I’m pretty serious about birthday cakes. When I think of someone being presented with some shortening spackled quarter sheet cake from a discount grocery chain on their birthday — a day they only get to celebrate once a year! Which is like forever if you’re a kid or perhaps the sort of grownup who didn’t get the memo that at the age of 34, birthdays are really not supposed to be a big deal anymore — it makes me sad. Not judgmental-sad, because lord knows I could barely eke out this cake on Saturday, and it’s supposed to be, like, my calling, but empathetic-sad because I totally blame lousy, intimidating recipes for making the two-layer + frosting task seem not worth it to go it at home. I hope to make it as easy as possible for everyone to get the fluffy, towering, butter-laden imperfectly frosted, slightly crooked homemade cake they deserve for making it through another year. Or, perhaps, one’s entire life to date, for the first birthday set.
Celebration Cakes Archive
New Yorkers have a reputation for being pushy and over-the-top — these are things you learn when you leave the city for a weekend, and a ticketing agent at the airport in Tulsa, for example, informs you that you’re so much more polite than she thought a New Yorker would be. We apparently like things bolder and taller and shinier and more intense and while I’m not sure if this really applies to your average straphanger commuting from walk-up to cubicle and back again everyday, I am absolutely certain that it applies to our cheesecakes.
And on Saturday, we returned from our week at sea, our week of no work, of sunshine and someone else making dinner and lo, what a bummer. But we had a great time, from stunning views as we sailed out of New York Harbor on a freak 75 degree day in March:
Given that it is but two days after one of the most indulgent meals of the year, I suspect the last thing you want to hear about is the most indulgent cake I have ever made, and yet, given the quality of the last two vegetable-focused, lighter dishes I have made — both of which I’d give a resounding “eh” — trust me, what I’ve got going on here is much more worthy of your attention, and your table at some distant dinner party. So pull up a chair.
My friend Molly — she of the dry-rubbed ribs and apple tarte tatin fame — is leaving us for the kind of love that requires one to take up residence in another state. We’re all mighty bummed out about this and not making it easy on her, not only pouting over her imminent departure at every turn but insisting that she perform her half-day rib magic one last time at her going-away party this weekend.
Some people find out they’re going to be parents and — you know, after the whole “yay babies!” cheer has simmered down a bit — freak out because they haven’t yet a) traveled the world, b) made their first million, paid off all of their debt and saved up enough for $200 toys for their little snowflake or c) well, grown up yet. But me, I actually had a moment of panic because I hadn’t yet found the perfect yellow layer cake recipe. And apparently — and yes, probably ridiculously — central to my image of the kind of mom I want to be is not to have to turn to a box of Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Butter Recipe Golden (anyone else ever been perplexed by this wording?) cake mix to get a reliably perfect two-layer celebration cake. It’s the Smitten Kitchen, afterall: People have expectations!