The kids’ birthdays were coming up soon and I was probably much more excited about it than they were. They technically aren’t kids anymore but I had my reasons for wanting to really make this year’s festivities extra special. My sweet daughter Katherine was turning the big 2-0 and Ryan was turning 22. He is applying to be an Officer in the Marines after college graduation which meant this birthday might be the last one he would be able to celebrate at home for a while. Neither of them comes home from college very often and since their birthdays are only two weeks apart from each other, I worked to devise a joint surprise party.
A family party, grandparents, cousins and a favorite aunt and uncle were invited. A rustic theme was masculine enough for Ryan while allowing me to use sunflowers so dearly loved by Kat. The lengthy menu was headlined by barbecued pork and grilled chicken. These flavorful meats would be combined with all the sides that typically go with any good Southern feast.
As I planned dessert, it dawned on me that Kat loves chocolate cake while Ryan prefers apple pie. Even for an experienced cook, there is no good way to combine those two flavors into one dessert. This meant a couple of desserts, which I was sure nobody would mind. Also, realizing Mom wouldn’t be able to attend this year, I decided to get her recipe and make a peanut butter cake. No one would mind three desserts either.
In our lives today so many of us can get wrapped up in the daily grind. I remembered how my mom would always make sure that birthdays and holidays were special and it seemed only natural for me to follow Mom’s wise lead.
I still remember the sweet aroma of Mom’s baking that filled our home. Perching at the table, I was mesmerized as she magically made the icing go so smoothly onto the cake. Even though I’ve had a lot of practice as an adult, mine just never seems to look as pretty as hers. At Easter, she would sometimes make a bunny cake. It really was cute, but I didn’t like that dessert very much because there was coconut involved. Instead, I preferred her peanut butter cake with its moist yellow layers and sweet, creamy icing. With her absence from this year’s party, I figured it was finally time for my kids to experience her delicious cake recipe too, even if my icing wasn’t as smooth as hers.
Partnered with my trusty hand mixer and well-worn silver bowl, I stood at the kitchen island and transformed mounds of butter, milk, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and, of course, peanut butter from a crazy looking concoction into a glossy topping. I swiped my finger across one of the beaters for a nice generous sample, remembering happily licking a big wad off a beater that Mom would hand me. My current creation tasted the same delightful way. Thrilled with being able to replicate the rich flavor of the past, I slathered the buttery mixture onto the cooled yellow cake layers. The finished tower was proudly displayed on my prettiest glass cake plate.
Our home soon filled with precious loved ones as the surprise party began with lots of laughs, hugs and smiles. Typically we’d then gather together to say grace over the food before eating, but that important night the family also prayed a blessing over both Ryan and Katherine. Everyone then encircled the kitchen island, filling their plates with food. The dinner menu was an obvious hit, but I could tell everyone was saving room for the smorgasbord of desserts that were calling to us from the end of the buffet.
Several inquired about the reason for the three birthday desserts. This adoring mom happily explained about Ryan and Kat’s individual preferences in sweets, but then my eyes got a bit misty as I shared about the third dessert. I told them how I made the peanut butter cake to honor my dear Mother who had passed away less than three months before. Although she physically wasn’t at the party, I guess in a way she’s always around as her great love of family still lives on so very strongly in me.
The day after the party, Kat shared that when it comes to cakes, she may actually now have a new favorite. I certainly can’t blame her because there’s nothing like a homemade peanut butter cake. I’m not sure if her preference changed because of the sweet taste or the sweet story, but I do think the story made the cake taste even better than it really did.
- 1 cup of softened butter
- 1 cup of peanut butter
- 4 cups of powdered sugar
- ¼ cup of whole milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- A dash of salt
- Using a mixer, cream together peanut butter and butter.
- Gradually add milk, vanilla, salt and powdered sugar until smooth.
- Add extra milk one teaspoonful at a time if icing is too thick and hard to spread.
- Spread onto two cooled 8” round yellow cake layers.