My favorite meal is cake and champagne. (Marie Antoinette might have been on to something.) More specifically, Birthday Cake and champagne. Birthday Cake is one of those universally uniting foods, like ice cream (outside of a lactose issue, if you don’t like ice cream I suspect you are a Communist) and Chardonnay (especially at family holidays). At birthday parties, the cake is the most exciting part, especially if the crowd is under five (having attended three birthday parties this weekend, I am well versed on this). Even those who refuse a piece of cake inevitably sneak a bite or two. I can’t think of another food that will send one into diabetic shock as quickly as the marriage of empty, sweet carbs (cake) and sugar glue (frosting). This, of course, is a main part of the appeal of birthday cake.
At some point during our dating days (I remember those days—words like spontaneous, sleeping in, out to dinner, and well rested come to mind), I attended a birthday party for a relative of my husband. The birthday cake BLEW MY MIND. This cake reminded me of birthday cakes that were served at my birthday parties growing up. I have found that memories can grow better with time, sometimes becoming even better than the actual event. This birthday cake lived up to the hype of long remembered cake from my youth. As this was early in our relationship, I drew upon my inner reserves of dignity, decorum, and cotillion manners so as to not cram that cake into my mouth as fast as possible and go back for seconds, thirds, and even fourths. It was difficult, and I give all the credit entirely to my mother. Try as I might, I could not get this cake out of my mind. I worked up my courage, and I approached his mother to inquire about the recipe. While she was thrilled I liked it, she said it was Aunt Judye’s recipe and she did not have access to that information. I eventually had to marry into the family to get the recipe (and you were so worth it, honey!). Aunt Judye even made a wedding cake for us using her top secret recipe.
Armed with the recipe, I set out to make new converts. It wasn’t hard. My girlfriends and I have a tradition of celebrating birthdays by having “lunch” at ridiculously cute and trendy girly cafes. Every birthday girl got a birthday cake. One of my best friends, who is a birthday cake connoisseur (if such thing exists. Outside of the under-five set at birthday parties, I have never seen anyone get so excited. It’s awesome!) She has declared mine “almost as good as Aunt Judye’s!” Naturally, every family birthday party we have, I make sure to cut a piece for Alena and stick it in the freezer. Last time my father came to visit, he saw the “Alena Stash” and demanded to get in on the action. (Daddy and Alena: please come visit. My freezer is full!)
While I have gotten the cake part down, I struggle with the frosting. (Frosting goes on cakes. Icing is a glaze.) OF COURSE Aunt Judye is amazing at frosting. Roses? Amateur Hour. Fancy script? Of course. Multiple tiers with fancy pants decorations on the side? She’s got that. I, however, am the proud creator of the World’s Ugliest Cakes. Even sprinkles, sparkles, and multiple attempts at script in multiple colors cannot distract from the leaning, frosting-mixed-with-crumbles, and uneven cakes I produce. Thank Goodness they live up to the taste, even the honor, of the title “Aunt Judye Birthday Cake”.