September 8th is the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary! This feast has been celebrated, particularly in the Eastern Church, since at least the sixth century.
Last year, the children and I made cupcakes to mark the occasion. They are white (vanilla) to symbolize Mary’s holiness from birth; we filled them with white frosting to symbolize her Immaculate Conception, and we frosted them blue because it is Mary’s color, the color of the Virgin. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a real party without sprinkles, so Sophia supplied those! (And yes, there was a HUGE mess—and yes, it was worth it!)
I know a lot of my Protestant brothers and sisters don’t understand the love we Catholics and Orthodox bear our Blessed Mother. Don’t worry, we know celebrating Mary’s birthday isn’t a prerequisite for passing the pearly gates. All the same, who wouldn’t want to celebrate the woman whose humble “Yes” conceived the Savior of the World, whose prayers are ever for us, and who loves us as her own children just as Jesus asked her to?
Well, to each her own convictions. As for me and my household, we will light birthday candles for His Mother—and ours!
CIDER MAMA'S ONE-BOWL LAYER CAKE
(or modify baking time for Cupcakes)
2 1/2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1 T baking powder
1 t. salt
1 1/2 c. milk
1/3 c. shortening
1/3 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 T vanilla
Preheat oven to 350F. Put all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Blend on low speed until combined and liquid won't slosh out of the bowl. Blend on high speed 3 minutes. Meanwhile, cut parchment rounds for 9'' round cake pans. Grease pans, place parchment round in bottom of pans, and grease parchment. Pour half batter into each pan. Bake 35-40 minutes until tester comes out clean. Let cool completely in pans. Turn out layers and decorate as desired.
Makes a 2- or 4-layer cake, depending on whether you halve the two layers. Serves about 12.
This cake goes wonderfully with just about any frosting. I like putting sliced strawberries between and frosting it with whipped cream. It's also delicious by itself, with jam spread between the layers and dusted with confectioners' sugar for a simple mid-week dessert or afternoon tea.
You can also make an almond cake (which our family actually prefers to vanilla) by reducing the vanilla extract in the recipe to 2 t. and adding 1 t. almond extract. We love this spread between with apricot jam and frosted with an almond-flavored buttercream.
1 1/3 c. shortening
5 1/3 c. confectioners’ sugar
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. heavy cream
Beat shortening until fluffy. Add the rest of the ingredients and beat slowly for 30 seconds, or until sugar is somewhat incorporated. Then, beat on high for about 2 minutes. Add food coloring, if desired. There is enough here to fill and frost 24 cupcakes. (With a little leftover for licking the beaters!)
The shortening in this recipe will make the frosting truly white, as opposed to a traditional buttercream recipe that uses, um, butter. It is also extremely fluffy.