This afternoon Andy picked up his folks from the airport; they'd been visiting Jo and the kids in London. And today was Jerry's birthday, so we had them over for dinner later. We served garlicky steamed clams and lobster rolls, plus a salad. What could be bad? Such an easy, no-frills dinner—and yet, it feels like such a treat.
Garlicky Steamed Clams
1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1/4 cup white wine or vermouth
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp freshly chopped parsley
Fill sink with cold water and rinse clams thoroughly. Meanwhile, heat butter and garlic in very large, deep skillet over medium heat. When garlic begins to turn golden brown, add wine and clams. Raise heat to high, cover, and steam until all clams open, shaking the pan occasionally, about 5–6 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove clams to a large bowl. (You know to throw out any that don't open, right?) Add lemon juice and parsley to pan, then pour all pan liquid over clams in bowl. Grind on some pepper and dig in!
Afterward, we sang "Happy Birthday" and presented Jerry with a Mom-made, kid-decorated cake.
Buttermilk Layer Cake
2 1/3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 Tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
Heat oven to 350°. Line the bottoms of two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and set aside. (You could grease and flour 'em, but why bother?) Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy, about 30 seconds. Gradually add the sugar and beat on high speed until lightened in color and texture, 2–4 minutes. Whisk together eggs and vanilla, then gradually beat into the butter mixture, for about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and alternate adding the flour mixture (in 3 parts) and the buttermilk (in 2 parts), scraping down the bowl as necessary.
Divide the batter between the pans and smooth the tops. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25–30 minutes for 9-inch pans, 30–35 minutes for 8-inch pans. Let cool in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes. Slide a thin knife around the cakes to detach them from the pans. Invert the cakes and peel off the paper liners. Let cool right side up on the rack. Cool completely before frosting.
Chocolate Satin Frosting
1 cup heavy cream
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broken up into a few pieces
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla
Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and add the chocolate, without stirring. Cover and set aside for exactly 10 minutes. Scrape into a food processor and add the sugar, butter, and vanilla. Process until perfectly smooth, 1 minute or more. Set aside at room temperature for a few minutes, until thickened into a spreadable consistency.
To frost cake, place 1 layer on a cake plate, rounded side down. Spread with a third of the frosting, top with the second layer (rounded side up), and frost the top and sides of the cake.
Invite your kids to scrawl all over the top with gel-frosting pens and then obliterate all the words and pictures with handfuls of sprinkles.
Stick a candle in the top and sing "Happy Birthday, Dear Grandpa!" Everyone gets a slice—plus a hug and a kiss, guaranteed.