Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Half the Birthday, All the Fun

The little Miss turned 6 months old and we celebrated her half-birthday this weekend. What is a half-birthday? Is this even a thing? Or is it simply an excuse for me to bake a cake? Yes and yes. I got to bake something sweet and we had a small party with a couple of our friends who have young ones.

Being a new parent can be a bit lonely, especially when you are caught in the Sisyphean tasks of feeds and diaper changes. Having social support makes all the difference by giving you someone to share the everyday joys and pains. When I was newly pregnant last year, we signed up a plot in the community garden near us. From that garden plot, we harvested a few pounds of okra...and one new friend, a fellow gardener. This neighbor and new friend was also pregnant with her first child. It was wonderful to have a friend living practically next door going through the same things I was. We waddled through the neighborhood on long walks. She had her son Nico a week before I gave birth to Lila. Since the babies were a few days old, we've been meeting up every few days, bringing each other food and advice and reassurance. The littles babble to each other on the play mat. We go on long walks through the neighborhood just like we did earlier, but with babies now strapped on the outside. To anyone who is about to be a new parent, I have this to say: instead of spending hours researching strollers online, go out and find yourself a community of friends.

To celebrate Lila and Nico's half-birthday, I made half-birthday cakes, of course. I made one cake, cut it in half and frosted each half separately. Then I used chocolate chips to make a "N" on one half-cake for Nico and an "L" on the other half-cake for Lila.


The cake recipe is from Ina Garten and I found it in this post from Alpineberry. This is the kind of easy, easy cake recipe that really makes me wish that more people left the boxed cake mix right there in the box where it belongs and try making cakes from scratch.
  • Dry ingredients in one bowl
  • Wet ingredients in another bowl
  • Mix the two
  • Add hot coffee
  • Pour the batter into prepared pans
You definitely don't need a stand mixer to make this recipe- a simple wooden spoon and mixing bowl does the trick. If you have a silicone spatula, it helps to scrape every last bit of the batter from the bowl. Note that this batter is pourable and thin and you need to butter and line the pans properly. But you will be rewarded with a beautifully moist cake.

Here is what I did differently from the recipe:
  • Using canola oil instead of vegetable oil because it is what I had on hand.
  • Using large eggs instead of extra large eggs because large is the only size I ever buy (I did not notice that the smaller quantity of eggs I used made any difference).
  • Making faux buttermilk at home: take 1 tbsp. white vinegar in a measuring cup and add milk to the 1 cup mark. Let it sit for 5 minutes and give it a stir- viola! buttermilk!
  • Reducing the quantity of sugar to 1.5 cups.
  • Instead of freshly brewed coffee, I added 2 tsp. instant espresso  powder to 1 cup hot water.
  • Using natural cocoa instead of Dutch processed. With natural cocoa, it almost looks like a red velvet cake with a rich mahogany color.
To fill and frost the cake, I used the peanut butter mousse from this recipe. The combination of chocolate and peanut butter is a particular favorite around here. My frosting skills are painfully lacking but there is something sweet and homely about a homemade cake so I never beat myself up about it. The cake made 12 generous servings.

To go with the cake, I made three finger foods:


Puffs with peas and sweet potato

Black eyed peas salsa served with tortilla chips
Paneer tikka with peppers and onions
Today is the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere- and I wish you all a season of glorious weather and long walks in the park. Today is also the start of my own personal Spring Cleaning Challenge. Starting this evening I will devote a little time- anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes- working on one small portion of my home. We've had very little time to clean and organize in this past year and I'm looking forward to clearing out some clutter and feeling rejuvenated inside and out.

95 comments:

  1. .. that black eyed pea salsa looks yum! Happy half-birthday to Lila!!

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    1. Thanks! The black eyed peas salsa was indeed very tasty. Here's the recipe I used: http://www.karacooks.com/2011/01/texas-caviar/

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  2. Everything looks so good,...:)

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  3. How sweet both those cakes are. Lila is already 6-months, my, my how time flies. And I really admire your energy and enthusiasm Nupur as a new Mom.

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    1. I know- time flies!! I feel like it went by fast but also feel like we have had Lila around forever. Weird :)

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  4. Happy half Birthday to the little kiddos!

