a small gift, potpourri or small treasures.

2001 – A set of coasters knitted from a 2001 pattern.

2002 – Lynette Jensen’s 2002 edition of Cozy Cabin Quilts.

All of my posts on this wonderful celebration are listed in Family – My 80th Birthday in my index on the

It Was a Very Good Year – 1989 – 1995

On July 13, 2012, my two daughters surprised me with a big box of wrapped gifts, informing me it was exactly 80 days until my 80th birthday and I would be able to unwrap one gift a day.  The gift items would commemorate a year in my life in some way.  This is what I received this week.

1989 – A small spoon commemorating the 1989 “Breakup of the Berlin Wall”.

1990 – A 1990 edition of The “Late Night with David Letterman” Book of Top Ten Lists.

1991 – Two copies of 1991 Queen City Heritage magazines – The Journal of the Cincinnati Historical Society

1992 – A Helen Steiner Rice Daily Devotional Calendar.  Helen Steiner Rice is famous for her verses for Gibson Greeting Cards in Cincinnati.  In 1992, my oldest daughter was a writer for Gibson Greetings.

1993 – A 1993 Cat’s Meow rendition of Aglamesis Bros. ice cream parlor (est. 1908), Oakley Square, Cincinnati.  My future mother-in-law introduced me to Aglamesis in 1951 and said they had the best ice cream and chocolates in town, and she was right.  We still take the grandchildren to Aglamesis Bros. for sundaes.

1994 – A 1994 edition of Dave Barry’s Gift Guide to End All Gift Guides.  Dave Barry was always a favorite of mine and this is one of his books I’ve never read.

1995 – A crocheted piece from a vintage pattern that includes a locket heart with a picture of my youngest daughter and me on her wedding day in 1995.  The small heart is made from a scrap piece of velvet from my oldest daughter’s Maid of Honor dress.

All of my posts on this wonderful celebration are listed in Family – My 80th Birthday in my index on the right hand side of the page.

It Was a Very Good Year – 1954-1960

On July 13, 2012, my two daughters surprised me with a big box of wrapped gifts, informing me it was exactly 80 days until my 80th birthday and I would be able to unwrap one gift a day.  The gift items would commemorate a year in my life in some way.  This is what I received this week.

1954 – My oldest daughter embroidered dish towels from 1954 patterns.  The Dutch Boy is from The Workbasket – April, 1954 (the same month and year she was born) and the girl with the umbrella is from a 1954 coloring book.

1955 – A 1-½ inch diameter tin labeled School Buildings 1955 and containing an actual film strip showing the latest improvements in school buildings in that year.

1956 – A TV Guide for February 4-10, 1956.  A note is attached, “You were probably watching some of these shows waiting for your first son to arrive.”  My oldest son was born on March 8, 1956, so I was spending a lot of time watching Gary Moore, Perry Como, Annie Oakley (a favorite of my toddler daughter), and Cincinnati’s local star, Ruth Lyons.

1957 – A Betty Furness Westinghouse Roast Meat Thermometer and Skewer.  Betty Furness was best known in the early days of television for opening Westinghouse refrigerators and talking about all of their wonderful features.

1958 – A 1958 copy of Woman’s Day Cook Book of Favorite Recipes.  I have a large cookbook collection but have never seen this one.  I was interested to find a lot of canning and bake-from-scratch recipes.

1959 – A metal tin that had held a typewriter ribbon.  It has an interesting graphic on the top of the tin and Feb 59 on the back.  After all of the years I spent typing, I love anything dealing with typewriters, especially the vintage items.

1960 – A picture of President and First Lady Kennedy leaving the hospital with John Kennedy, Jr.  The note attached to this picture says, “1960 – The year two important John-Johns were born“.  This refers to my youngest son, John, who was born March 11, 1960.  When he was a toddler, we did refer to him as John-John now and then.

As I was leaving the hospital with my baby John, I looked nothing like Jackie in her perfect suit, hat, gloves and pumps.

All of my posts on this wonderful celebration are listed in Family – My 80th Birthday in my index on the right hand side of the page.

A Beautiful Beaded Stiletto

I’ve been getting advance gifts from my daughters for my upcoming 80th birthday, but I was surprised by a wonderful gift from my blogging friend, Freda, at The Adventures of the Empress of the Universe.  Last week, she had posted a tutorial on making stilettos from turkey lacers to use in sewing – and she sent me one!  It’s so precious and will definitely be used.  Freda enclosed it with a card by one of my favorites, Mary Engelbreit.

To learn how to make these beautiful stilettos, go to Freda’s blog:

Thank you, Freda, for making my day.

It Was a Very Good Year – 1932

My two daughters were here for lunch and brought out a huge, brightly wrapped box.

They informed me that it was exactly 80 days until my 80th birthday and that I was going to receive a gift each of the 80 days to commemorate a year in my life.  This box held the gifts for the first 20 years.

The first gift to be opened was for the year I was born, 1932 – a large bottle commemorating Washington’s 200th Birthday – 1732-1932.

Truly, there are treasures in my life – far greater than antique bottles.

These two girls have spent six months scouring antique malls and eBay to come up with gifts representing 80 years.  Next Friday, I’ll show what else they found.