Happy Birthday to You (recipe: Very-Vanilla Buttercream)

June is a month of birthday’s around here. This week there was one every day in my extended family & friends. Whew!

Today, however, is a very important birthday for a super cool mom, Nicole. She’s turning thirty, folks, and for those of you who have been there, it ain’t easy saying good bye to the twenties.

Won’t you join me in wishing her a happy birthday?

Happy 30th, Nicole!

Now, Nicole, take a deep breath and repeat after me: everything is going to be OK.

It looks like the thirties are going to be kind to you, as far as I can tell. I mean, you’ve got that great hair, a super cute and decidedly edible baby, and a pretty rad husband.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, he sent me this letter:


My name is Jonathon and I am writing to let you know that my wife, Nicole, is a big fan of Under the High Chair. She has made several of your recipes, all of which were delicious, and she loves reading about your family.

We recently had our first child, Eric, who is now a bouncy 6-month old baby boy. During the pregnancy and after Eric was born, we were so busy that we got away from cooking (something we both love). Your blog has encouraged Nicole to get back in the kitchen and become passionate about cooking again. Thank you.

Anyway, I have a request, and please feel free to decline. Nicole (my wife) is having her 30th Birthday this Friday, June 11th. I know that she is feeling a little down about the age thing (however, to me she has never been more beautiful than she is now holding our boy).

Would it be possible for you to email her a short happy birthday email? I know it would tickle her to death and would be an unexpected surprise. You could even include some sage wisdom about cooking and/or motherhood.

I apologize if this is a strange request. We don’t put a lot of stock in Hollywood, but right now you (and your recipes) are a celebrity in our household.
I will attach a photo of Nicole and Eric to this email. I am proud of both of them.



Thanks for your email, Jonathon. It pretty much made my night!

As for sage wisdom about motherhood, well let just hope people pipe up in the comments section, because I’ve still got a lot to learn.

Nicole, I hope your birthday was stellar and really, the thirties rock!

Oh right, I almost forgot. The cake!

It’s all components that you’ve seen before… Yellow Butter Cake, layered with buttercream and homemade Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam, and iced with a classic Swiss Meringue Buttercream. It’s finished with rolled fondant, and by now you’re probably thinking you’ve seen this cake before. Yes, you have, right here.

I kicked everything up with about four vanilla beans, however. Here is my new favorite, very-vanilla frosting:

Swiss Meringue Vanilla-Bean Buttercream
slightly adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook.

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
  • 1 vanilla bean, split plus 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine the egg whites and sugar. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch.

Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. Continue beating until the mixture if fluffy and cooled, about 6 minutes.

Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. (If frosting appears to have separated after all the butter has been added, beat on medium-high speed until smooth again.)

With the tip of a knife, scrape seeds from vanilla pod and add to icing. Beat on low speed to eliminate any air bubbles. Stir until smooth.

Frosting is now ready to use or it may be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days. Before using, bring to room temperature.

Also, a big “Happy Birthday” to all my friends & family who celebrated a birthday this week: Josh, Laura, Peter, Rachel, Daria and Melanie!

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. June is definitely a busy month for you Aimee. As for sage advice for the new moms, the only thing I would have to say is that you need to always listen to what your kids are saying. It will develop a foundation of communication that is very important in their teen years when their peers no so much more than mom and dad:D

  2. Happy birthday, Nicole! I have no good advice for you except this: have you made Aimee's lemon-oregano roast chicken? Do that sometime this next year. It will make the year memorable.

    And Aimee, you said you use four vanilla beans but the recipe calls for one. What's the final verdict?

  3. Nicole — If Eric takes to art, teach him to draw on BOTH sides of the paper right away. You will save lots of money and trees that way. Happy Birthday!

  4. Aw Aimee, you're still so damn nice! 🙂 Sage advice for Nicole (Happy Birthday Nicole) : Follow your heart where your kids are concerned then you'll always know that no matter how things turn out you did it with every best intention.

  5. Ahhh, how nice Aimee!

    And Happy Birthday Nicole! I found Aimee's blog while handling a colicky baby and searching for a cooking outlet as well! Isn't she great! As for advice, trust your instincts and don't forget to stop and take a breath every once in a while.

  6. Happy birthday, Nicole! And if it makes you feel better about your age, I'm turning 49 in July… and I have a recently-turned 4 year old keeping me on my toes. They tire you out (ahem) but they keep you ever young and bring wonder to your life. So enjoy, 30 will seem so juvenile in a few years! (Okay, is that a bummer? Lol.)

  7. Happy Birthday, Nicole!

    Rock Star Status, Aimee. 🙂

  8. I'm normally a chocolate frosting girl myself, but I may be able to make an exception here.
    What a nice cake for a birthday!

  9. I don't know if this qualifies as sage advice, but when things get overwhelming it is good to take a step back and realize that you've probably laughed more since having kids. And that's with all the added stress!
    Happy Birthday Nicole!

  10. This is the cutest post, what a great guy Jonathan is!

    …and they're totally right to love your blog! 🙂

  11. This is so sweet!! Jonathan is such a nice guy 🙂 Happy Birthday, Nicole!!

  12. Made this icing (also made the lemon curd one earlier on) and posted the recipe (tweaked by only half a vanilla bean).

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