    Cheers!
    Bala.

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    1. Thanks Bala! Hope you and S and the pups are doing great.

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  5. Six monthly happy bday to Lila :)
    btw i had one doubt, can we used the "taak" in marathi or curd+water as buttermilk cos what i know normally buttermilk in US is explicitly the baking one rt ?
    And I loved the puff snap.. looking forward for recipe :D
    And one more thing .. also looking forward for some tips of spring cleaning challenge :D

    Sry .. quite a huge comment :D

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    1. Kanchan- yes, the buttermilk in the US is thick and a bit different from what I know as taak. I think you could mix milk and vinegar to make buttermilk the way I described in the post. Or else use thicker taak (churned dahi)- I think that should also work.
      The puff recipe is very similar to what I made here: http://onehotstove.blogspot.com/2011/12/three-nearly-instant-recipes-and-book.html
      Spring cleaning tip: JUST DO IT :) No seriously, just choose a small area (a shelf, a drawer, a corner) and remove clutter and clean it. Give away anything you don't want, need or love. Simple as that!

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  6. Happy 1/2 Birthday, Dear Lila!
    The 1/2 cakes and the snacks look wonderful and one day, Lila is going to look at the blog and the pictures taken and love it all so much!
    Spring cleaning challenge, I am inspired :)

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    1. Thank you Manasi!
      I hope Lila grows up and knows how much her parents love her :)

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  7. OMG, I know how much help and a support network means to a new mom!! Multitude of doubts, baby blues etc and if there is someone to reassure you that you are being a good mom, means a LOT indeed!
    Congrats! Wish you would have also posted your lil one's pic, but I understand.. My loads of love to your baby. Take care mama!

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    1. As a new mom yourself, you definitely know what it is like! Hope you have some good friends around where you live. Lots of love to your little girl too.

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  8. Loved reading the post Nupur...Happy half-birthday to Lila and Nico ! Thats such a cute idea of half a cake for each of them :)
    The cake recipe sounds really simple and the coffee in t is definitely tempting...
    And finger food to go with it, wow ! You should celebrate every month on her birthday, this is so much fun !! I used to bake a cake every month on his bday till he was 1 !

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    1. Thanks Arch! The cake recipe is simple and gives great results. The coffee brings out the chocolate flavor. I do try and celebrate every month of her first year, but on weekdays time gets away. So I wanted at least the 6 month mark to be something special.

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  9. Nupur happy half bday to Lila and Nico.Love the idea for the cake and yes sharing makes the journey all the more fun..

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    1. Thanks Madhuli! Yes, sharing those moments makes them special indeed.

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  10. A half b'day that too shared is such a sweet thought Nupur! God bless both kids. :-)
    And love that tip on making instant buttermilk. :-)

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    1. Glad the tip was useful! Thanks so much for your blessings!

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  11. Awwww.. you just did the sweetest thing ever Nupur! How thoughtful and cute of you to make a cake for the neighbour's kid too

    Can I be your neighbour? I don't have kids yet, but I promise to have one if you make such goodies for me ;-)

    -Preeti

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    1. Preeti- in all fairness, my neighbors are the ones who are sweet and generous and I just try to do the same. You don't need to have a kid- I love making goodies for my friends- ask them!

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  12. Absolutely. You should need no reason to celebrate and a half-birthday for a couple of cuties is ofcourse celebration time. The cakes looks delicious.

    Good Luck with your cleaning.

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    1. Thank you! Every day that we have health and family is reason enough to celebrate, glad you agree :)

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  13. Oh you know what, I saw the pic first and said N's for Nupur and V for I don't know V's name. I thot it was cool like half of the 2 makes a Lila ;) then I read the post and found out it was Nico and Lila. Nice idea of the half budday and cake.

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    1. Thanks :) It was just for fun but we all had a great time.

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  14. Another insightful post Nupur. I must say one can learn how to get the most out of life from you :)
    Good luck with the spring clean challenge - i recently got some work done by builders to my house here, and in the process did quite some de-cluttering. Though I must say, I have such fond memories attached with my little one's old clothes, toys, books and stuff, that I always end up keeping back a few items which really can be done away with! :)

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    1. That's a very nice thing to say, Snehal. Well, if life gives us such good things, the least we can do is live to the fullest.
      I can imagine the memories triggered by the baby clothes and toys! I am a rather unsentimental person though- sometimes it shocks my family members when I donate/throw things without a second thought.

