"Place, with a trace of humanity" Photography/Photo of the Day/Pittsburgh

Posts tagged “1-2-3-4 cake recipe

Happy Day or 1-2-3-4 Cake?

 If you’ve been following the blog since the beginning, you might remember the photos and recipes.On several occasions, I’ve posted our  “go to” birthday cake recipes.
 My sister got me the one Swan’s Down vintage cake pan in Omak, Washington when were visiting our brother one summer.
I did mail a birthday card to my sister.  (Unusual for me that it wasn’t belated)
In my family, we’d try to get it in the octave, as my mom would call it.  Enjoy your day!

Happy Day Cake Recipe-

For Birthdays it was the 1-2-3-4 Cake recipe or the Happy Day Cake recipe on the back of the Swan’s Down Cake Flour box, frosted with Penuche icing.  My mother would put the saucepan into a sink of cold water and then beat it by hand once it cooled. I can hear the ring of the metal loop at the end of the pan’s handle. And as I remember it she added a dash of vanilla extract.  My dad would pour milk over a slice and eat it with a spoon.   Cake and frosting recipes below photo.

Happy Birthday to my sister Mary who gave me the vintage pan

Happy Day Cake

2½ cups sifted cake flour

1½ cups sugar

3 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1/2 cup shortening, at room temperature

1 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 eggs

Sift flour with sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir shortening to soften. Add flour mixture, ¾ cup of the milk and vanilla. Mix until all flour is dampened, then beat two minutes at medium speed. Add eggs and remaining ¼ cup milk. Beat one minute longer. Pour into two 9-inch layer pans that have been lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans; remove from pans and cool thoroughly on racks.

This cake also may be baked in three 8-inch layer pans for 25 to 35 minutes, or in a 13- by 9-inch pan for 30 to 35 minutes. Batter may be spooned into 36 medium paper baking cups in muffin pans, filling half full. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

Penuche Frosting   Butter is Key


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar, more or less
  • hot water, optional


In a saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter. Add the brown sugar. Bring to a boil and lower heat to medium low and continue to boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cool to lukewarm. Gradually add sifted confectioners’ sugar. Beat until thick enough to spread. If too thick, add a little hot water. Frosts top and sides of a 2-layer cake or a 13×9-inch cake.


p.s. Last year I mailed an actual cake but this year it will be virtual

and another connection was the post when my friend J sent me a cupcake tree to Ohio when I was visiting

Vanilla Buttercream on a Six Layer Cake in Winter

You might remember the  vanilla buttercream white cake on the front porch in late summer. The one I posted for Marlene’s birthday. (looks good in summer light- click here )

I made this cake by baking 1 cup of batter in 3- 8″ baking pans at a time. (350 degrees)

Did that twice to make six layers.  Vanilla buttercream icing.

The insides of the cake will be revealed another time.  I used the 1-2-3-4 cake recipe

1 cup unsalted butter, room temp

2 cups sugar

3 cups of cake flour (with 2 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp salt)

4 eggs

1 cup of milk + 1/2 cup warm water

I used the Cake Bible method of mixing all dry ingredients with the butter and then adding the vanilla, egg and milk mixture to the dry mixture. Apologies to  Rose Levy Beranbaum  as she describes it so well in her cookbook but I gave Laura that volume and so it is in Columbus now. Laura and I did Face Time and she showed me the cookbook in her hands but when she read the recipes in the back for the wedding cake proportions and the breakdown for a smaller cake, I just decided to go with my grandmother’s and mother’s old 1-2-3-4 recipe.  I couldn’t refer to the other recipes as I mixed and baked.  I will have to borrow that cookbook back and commit it to memory, too.

September 3, 1951

Happy Birthday Marlene!  It’s a special one. I know you will have a very happy day. It is wonderful being grandmothers together. We have much to be grateful for, don’t we? Do you remember the day we met, before Mark and Erika got married?  I remember it like it was just yesterday.  What an exciting time and it has only multiplied over the past decade.         And you share the birthdate with my mother, who would have been 99 today. Oh my.

