Saturday, September 29, 2012

Birthday Traditions


As you know (as everyone in the entire world surely knows) I had a birthday last week.  My birthday is my favorite day. Whenever anyone asks which I prefer, Christmas or Thanksgiving? My answer is, “My birthday.” 

I like that the entire day is all mine, and everyone has to pay attention to me, and do nice things for me, and give me presents, and unlike Christmas (my least favorite holiday) all I have to do is graciously accept the generous attentions. I kind of like a birthday week, several parties and taken out to restaurants and presents that trickle in for days. But this year, it was a birthday day, not week and it was a great one.

As with any significant holiday, my birthday has a few traditions. I wake up, roll over and wonder if I have to get out of bed yet (Nancy says YES! Kima says, Be quiet!) and I think Oh yeah, it’s my birthday! I’m allowed to have anything I want for breakfast, whipped cream on my coffee, chocolate before the dog walk, anything. I save all the birthday messages I get all day and then play them again and again for the next few days. I save my presents and open them all at once in a frenzy, like a shark with blood in the water. And I bake myself a disappointing cake.

This unintended but very regular tradition begins weeks ahead of the actual day. My birthday is coming!! Opportunity to bake. I read cook books; I look on line at all my favorite blogs, at different web sites. I go thru all the recipes I have clipped and saved all year. I make a decision, Prune Walnut Cake with Chocolate Mousse icing. I live with that decision for a few days and then change my mind. Carrot cake. There are a lot of carrot cakes. I read many recipes for carrot cake. I buy 5 lbs of carrots. I change my mind again and settle on a spice cake. Every year, I settle on a spice cake.

This year I settled on Martha Stewart’s sugar and spice cake with mascarpone frosting. The recipe looked good. The reviews were all raves. (I have since come to suspect that the reviewers on MS’s web site are shills.) I don’t even want to go into it.

You make a spice cake in two 8” layers. You cut each layer in half for a total of four layers. I got to use that nifty wire cake cutter that we found together in one of those stores in Seattle. So there was that. 

You make a frosting of mascarpone mixed with very little sugar folded into a pile of whipped cream. This is where the endeavor went south. I should have known. The frosting tasted like extremely bland whipped cream. And as you know, I like whipped cream, but this one needed more sugar and maybe some vanilla and forget the Mascarpone. That stuff brings nothing to the table. Oh, and you spread jam on each layer before the frosting goes on. 

Well, it was bland and uninteresting and completely dominated by that pallid, soggy whipped cream frosting. Ugh!

We ate it. But after the party, I left it with Chris, never wanting to see it again.

Luckily there is also the birthday tradition of a second cake. It is always Chocolate Dump Cake from the first California Heritage, with white frosting, the kind made with butter, confectionary sugar and vanilla. And it always satisfies. This year I colored the frosting pink for extra festiveness.

The final result of this year’s birthday cake debacle, is that I am cured of my spice cake longings. I’ll make apple cakes and pumpkin cakes, persimmon cakes and sweet potato cakes and maybe a carrot cake, there is that 5 lb bag of carrots still in the fridge. But I am over the spice cake.

Love, Margaret


Anonymous said...

Cake number one improved with age. A fitting tribute to the baker.

Anonymous said...

Cake number two's bold use of pink frosting clinches its number one spot.