Sour Cream Butter Cake, DIY Burn Ointment & ‘The Modern-Day Pioneer’

Sour Cream Butter Cake Buttercream Frosting BoulderLocavore

When offered the chance to preview ‘The Modern-Day Pioneer: Simple Living in the 21st Century’ by Charlotte Denholtz, my heart skipped a beat.  In the deepest recesses of my mind I yearn to live in this manner daily; gathering eggs from my own backyard chickens, growing my own food, baking from scratch.  I of course have a completely romanticized view and certainly do NOT have a Home Owners Association which would tolerate chickens, but there is something about the quest to be more Do-It-Yourself and live sustainably that whispers to my psyche with the promise of great personal satisfaction.  And I know I am not alone.

When I began my experimental quest to eat as a ‘locavore’ over a Colorado winter I learned a lot about what is available in my food community as well as my own ingenuity.  I also found the effort spread to other areas besides buying my food primarily from farms.  I’ve always been a gardener and that revved up a notch.  I began preserving my seasonal foods by canning, dehydrating and freezing and I developed a hunger for making things myself.  The fascinating part about it was noticing the effort was on the rise all over the country.  I’m not a Social Anthropologist, and I don’t play one on TV, so I don’t have a definitive explanation for the synchronized drive to get closer to a simple life in the midst of the most technologically complex period in our history.  Or maybe it’s just that; seeking simplicity, balance, a feeling of being more grounded and self-supporting in uncertain times.

Sour Cream Butter Cake Buttercream Frosting

The Modern-Day Pioneer speaks to all of these life-choice urges, offering an eclectic collection of instructional wisdom, guidelines and recipes for everything from bee-keeping to brewing your own beer.  Canning, making your own charcuterie, building raised garden beds, how to stock your pantry and the chemistry of baking.   One can learn to work with herbs for different home remedies, make your own candles and soap, and find details on sewing, mending and making quilts.  And of course a great, collection of simple, seasonal recipes.  Just describing the areas in the book makes me a bit giddy.  This book speaks to the desire to slow the hustle and bustle in which we all live, to take the time to truly connect with a task from start to finish and call it our own.

The book is packaged perfectly to mirror its sentiment; rustic paperback with homemade-feeling edging on the heavy textured pages, illustrated with charming, vintage images.  The book is anything but antiquated however.  It harnesses old methods for a modern time, allowing the more sophisticated sensibilities of today’s culture to dip into whatever strikes their fancy with straightforward tutorials not leaving you feeling you can’t join in unless you go out and buy a plow and some Clydesdales.

Sour Cream Butter Cake with the BEST Buttercream Frosting recipe. Note: I clearly need to work on my lateral cutting moves as my layers when cutting the 9-inch cake were less than even! I'm sure yours will be much better!
Sour Cream Butter Cake with the BEST Buttercream Frosting recipe. Note: The cake should be cut into two even layers however I need to work on my lateral cutting moves (yours will be much better!)

I could not wait to get my hands into some projects from the book to share.  I picked two.  Making a cake from a four-course ‘Plentiful Winter Supper’ menu:  Sour Cream Butter Cake with Buttercream Frosting.  All components are of course made from scratch and I can unequivocally say this is the best buttercream frosting I’ve ever tasted.  Granted there is a pound of butter in it but it is light in texture and flavor, with the most magnificent sweetness without being in the least bit heavy.  This frosting is in a class by itself.  I also love the moist cake which is one layer, cut into two with a more rustic texture.

Sour Cream Butter Cake with Buttercream Frosting

Yield: Serves 12

"If you have been keeping chickens, use their eggs to make this rich, moist cake and the frosting that accompanies it" -The Modern-Day Pioneer: Simple Living in the 21st Century.


    Ingredients for the Cake:
  • 4 Egg Yolks
  • 2/3 cup Sour Cream, divided
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 2 cups Sifted Cake Flour (Note: to make the cake gluten-free I used King Arthur Gluten Free Flour Blend)
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • ½ teaspoon Baking Powder
  • ½ teaspoon Baking Soda
  • ½ teaspoon Salt
  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted Butter, softened to room temperature
  • Ingredients for the Frosting:
  • 1 ½ cups Sugar
  • ½ cup Water
  • 2 large Eggs plus 4 Egg Yolks
  • 1 pound unsalted Butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract


