My Favourite Things Cake, or, The Day I Became A Grown-Up

I'm out of the city, or possibly out of the country, celebrating my birthday right now, but don't worry, I couldn't leave you hanging while I party!* Since this is my 30th birthday, I thought this was a perfect time to reflect upon some past birthdays and my favourite experiences so far. I may not be great at frosting cakes yet, but I have learned a little something about how to celebrate over the past three decades, so here are some of my favourite birthday memories.

1985:

The newspaper from the day I was born, which my parents saved and which I recently found, featured a headline of 'Cellular Phone Are Risky Deals.' So I guess some things never change.

1990:

I got two cakes and an American Girl doll for my fifth birthday (one of which had an angel on it) and I thought I was QUEEN B.

1998:

I was SO EXCITED to turn 13. My mom made me a surprise cake (my favourite kind: chocolate cake with white frosting!) with '13' spelled out in Skittles, and decorated my room with Backstreet Boys and Ben Affleck posters while I was at school, because no one has ever known me as well as she does.

2000:

The year I turned 15, my dad gave me a vintage perfume locket that he bought in Italy. I thought it was the most amazing necklace I had ever seen-- the back of it comes off to reveal a cavity where solid perfume could be hidden to make the wearer smell good, and I loved it. I celebrated my birthday two days early by going to a Lifehouse/The Calling concert with my best friend, where I (of course) wore the necklace. (The mere fact that my mom let me go to the concert should have been enough to make this birthday the best yet, but it got worse... then better.) I lost the back of the necklace halfway through the show, and emerged brokenhearted. My mom, without telling me, went back to the nightclub where the concert was held on the day between the show and my birthday and conned her way inside in the middle of the day to search the entire venue for the back of my necklace. The girl manning the front door followed her around the entire time, telling her that she wouldn't find anything because the venue had already been cleaned since the show, but my mom found two wallets, a watch, and a class ring before she finally found the back of my necklace... on the steps leading out of the venue. My card that year from her read simply: 'Never give up,' and had my necklace back folded into it.

2001:

The year I turned 16, my grandmother (not Eleanor) gave me a framed print that read 'the only substitute for experience is being 16.' To this day, one of the most incongruous gifts I've ever received.

2005:

In the weeks leading up to my 20th birthday, I kept getting anonymous email messages from someone named El Jefe. Always tinged with Spanish, I couldn't figure out who the person was, until the night of my birthday, when, at the surprise party planned by my roommate, I was asked to go outside halfway through the night. There, waiting for me in the parking lot of the local Mexican restaurant, was a refrigerator-sized box, wrapped up with a bow. As I began to unwrap it, a swarthy gentleman jumped out, serenading me in Spanish in front of all of my friends.

 Me and El jefe. I have no pictures of him inside the refrigerator box, alas.

Me and El jefe. I have no pictures of him inside the refrigerator box, alas.

2010:

For my last milestone birthday that's actually a good milestone, I planned the theme party I had always wanted: Candy Land. I was Princess Lolly, Judson was Mr. Mint, and together we turned the schoolhouse apartment I was living in into a candy-themed wonderland. Over 100 people were in and out of the party that night, and I found pieces of costumes and weird props in my apartment for weeks afterward. To this day, it's my favourite Halloween costume that I've ever had.

 I spent a looooong time and a lot of phone calls with my grandmother sewing that dress.

I spent a looooong time and a lot of phone calls with my grandmother sewing that dress.

2015:

But turning 30 is a big deal, just like turning 20 was a big deal, and so I think it's appropriate that I started each decade with a mixtape made for me by someone who knew me better than anyone else. The year I turned 20, a wonderful friend interviewed my friends and made me a mixtape of songs that made my friends think of me. This year, Judson gifted me a playlist of 30 songs-- one from each year of my life-- that I have loved, listened to, and sang along with over the years. I may be a few years older and maybe my life has taken a few paths I didn't foresee, but it's nice to see that, ten years on, some things never change.

If you need me, I'll be celebrating my 30th the same way I celebrated my 20th: with my best friend, remembering the good times past and looking forward to those yet to come.

And, since I have a food blog, I had to make a cake to celebrate. So here's a cake comprised of all of my favourite things: chocolate cake, cream cheese icing, and a filling made of coconuts and pecans. If we could find a way to incorporate red wine into this cake, it would include literally all of my favourite edibles.

*Judson planned this week-long princess celebration for me, so, by the time you read this, I'll know where I am celebrating, but right now it remains a mystery!

The verdict:

5 spoons out of five. This cake won't turn you 30, but it might make you wish you were here to celebrate mine.

 NO ONE ever said i was good at frosting cakes, least of all me.

NO ONE ever said i was good at frosting cakes, least of all me.

The recipe:

Thirtieth-Birthday Chocolate Cake, or, Sweet-Chocolate Cake

the directions:
cake:

Preheat oven to 176C/350F and line 3 layer pans with parchment paper on the bottom.
Beat egg whites until stiff, then set aside.
Melt chocolate in water and allow to cool.
Cream butter and sugar.
Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add vanilla and chocolate, then mix until smooth.
Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt, then add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk.
Beat until smooth, then fold in egg whites very gently.
Pour into pans and bake for 30-40 minutes, until a stick inserted in the centre comes out clean.


 

Filling:

In a saucepan, mix evaporated milk, sugar, yolks, butter, and vanilla.
Cook over medium heat 12 minutes, until thick.
Add coconut and pecans, let cool, then beat until thick and fluffy.
Spread between layers of cake and stack.

 

Frosting:

Cream butter and cream cheese.
Add melted chocolate, salt, powdered sugar, cream, and vanilla.
Beat until thick and fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl frequently.
Frost the cake generously and decorate as needed.

the ingredients:
the cake:

4 oz sweet baking chocolate
½ c boiling water
8 oz butter
2 c sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla
2 ½ c cake flour, sifted (substitute your own by measuring 5 tablespoons of cornstarch into your measuring cup and then fill the rest with flour)
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 c buttermilk (substitute your own by measuring 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into your measuring cup and filling the rest with milk)

the filling:

1 c evaporated milk
1 c sugar
3 egg yolks
½ c butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 c flaked coconut
1 c pecans, chopped coarsely

the frosting:

2 tbsp butter
4 oz cream cheese
1 ½ oz unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
1 dash salt
1 ½ c powdered sugar, sifted
2 oz cream
½ tsp vanilla