Friday, April 29, 2016

Staying up Late, a Bounce House, and a Sheet Cake

"That summer they started having picnics.  At first the picnics were not real picnics; not the kind you take out in a basket.  Betsy's father, serving the plates at the head of the table, would fill Betsy's plate with scrambled eggs and bread and butter and strawberries, or whatever they had for supper.  Tacy's father would do the same.  Holding the plate in one hand and a glass of milk in the other, each little girl would walk carefully out of her house and down the porch steps and out to the middle of the road.  Then they would walk up the hill to that bench where Tacy had stood the first night she came.  And there they would eat supper together.

Betsy always liked what she saw on Tacy's plate.  In particular she liked the fresh unfrosted cake which Tacy's mother often stirred up for supper for her big family.  Tacy knew that Betsy liked that cake, and she always divided her piece.  And if baked beans or corn bread or something that Tacy liked lay on Betsy's plate, Betsy divided that too."

-from Betsy Tacy, by Maud Hart Lovelace

Hugo has been staying up in the evenings.  For years he's been eagerly awaiting the day that he gets to go to bed with the big kids, and the other week we realized that he was ready (meaning, he was staying up an hour past his bedtime anyway, so why not make it official).  After the twins and Hugo are in bed has been our read aloud time with the older girls, so the fact that he is staying up with us means that our literature has to be adjusted to be interesting and understandable to an 8 year old, a 7 year old, and an (almost) 5 year old.  I've been looking through and some old favorites and realizing that I really miss the books, the characters, the stories.

Have you read The Betsy Tacy Treasury?  It's a heartwarming story of the friendship between three girls over the course of their childhoods, and it's very charming and sweet.  I love the storyline of Tacy's family, partly because they are a big, rambunctious, joyful family, and I hope that our children will remember their own childhoods in much the same way.  Whenever dinner at Tacy's house is mentioned, they talk about these sheet cakes that her mom is aways making to feed all of those hungry mouths, and somewhere over the many years we've been reading these books, Ben has started suggesting that maybe it would be a good idea to make some sheetcakes around here?  I mean, it's the practical thing to do, right?  Sheetcakes are humble-- they are generally served straight from the pan, no flipping and elaborate decorating, no extra cupcake wrappers.  Just a plain desert, and if you're feeling fancy you can always put a simple frosting on top, but it's not even necessary.  And if your family is anything like my family, even a simple cake, when made at home, is devoured with relish.

I found a recipe called "Texas Sheet Cake" and have modified it over the past months to the point that it is a foolproof go-to for our family.  Whenever I make it, I feel just like Tacy's mom.  I originally tried this recipe from a magazine, and still pull out that torn and stained magazine each time I make the cake, so I figured it was time to immortalize it here on the blog for easy future reference.  I always seem to have the ingredients on hand, and whenever there is a special occasion, the kids beg for me to make it.  I hope you enjoy it, too!

Texas Sheet Cake

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup regular milk with a splash of vinegar)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups confectioner's sugar


1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly butter a 9 by 13 inch pan (line with parchment paper, leaving a 2 inch overhang if you have parchment paper on hand).

2.  Whisk together flour, granulated sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in large bowl.

3.  Melt butter in a saucepan over medium low.  Whisk in cocoa, then 1 cup water.  Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, whisking occasionally.  Pour over flour mixture and stir to combine.  Stir in eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla.

4.  Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth top with a spatula.  Bake until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 22 to 24 minutes.

5.  Transfer cake in pan to a wire rack; let cool 15 minutes.


1.  In a small saucepan, bring butter, cocoa, and cream to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat; whisk in vanilla and confectioners' sugar.  Let stand until warm before using.

2.  Pour glaze over warm cake, and allow to cool before serving.

(And our darling Lily turned 7 last week, complete with our first ever birthday party featuring a bounce house, or moon bounce as we call them back East, which was a huge, exciting, energy-expending hit.  All of these years of early childhood are so magical, I just love each one of them, and Lily holds such a special place in all of our hearts.  Looking back on pictures of when she was born makes me so happy and thankful!)


One and Doll said...

Texas sheet cake is a standby from my childhood....wherein we were a big rambunctious crowd....

One and Doll said...

Texas sheet cake is a standby from my childhood....wherein we were a big rambunctious crowd....

Alyson Naville said...

Such lovely pictures!

Carole said...

I loved the Betsy-Tacy books when I was a child. I hadn't thought of them for a long time. The sheet cake recipe is a family favorite.

Lauren Oliver said...

Yay, Lily's birthday! Looks like a grand time. I myself bounced in a bouncy house (with other adults, after the kids had vacated) in December for the first time since I was little, and it was quite exhilarating! =)

Adele said...

Ben and I bounced after the party and it was sooo fun (and a good workout!). Ben is going to get one for his next work party!

Adele said...

How special that you read them as a child and still remember! Glad to know we're in good company with the sheet cake! 😄

Adele said...

Thank you, Alyson! ☺️

Adele said...

Love it! Any more big family hacks from the doll family?

Irene said...

I bet you would like the recipes for "everyday cakes" on smitten kitchen. They're not sheet cakes, but they are one bowl kind of deals. That sounds like a really sweet book.

One and Doll said...

Other hacks from the doll family: Casserole- it is all about the casserole..... everyone had a different kind of underwear---girl kid 1- White, Girl kid 2- Prints, Girl kid 3- Plain colors- Boy kid 1- Boxers, Boy kid 2- Whitey Tighty, Boy kid 3- colored Tighty---that way we didn't end up with other kids underwear.

The dishes were always stored in the under-cabinets so we could all put them away.

Dish soap as bubble bath.

Bath water draining into the garden- oh and always sharing bathwater...always...

Lots and lots and lots of silverware- even now my Mom's silverware drawer is so packed.

Jello with fruit in it for dessert.... not a hack but a sweet treat!

Milk crates for shoes and ball gloves- we each had one- if it got Full your shoes went to your room.

9peasMom said...

I adore the Betsy, Tacy, and Tib stories, my boys did too growing up. I need to bring them back out for my youngest ones, thank you for the reminder. Texas Sheet cake is a staple in this rowdy, large Texas household - we love it and it is a go to dessert when I make a meal for a new Mom.