gracefulleats is one! (plus Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream)

IMG_0966

I’m taking a break from my alphabets for today, because…

gracefulleats is one!

IMG_0913

It’s been exactly a year since I’ve started this thing, and I must say…it’s been a blessing. I know that term gets thrown around a lot, but I really mean it when I say it. It’s been a crazy year (both in and out of this blog), and I’ve learned so much about myself and about others along the way.

IMG_0991

In the past year, I’ve baked through over 60 recipes, made three birthday cakes, baked for a bridal shower, engagement party, and wedding, was featured on Welcome Home and on Rachael Ray magazine’s “#RRWhatchaCookin Featured Cook of the Week,” and made it to foodgawker (after 27 declines!). I’ve received so much support and encouragement from my family and friends, and I am thankful. But…

Soli Deo Gloria.

IMG_0886

Soli Deo Gloria means “glory to God alone.” I’ve been reading, researching, and racking my brain the past few days to find a concise way to explain this…but I can’t. It’s too difficult to define. The way I see it is this (with the help of John Piper and Mark Driscoll): the glory of God is the infinite beauty and worth of God publicly displayed. It is the “radiance of his holiness, the radiance of his manifold, infinitely worthy and valuable perfections (Piper).” It is His beauty and greatness, His infinite worth radiated for us to see. “God’s glory is the outward radiance of the intrinsic beauty and greatness of His manifold perfections (Piper).”

IMG_0987

You see, God deserves eternal praise. He should be our greatest joy and desire, and we should find hope and happiness in that fact that we have a God who loves us, knows us, and has sent His son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. We should delight in our salvation in Christ and in the fact that we get to live for His glory. HIS glory, not ours, and not that we have to, but because we get to. “We get to finally do the singular cause for which we were made: to glorify God (Driscoll).” God created us for His glory; therefore, as His children, we should live for the glory of God.

IMG_1035

If you’ve noticed, I always end my posts with Soli Deo Gloria. I do that for two reasons: 1) As a reminder to myself that all glory be to God; 2) because all glory really does belong to God. And this is true because we are called to glorify God in all that we do, as it is commanded in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (ESV). I know that was an abnormally long introduction, but a) it’s my birthday (kindasortanotreally) and b) this is important to me, and I pray and hope that this may be an encouragement to you as it is to me. You can read more here, here, here, and here.

IMG_1005

I’m celebrating gracefulleats’s first birthday with my favorite chocolate cake and vanilla buttercream. I first made this for a birthday cake I had to do back in September, and it was the best chocolate cake I’d ever made–I haven’t gone to a different chocolate cake recipe yet! The cake has a strong chocolate flavor, is moist, and isn’t too sweet. It pairs perfectly with the vanilla buttercream which is sweet, fluffy, and creamy. It doesn’t have that greasy taste that a lot of other buttercreams have. The recipe below makes a two-layer 6-inch cake (I cut my two layers in half so I had four) and enough buttercream to frost and fill the cake generously.

IMG_1001

IMG_1004

Chocolate Cake
Makes two 6-inch layers
From Whisk Kid

Ingredients:

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup sour cream, room temperature
2/3 cup hot coffee

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and line with parchment paper two 6-inch pans. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt, and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Add the vanilla.Pour in a third of the dry ingredients, mix until just combined, then add half of the sour cream and mix until just combined. Repeat–add the rest of the dry ingredients, mix, then add the rest of the sour cream; mix until just combined. Gently stir in the hot coffee, and pour the batter into the prepared pans.

4. Bake the cakes for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their pans on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then remove the cakes from the pans and let them cool completely before frosting.

IMG_0883

Vanilla Buttercream
Makes enough to frost and fill a 6-inch layer cake

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
5 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3-5 tablespoons heavy cream

1. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar. Stir in the vanilla. Add the heavy cream, and beat until fluffy. You can add more or less heavy cream depending on how thick you like your frosting.

For Assembly: The Whisk Kid has a really good tutorial on assembling a layer cake. You can find it here! I promise it’s super useful! I really enjoyed it, and it was helpful for me too.

Enjoy!

IMG_0998

With all that said and done…here’s to another year. Whatever comes my way, I’m ready! I’m ready for the opportunities, the learning experiences, and the baking adventures. Thank you all again for your support! And as always…

IMG_1018

Until next time,

SOLI. DEO. GLORIA. (and happy reading, eating, and baking!)

