Birthday Wishes

A child’s first birthday is always a time for enormous celebration. An entire year has passed with changes too numerous to count. What makes the miracle of the emerging little person even more touching is the very recent memory of that child’s arrival, the miracle of birth itself.

To commemorate our children’s first birthdays, I baked each a two-layer cake in doll-sized cake pans. The memories we have of them discovering the flavor and texture of these miniature birthday cakes bring tears and laughter still.

Why I chose the Hand-Me-Down Chocolate Cake recipe, I can’t remember. I do, however, remember making a regular-size cake and the little birthday cake each of those years. I remember placing a plastic tarp under the high chair and the snapping of the cameras. But mostly I remember the faces of my children and the joy of those days for our family.

RECIPE: Hand-Me-Down Chocolate Cake


3/4 cup butter or margarine
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups water


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour with cocoa powder two 8-inch round cake pans. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat 1 minute at medium speed. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; add alternately with water to creamed mixture. Pour batter into cake pans. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool and frost with your favorite frosting (I generally make buttercream frosting).

Nancy Lynch is a self-taught cook from a family of foodies. She teaches cooking classes at Orange Tree Imports and All Through the House in Stoughton. E-mail your questions, comments or recipe requests to

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