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  15. That is incredibly cute!!! :) I admire your thoughfulness and creativity. A very Happy Half Birthday to Lila and Nico! How lucky you mom's are to have each other.

    Now Nupur, Please (and I am saying this firmly but very sweetly) put up a picture of Lila. Its been 6 Months since we saw her and its just not fair to all readers that they only get to read all wonderful things about her but don't get a glimpse! I hope that doesnt stop you from posting about her :) that was definately not what I intended to suggest. So, once again...Pleeaaaseeeeee!!! :) Just one pic :) maybe on every milestone or every half (and full) birthday.

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    1. Yes, Nico's mom and I are lucky to be friends!
      If the only people who could read this blog were my trusted blogger friends and readers (like you), believe me, I would have shared pictures of Lila here. But since this is an open blog I hesitate for privacy reasons. I'm sure you understand :) E-mail me and I'll be delighted to share a pic!!

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    2. You've got e-mail! :) I can't wait!!!! Thank You!

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  16. Awww!!! Congrats on the 6-month mark, she's now entering into an awesome phase of solid food!! You're gonna LOVE every minute of it. I can't wait to see what all deliciousness you feed her. She's going to be one bouncy foodie baby, I just know it! :)

    - Meena

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    1. Yes, we started on sweet potatoes last week and green peas this week!! Very exciting, if a little messy :) I'm hoping she grows to love and appreciate food.

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  17. Happy Half-Birthday to your little bundle of joy! That cake looks divine!

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    1. Thanks Holly! I haven't seen you in forever! Hope all is well.

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  18. 6 months already? best wishes to both lila and nico :)

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    1. I know- where does the time go? Thanks for your wishes!

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  19. Happy 6-month day to Lila! Looks like a great spread of food, and I may be asking the hubs to bake that cake for MY birthday in a couple of months :)

    Confession: I let my little guy's 6-month day come and go without much ado -- figured he wouldn't be eating the cake anyway. Guess I'll have to step things up for the 1-year celebration.

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    1. LOL The kids were just an excuse for us to stuff ourselves with cake!! And yes, this cake is definitely worth making for your birthday celebration.

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  20. Happy half birthday Lila! The black eye pea salad looks amazing. I made a similar dish called a South Georgia Caviar :)

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    1. Thanks Sharan! The recipe that I adapted this black eyed peas salsa/salad was called Texas Caviar :)

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  21. Happy half Birthday sweet Lila! Having two 'half' cakes was such a neat idea.

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  22. Oh Nupur, you are such a freaking great source of inspiration (your blog too) that it would leave me mad and jealous... except that you are too nice a person to merit that response... Sigh. Do you know, yours is the only blog that I cook most out of? You are awesome.

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    1. Oh Lakshmi- I'm so glad your cooking style matches mine. Thank you for the sweet words.

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  23. Happy Half birthday to Lila & Nico, that half cake is such a sweet idea.

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  24. happy half birthday to Nico and Lila! i never saw a half cake...this one is so cute! i admire the way you lead your life nupur... so much inspiration to draw from... may the force be with you....

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    1. Aww- thanks for saying that Arundati!

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    2. Nupur, I second what Arundati says ... you're such an inspiration. I hope to learn a thing or two about life from you.

      Mamatha

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  25. Happy half-birthday to sweet Lila!! (and Nico)..That is great advice- about finding a community rather than researching strollers online..lol..I will stow away that piece of advice for use later..:)

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    1. Thank you Lavanya! Yes, I am serious, baby gear is far far less important than having a strong support system :)

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  26. Hi Nupur....I am regular follower of your blog...& let me confess i am a die-hard fan of your recipes...A very Happy Half Birthday to your little Angel...& a big pat on your back for managing both the "B"s (Baby & Blog) so well...I am myself a mother to a 6 month old baby girl..& i really find it so hard to even cook a decent 3 course meal everyday...but you are my inspiration...& I always look forward to try out your recipes on weekends...TC & lots of blessings to little Lila !!!