Vanilla Cupcakes with Lemon Curd and Strawberry Frosting

IMG_1657

I can’t wait for the summer. I think part of the reason is because there’s no school, but another reason is because of church. This summer I’ll be participating in two major church activities: a week-long missions trip to Arizona and a stations leader/admin for an arts academy at our church. It’ll take a lot of planning and work, but I’m excited to get more involved in serving at church and serving others and our wonderful Creator! I think that’s something I’ve been lacking in this past quarter–serving others and serving God. I have a problem with breaking out of my comfort zone, and because of that I’ve become a lazy and introverted. But being introverted doesn’t give me an excuse to not meet up with others and invest in their lives. I think introversion has become more of an excuse recently, and that is no bueno. I recently read an article about viewing introversion biblically from The Gospel Coalition, and the closing paragraph stuck out the most:

Accepting the realities of my God-given personality has been a process of sanctification. I’ve had to repent of people-pleasing and trying to be someone I’m not. I’ve had to humbly acknowledge my limits and weaknesses and to live in God’s strength rather than my own. Ultimately, this process has been about God and his kingdom, not me. The more I rest in his gracious acceptance of me in Jesus, the more free I become to be myself for his glory. And that’s a place where joy and contentment abound.

Food for thought. And since summer is still a few weeks away, I’ll have to stick with spring, all the while remaining content and willing to love and invest in others, being patient with school, and being thankful that I can still receive an education.

IMG_1648

In the food world, I think this is spring–vanilla cupcakes with a lemon curd filling and strawberry frosting. I made these kind of on a whim because I had leftover strawberry frosting and lemon curd fillings from my macarons this past weekend, which, by the way, I will blog about soon! I wanted to go for a “strawberry lemonade” type cupcake, so I even added some lemon zest in the cupcake batter, but the results weren’t exactly what I was looking for, so I probably need to try it with a lemon cupcake next time. The flavors in the cupcake were good, though. The tart, lemon flavor and creamy strawberry frosting paired well with the cupcakes. The cupcakes rose with a nice domed top, but I think I was looking for a cupcake that was a little fluffier. That’s just my preference though, and it’s totally up to you. It’s definitely still a good vanilla cupcake =). (And I do like how there’s no butter in the batter!)

IMG_1682

Vanilla Cupcakes with a Lemon Curd Filling and Strawberry Frosting
Makes 12 cupcakes
Cupcakes from Glorious Treats
Lemon Curd from A Baked Creation, Strawberry Frosting as follows

For the cupcakes:
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup oil (vegetable/canola)
1/2 cup buttermilk
(or 1/2 cup milk + 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar/lemon juice.
Mix together and let sit for 5 minutes before using)

For the Lemon Curd:
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
Fresh lemon juice from 1/2 large lemon (about 2-3 tbsp)
zest from 1/2 large lemon
1/2 stick cold unsalted butter, sliced

For the Strawberry Frosting:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon strawberry puree (from 1-2 strawberries)

IMG_1662

Place the metal bowl on top of the saucepan and stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. The mixture will begin to thicken in about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat; whisk in the sliced butter. Wait for the slice to completely melt before adding the next one.

Pour the lemon curd into a glass jar/container, and allow it to cool. Refrigerate over night before using.

For the Cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, beat eggs for 20 seconds. Add sugar and continue to beat for 30 seconds. Add vanilla and oil; beat. Stir in half of the flour mixture, then add half of the milk. Add the rest of the flour and then the rest of the milk, and mix until just combined. The batter will be very thin.

Pour the batter into a cupcake pan lined with paper liners, and fill the liners about 2/3 full. The cupcakes will rise a lot during baking!

Bake cupcake in preheated oven for 12-14 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 1-2 minutes, then remove cupcakes from pan and finish cooling on a wire rack.

For the Strawberry Frosting:
Place butter in a mixing bowl; beat until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and strawberry puree (which is just strawberries blended in a food processor/blender/coffee grinder); beat until combined.

For Assembly:
When the cupcakes are cool, core out the middle of each cupcake and fill generously with lemon curd. Frost each cupcake with the strawberry frosting. Top with strawberries, if desired.

IMG_1680

IMG_1655

Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!