Cooper's homemade birthday cake.
Cooper's brothers quickly turn SO nice to him when they see he's the recipient of new toys!
I joined Cooper for a birthday lunch at the school cafeteria. He loved wearing his "birthday crown" all day.
Recently I've thought a lot about Halloween costumes and how differently costumes are now compared to the ones of my childhood. When I was a child, we never bought costumes. Costumes were always homemade or composed of things we found around the house.
It got me thinking about other homemade things of my youth. Birthday cakes spring to mind. I certainly don't remember my mother ever purchasing a birthday cake. Instead, each birthday she'd whip up my favorite red velvet birthday cake with cream cheese frosting. Years later, I can't recall the actual taste of the cake, but I remember the feeling I had biting into each morsel. Somehow my mom infused affection into the layers of frosting and adoration into the cake crumbles. With each forkful, I felt special and very much loved.
As I ruminated on those memories, I realized I've never —in almost ten years as a parent —made my child a birthday cake. I suppose I've never really thought about whipping up a cake from scratch when a perfectly beautiful cake sits ready for purchase just miles away in a grocer's fridge. But a little part of my heart yearned to do something different for this child's birthday, to gift my child with the birthday cake of my youth.
I asked the birthday boy, Cooper, if this year he'd rather me make his birthday cake or purchase one.
Cooper face lit up and he chirped, "Make me one."
And so we flipped through cookbook pages, drooling over the pictures of fluffy, spongy cakes. We finally landed on a (seemingly) easy recipe for American Chocolate Cake. And so the birthday cake was selected.
I like to bake and so I entered into this cake-making project with gusto. As a baker, I'm known for two things:
1) Treating recipe instructions as mere suggestions.
2) Taking risks and experimenting, especially when guests are involved.
These factors together can lead to two different scenarios:
1) whipping up a baking masterpiece,
2) creating a gigantic culinary catastrophe.
Historically, my creations have tended to fall into the latter category.
As expected, I loosely followed the cake directions, modifying portion sizes as I saw fit and adding flavors that seemed appropriate.
The cake emerged from the oven nicely but didn't fare as well slipping out of the pans. To compensate for my misshaped cakes, I doused the sides and top with frosting to mask the imperfections. And as for the icing, well it came out in a more brick-like consistency than the creamy texture pictured in the recipe's photograph.
Last night, I served Cooper his birthday cake. Under the weight of the icing, it seemed as heavy as a small child. It wasn't a bit symmetrical. The layers seemed to wobble. Everyone tried it, but many plates were returned with sheepish smiles and half-eaten pieces of cake resting on top.
I started to second guess my decision to make Cooper's birthday cake. Surely, a grocer's cake would have been so much more....edible. Then again, I thought about my birthday cakes and how today I don't remember the taste as much as the feeling.
I'm hoping that's what Cooper remembers too.