So another round of cake- vanilla and vanilla buttercream on the front porch.  I am blogging a birthday cake to you cause I have to drive your birthday card around in my car for at least another week or two.  Why can’t I get the cards in the mail?  Thinking of you as you celebrate.  I am right behind you!!!  1-2-3-4 Cake recipe here                                   12:20 AM 9/3/11  p.s.  just got the call that  Mark Erika and the four grandchildren made it to your house just after midnight after 8 hours on the road!  SURPRISE!!  You called and said I GOT YOU!!   What a great birthday present.  I am so happy you were surprised.  

(I mean it would have been nice if someone at work said Happy Birthday or they had a cake for you but having the family surprise you had to be a happy celebration!!)



Chocolate Layer Cake on a Cakestand or Vanilla with Vanilla 1-2-3-4 Cake?

Continuing with the comfort food theme,  Arleen McC made this delicious cake when I visited in the fall.  It was so lovely and rich.  Here is a double chocolate cake recipe by Ina Garten.  So think about cakes ( I know MMM, you prefer pie and Rob B what about you, certified pie taster?) but what is your  basic cake preference?

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting?

Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Frosting?chocolate-layer-cake-on-cakestand

Vanilla Cake with Chocolate Frosting?

Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Frosting?

Granted we know there are Martha Washington and Hummingbird cakes, Pound cakes and cheesecakes and Orange or Lemon, Almond and Spice, Marble and Boston Creme Pie……Today I am thinking basic combinations.

And Mark your birthday is coming up and  I know that Angel Food Cake is your first choice. No icing.  You didn’t even like the frosting when you were one!

Cupcakes are all the rage in a lot of places these days but my sister says the amount of frosting is disproportionate to the amount of cake which is the part she likes to eat. We have all seen kids at birthday parties eat all the frosting and leave the cake part untouched or vice versa. There are lines around the block like waiting for tickets to a rockstar concert at Magnolia’s in Greenwich Village on Bleecker Street.

Just last week Laura baked a classic 1-2-3-4 cake with vanilla icing for her Mom-in-Law 2B and it was well received.

Ruth E Hendricks to bcc: anneaiello, bcc: Madalon, bcc: Aida, bcc: Allison, bcc: Tess, bcc: Roberta, bcc: Joanne, bcc: Yvette, bcc: Bernadette, bcc: bonnie.imhoff, bcc: Erin, bcc: Suzanne, bcc: Carole, bcc: Mary, bcc: pking13, bcc: connie300, bcc: karin, bcc: Laura, bcc: Donna, bcc: davidandcarolee, bcc: Lara, bcc: ericawells, bcc: Erika, bcc: Linda, bcc: Kristin, bcc: Sarah
show details May 21 (3 days ago)

Finish the meal–
wait a bit.
Not many folks
keep a layer cake on hand.
It is usually a special occasion.
I like to serve dessert
on my grandmother’s glass plates.
The addition of fresh berries
and or ice cream can’t hurt!

Vanilla cake with vanilla icing. Classic Birthday 1-2-3-4 cake.

Cupcake Tree and 1-2-3-4 Cake Recipe

My friend Joanne in Omaha shipped a box of cupcake items to Columbus so I could create a 4th of July/Birthday Cupcake Display Tree  and marthastewart.com directions/photo of flag cupcake.

Cupcakes are all the rage around the city these days.  You can bake them at home but not today in the heatwave.

1-2-3-4 Cake Recipe from Swans Down Cake Flour Box and Grandmothers who came before- Anna used Red White & Blue Sprinkles and red licorice lace Joanne sent.

1 cup butter+  2 cups sugar + 3 cups cake flour + 4 eggs +1 cup milk   3 t baking powder and 1/2 t salt and 1 t vanilla    I used  buttermilk so added a tsp of baking soda (made 36 cupcakes- 1/4 C batter per)

Basic Buttercream Icing- 1 C butter+ 4 C 10X sugar + vanilla +2 T milk

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