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    1. Thank you Mitali- I so appreciate the blessings for Lila! Don't be so hard on yourself- a 3 course meal takes a lot of time and effort. Here we usually eat one dish meals. It's all good!

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  27. Happy half-birthday to Lila! and congratulations to her parents for weathering the first six months with such grace and style.

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    1. Thank you Niranjana! There's very little style and grace, I confess but much joy and gratitude for sure.

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  28. Hi Nupur,
    Happy half birthday to Lila. I am glad you have a partner to share your triumphs and pains with. Agree with you completely on having a support group. I try a lot of your recipes but am not a very confident baker. Am pathetic with icing. But this recipe looks very good. Am going to try and will let you know the results:)

    Priya

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    1. Priya- as you try baking recipes, you will gain confidence. This cake recipe is definitely worth a try, and there are many other easy baking recipes you can start with. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions.

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  29. Nupur, I'm glad I found your blog when I did because your posts are always so inspiring! My baby turned 14 months, and I continue to be amazed at everything you manage to do being a new mom et al. I can imagine what a blessing having a support system can be. We moved when my baby was 3 mo and I'm sure it would have been so much more fun having someone to share all the happy, crazy moments with! Keep blogging and inspiring readers like me!
    Supriya H

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Supriya! I hope you were able to find good friends in your new home. It just adds so much quality to life.

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  30. hey Nupur,
    Happy half birthday to Lila. Yes, it is indeed a time to celebrate. we did something similar when my son was 6 months old and with many more milestones.....but, it was a celebration for us surviving 6 months into parenting :-)

    And cake looks yummmmmy....
    Mina

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    1. Mina- it was the same for us. A celebration of "we made it to 6 months" and we're alive and OK :)

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  31. Nupur, I've been meaning to leave a comment for your previous posts but I just about manage to read your post before my toddler pulls me away. Just want to wish little Miss Lila and her friend Nico a fabulous half birthday. She's 6 months already, really? Didn't you just announce her birth on OHS?

    Mamatha

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    1. Mamatha- hello!! So nice to see you here :) I know, times does fly, doesn't it? Hope your toddler boy is doing well.

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  32. Happy half birthday to Lila :) The cakes look kinda cute actually. Thanks for the instant-buttermilk recipe, now I don't have to go buy a carton for a recipe that calls for 2 tablespoons! :)

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    1. That's right- buttermilk is sold in big cartons that are so hard to use up. By the way, another alternative is to buy buttermilk powder which can stay in the fridge for many months.

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    2. Oooh I see! Just like coconut milk powder such an ease to work with. I had never heard about buttermilk powder though..is it readily available in grocery stores or only in specialty ones?

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    3. I've seen it in my local grocery stores and in Whole Foods but it may not be available everywhere. The brand I use is called Saco buttermilk powder.

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  33. Hi Nupur!

    Happy half birthday to Lila!!
    The cake and food look delicious.

    Anu

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  34. Hi Nupur,

    That was a very sensible advice for new moms!! You don't come across as a very emotional person which is the best asset a mom can have, in my experience.
    Happy half birthday to the little kiddos. Nice post and recipe. I have a question - I am not a big fan of coffee flavor. Does that mean I cannot go forward with this cake? If I still can, would you mind sharing possible substitutes I can use?

    Thanks,
    Manu

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    1. Manu- the coffee flavor is not detectable in the cake, it just brings out the chocolate flavor. But if you want to skip coffee, just use hot water instead of hot coffee and the cake will be just fine.

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  35. A very happy half birthday to dear Lila! Time flies by, doesn't it? I have also realized that the new parent groups are like life-sent for sharing our joys, experiences and frustrations :) Cake and all the party food looks so delicious.. wish we were living more closer to you.. Vedika would have loved to meet Lila and wish her happy birthday!

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    1. I wish you were closer too, PJ! The baby girls could have been playmates!

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  36. I most often make these salads and toss some things children are not so fond of to make them have it without much fuss.They most often fail to identify them.

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  37. half birthday already! Time does fly :) having support makes all the difference. The cakes and the finger foods are divine. Love.

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    1. Thanks Mandira! From your posts about playdates, I think you have a good support system too- so thankful for that.