    Instructions for the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch pan, dust it with flour, and line the bottom with waxed paper (note: I used parchment paper). In a bowl, whisk together the yolks, ¼ of the sour cream, and the vanilla. In a large, separate bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt; which vigorously to combine.
  2. Add the butter and remaining sour cream to the flour mixture, and mix well until the flour is completely moistened. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture in three separate additions, mixing between each addition. Pour into prepared cake pan.
  3. Bake in the middle of the oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, usually about 35-40 minutes. Start checking at 25 minutes, since oven temperatures and ingredient characteristics vary, and it might be done quicker. Cool 10 minutes, then take out of the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.
  4. To frost, cut laterally in half and frost both sections, then stack, smooth the sides and refrigerate to set.
  5. Instructions for the Frosting:
  6. Boil the sugar and water together without stirring until slightly thick and between 234 degrees and 240 degrees F on a candy thermometer (this is called the ‘soft ball’ stage – a thin ribbon should fall with the last drops off a spoon).
  7. Whisk together eggs and yolks in a double boiler or a stainless steel bowl atop a pot of simmering water. Gradually whisk in the hot sugar syrup; heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture is hot to the touch, thick and ribbony.
  8. Remove bowl from heat, and continue whisking until cool, about 5 minutes more.
  9. In a mixer or bowl, beat the butter until it is fluffy and light.
  10. Gradually beat the whipped butter into the egg mixture, adding it in tablespoonfuls. Add the vanilla, and whisk to incorporate.
  11. If desired, flavor by adding melted chocolate, fruit liqueur, or espresso.
  12. Cool over an ice-water bath until it reaches a comfortable consistency for spreading. Keeps in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Vintage blue white transferware plates |

Secondly I made Burn Ointment, which as it sounds is an herbal salve to address burns.  It prompted a fun local excursion to a natural foods store which carries herbs in bulk (Vitamin Cottage for any in the vicinity) as well as an apothecary (Rebecca’s) to purchase other herbs and bees wax (also available at Vitamin Cottage).  The process to make the salve is simple and very rewarding.  It’s seems the perfect item to keep on hand in the kitchen.

DIY herbal Burn Ointment |


“This is a classic remedy that combines skin-soothing, inflammation-fighting and germ-killing herbs.  Keep this ointment around the house for cooking mishaps” – The Modern-Day Pioneer

Ingredients:  (Note: To ensure equal parts I used a measuring cup rather than weight)

  • 1 part Calendula (Calendula officinalis) Flowers
  • 1 part Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) Leaves
  • 1 part Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) Root
  • 1 part Saint John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) Flowers
  • 1 part Olive (Olea Europaea) Oil*
  • Beeswax, grated

Beeswax |

  1. Put the calendula flowers, comfrey leaves and root and Saint John’s wort flowers into the top section of a double boiler along with the olive oil, fill the bottom with water, and bring it to a low boil.
  2. Let the oil simmer gently for 30-60 minutes, checking frequently to make sure the oil isn’t overheating (it will start to smoke if that is the case).
  3. Strain the oil and put it into a small pan and add grated beeswax – ¼ cup per cup of infused oil.  Heat on low, until the beeswax is completely melted, then remove from the heat.
  4. Test a small amount for consistency by putting it into the freezer for a minute or two to cool.  If it seems too hard (you can’t spread is easily), heat it again and add more oil.  If it’s too oily, reheat and add more beeswax.
  5. When you’ve got the consistency you want, transfer the ointment to clean glass jars.  Stored properly, ointments will last several months.

*I found I needed about 3 parts of Olive Oil to actually yield an infused oil.  I made a very small batch and only using 1 part of the oil essentially coated the herbs only, leaving no excess to infuse and yield into a salve.

The Modern-Day Pioneer (F+W Media) |

I found The Modern-Day Pioneer both informative and full of fun ideas to try.  I’m delighted to be able to share a copy with a lucky Boulder Locavore reader!  To enter the Giveaway (open to U.S. residents/U.S. shipping addresses only): {CLOSED}

  1. Leave a comment telling me ‘I want that book!’

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  5. Tweet about the Giveaway including a link to this post, @BoulderLocavore and ‘The Modern-Day Pioneer’ using the Shareholic button below.
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Total of 7 possible entries!!!

No purchase required. Void where prohibited by law. Must be 18 or older to enter.

Giveaway will run through midnight (Mountain Standard Time) Wednesday February 27, 2013. At that time a winner will be selected via and will be posted here Thursday, February 28, 2013.


Recipes excerpted with permission from ‘The Modern-Day Pioneer’  (F+W Media)

Disclosure: I was provided a review copy of The Modern-Day Pioneer.  Commentary represents my personal opinions.


  1. Shannon Russell says

    A helpful hint when using a double boiler is to place a coin in the water. You will hear the coin rattle when the water gets too low.


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