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Red Velvet Cake


Today is Dan’s 27th birthday. Happy Dan’s birthday, internet!  I may have mentioned here, once or a thousand times, that birthdays are very important to me.  They’re not so important to Dan, but over the years I’ve been trying to nudge him in the celebrate-wildly-have-lots-of-fun direction.  It’s a slow process.



This year, by far, has been my most successful. To frame the story you should know that I am horrible at secrets and surprises.  Take for instance Dan’s 25th birthday, where I planned a whole surprise weekend, blind folded him, and drove around in circles to throw him off only to discover when we arrived that he had already figured out everything that we were doing.  It was a great weekend, but a major surprise letdown.



About a week ago, as we were driving between our three Christmases, I had the idea to throw Dan a surprise birthday party.  I started texting people to see if they were available, furiously began planning my cover story and how I would get him out of the house, and made a menu in my head.  By the time we returned home from the holidays, everything was planned and the party was set in motion.



The problem with surprise parties is that there is an inherent layer of lies just to keep everything secret.  And because I am a very bad liar and Dan knows me very well, another layer of lies sprang into existence to explain the “I have a secret” face I kept making.  I wove a tangled webs of secrets and lies, and the more time went on the more confusing it became to keep it straight. Thankfully I only had to hold it together for a week.



The basis of my cover story was that my very good friend Brit and her fiance Aaron were coming up to visit so that Brit and I could work on wedding stuff and Aaron and Dan could have guy time.  The boys ended up brewing beer, and then going out to a bar with our friend Gordon so that Brit, Charlotte (another good friend from school), and I could set up.  The “super secret wedding stuff” story was the saving grace, as the idea that there were things we had to do that Aaron couldn’t see was plausible and easily bought.  Also, the plan to have friends over for dinner meant that I could make pizza dough and a cake without arousing suspicion.  The boys whisked Dan away and we got to work hanging streamers, blowing up balloons, and making banners.



By 6.30 I had baked seven specialty pizzas (we did 10 overall), the apartment was transformed into a birthday wonderland, the fridge had been tetrised with an insane amount of beer (thanks, friends!), and we were all packed into the living room.  I was sort of convinced that Dan had figured out that the surprise was coming, so I was bracing myself for the disappointment.  Was I ever wrong.  As you can see in the photos and video below, they walked into the apartment and Dan just sort of looked around, shocked, for a few minutes.  It was glorious.  I have never felt so sneaky.


photo by Rachel


Ultimately this party was such a huge success because we have a group of amazing friends from school, work, water ballet, and life in Baltimore that came together to celebrate Dan.  And that was such a great feeling.  I couldn’t be more thankful for the help and secret keeping that went into this party.  Thankful, and sure that I won’t be doing this again for another decade or two.



Yesterday (Birthday Day 2) we went out, got breakfast sandwiches, spent our Christmas gift certificates, curled on the couch and watched Twin Peaks, and generally relaxed. Tonight we’re getting all gussied up and going to a favorite restaurant, Woodberry Kitchen.  This year has been one of the best Dan’s birthdays yet! Happy Birthday to my sweet husband!


A small aside- this past week Dan and I decided to make a rather large business investment, we bought a new camera.  My wonderful, dedicated, steadfast Nikon D40 has been on its last legs for a while, and it was time for an upgrade.  We purchased a Canon 60D, plus a Canon 430 EXII Speedlite flash.  I’m still learning my way around both but so far they’re amazing and I’m SO excited for this next stage in my photographic life.  That, plus the Diana+ with an instant back, is the reason for the gratuitous photos in this post.  Thanks for putting up with me!


Dan’s Birthday Surprise! from elena rosemond-hoerr on Vimeo.

Red Velvet Cake


2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp cocoa powder

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

1 cup buttermilk, room temperature

2 large eggs, room temperature

3 tbsp red food coloring

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp white vinegar

cream cheese frosting:

16 oz cream cheese, room temperature

4 cups powdered sugar

2 sticks salted butter, room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

Sift together dry ingredients.  In a stand mixer or large bowl, mix together wet ingredients.  Beat until combined with paddle attachment.  Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.

Preheat oven to 350.  Oil and lightly powder three 9 1/2″ round cake pans. Pour cake batter evenly between three cake pans.  Bake for 30 minutes or until cooked all the way through, rotating halfway. Transfer to racks and let cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine all ingredients in a mixer.  Beat slowly to incorporate and then on high until fluffy, approximately 4-6 minutes.

Lay the first layer on the cake stand/plate, top side down. Spread a good layer of icing in between.  Add the second layer, also top side down. Spread more icing. Finish with the third layer, top side up. Ice the top and sides.

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Best of 2011

Goodbye, 2011.  Even though I can’t believe how fast it flew by, it was a wonderful year.  Here is a roundup of some of my favorite posts from last year… hopefully 2012 is just as incredible!

Prettiest Food

Candied Meyer Lemons

Best Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie

Most Exciting

Southern Living

Most Popular Post

Fried Pickle Chips

Best Tutorial

Picking Crabs, Maryland Style

Most Refreshing Beverage

Watermelon Vodka Tonic

Most Loved Summer Treat

Iced Black Coffee

Favorite Fried Food

Jalapeño Crab Cakes

Best Use of Cauldron (aka Favorite Family Recipe)

Sybil’s Brunswick Stew


Best Cocktail That Also Works Well in a Flask

Corn & Oil

Best Casserole that Dad and I Made Up on the Spot

Oyster Casserole

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a year in review, 2011

This year, like the year before, has been wonderful and full of family.

Personally, we’ve:

– celebrated our second wedding anniversary (with a wonderful trip to Savannah & Charleston)

– watched the one-year mark in our (not so) new jobs fly by

– celebrated the marriages of two dear family members

– said goodbye to loved ones, dear to our hearts

– created quite an impressive (if we do say so) art wall in our apartment

– increased the number of lipsticks in my collection

– watched as my youngest sister, gen, graduated from college

– dreamed up and created a pie festival

– spent more time with our three families than ever before

Biscuits and Such has: 

– been published in Southern Living

– celebrated its third year

– finished a redesign

– smoked our first LOCAL pork shoulder

– said goodbye to Menuism (sadly)

– said hello to many new followers

– made many new videos

As always, thank you for being here. Happy New Year.

A Year in Review, 2011 from elena rosemond-hoerr on Vimeo.

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