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  38. A very happy half birthday to the lovely Lila! Those cakes are so cute-- I am not a great froster either, but you've done a beautiful job. And I really want one of those golden sweet potato puffs!

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    1. Thank you Vaishali! I wish I could have shared a few of those puffs with you- they were vegan :)

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  39. Dear Nupur,

    after having lurked around your blog for a LONG time now, and learning tips, admiring your enthusiasm, and plainly enjoying a lot of posts, realized I might have not left a comment yet.. Not intended, but it's still mean. :(

    Thank you for helping a lot of us clueless working women and assuring us having a kid is not the end of all! Hopefully, you never run out of stuff to write and never get bored of this space. I can't imagine surviving without it. Love you!

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    1. H- What a very nice thing to say- thank you! If one chooses to have a baby, no, it is not the end of it. In fact it is the beginning of a wonderful new adventure. But I believe this choice is up to every individual- the whole thing about having a baby because "that's what one is supposed to do" is no good.

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  40. and happy half birthday to Lila and Nico and their parents (parents' day :D)?!

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  41. Hello Nupur,

    Congratulations on Lili’s 6 month birthday!! Was very sweet of you to bake cakes for the little buddies 

    I am a huge fan of your blog & not sure if I ever posted but being a Maharashtrian myself, I love your take on traditional recipes. I have learned so many cooking tips from you (food processor for dough, coconut milk for chutney, cast iron skillet for roti’s etc) and continuing to learn more.

    I should also mention that my daughter just turned 6 mnth old too ..I am a first time mom & can totally relate to your parenting reads n experiences.

    Please keep writing!!

    Lots of love & wishes from Chicago :)

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    1. Thank you for this sweet note, Syna! Love and wishes to you and your baby girl too!

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  42. Happy Half Birthday to Lila & Nico! The cake is the cutest one I have seen Nupur! I admire your energy and enthusiasm. Lila is lucky to have a Momma like you. Having a support system means a LOT and having a few dear friends around is merry..! I love Puff's, they're one of my fav snacks. I need to try with Potatoes. I usually try with mixed vegetables or eggs.

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    1. Thank you dear Ashwini! I love your idea of puffs with eggs- that's what I will try next.

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  43. Hi nupur!
    Happy half birthday to Lila and nico. The cake is just so cute and seems so fit for the babies :). Loved the salsa

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    1. Thanks Neha! The salsa was delicious- the recipe is worth a try.

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  44. A belated happy half birthday to L and N - I agree that some company when a new mum is ideal - we were lucky and had a couple move next door to us shortly before sylvia was born and they had a baby just a few weeks later but sadly have moved to the other side of town now! It is lovely that we keep in touch still. I smiled at your comment about just using a wooden spoon - I often do that - and some days you don't want the noise of beaters - especially with a baby about

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    1. Thank you dear Johanna! How nice that you have a parent-friend too. Having a community is so so important, for us and for the babies.

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  45. I found your blog via Ravelry (Hi, I'm vgiven) and I love the idea of a half-cake for a 6 month old's birthday! :)

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    1. Hello :) and I'm so glad you found my blog. Hope you enjoy visiting.

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  46. I have never baked a cake in my life. It took my almost 6-mo old baby boy to make me bake one. I wanted something little special to celebrate our son's half birthday and googled some half birthday ideas. I came upon your link and reading through this article encouraged me to bake my son's cake because if it goes array, I know that he wouldn't mind because he wouldn't be eating it just yet. I really love how simple it was to make this cake. Not being a cook or baker or chef, I don't have much of the kitchen gadgets. But with a bowl, a whisker and strength, I was able to whip up the ingredients for this cake and what do you know? It turned out great! My husband who is a chocolate cake lover said it was great. I ended up making two batches of cakes but used only one batch of the frosting. One was for my husband's 1st Father's Day celebration and the other cut in half will be to celebrate our son's half birthday. The cakes were GREAT!!!

    As a newbie in baking, I'm so happy to note that my first attempt at baking a cake was a success. Thank you very much for sharing your recipe.

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    1. Congratulations on your first cake!!! You made my day with this comment. I am so thrilled that your cakes were a success and were used to celebrate many happy moments. Hope you'll continue to find joy in cooking and baking.

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