Now, can I tell you what I had for my 30th birthday?
A dinner party.
And who cooked?
I have a (not so) secret confession. I love to cook for people.
Honestly, nothing breaks my heart more than having people come by and not be able to feed them.
And nothing gets me going more than concocting in a kitchen for the culinary delights of my friends.
Isn't that sick?
Actually, I don't do pressure all that well, so I have taken some of your excellent advice on board and am percolating the next step over the next few days...
Anyhow, a decade ago I had a sit-down three-course vegetarian feast for 50 of my nearest and dearest.
I actually found the invite the other day - I will post it when it is next near a scanner.
A few things have changed since then, of course.
I am now in Paradise. I am no longer vegetarian. I now have a 9 year old daughter (whose existence we announced at my 30th). I now have a husband.
Speaking of whom - may I present V's "oh my this is my birthday cake every year from now to forever"?
(First posted last year here but made some changes and added heaps of photos so redoing. It is still beautiful even though rejigged, and is the standing order for all of V's birthdays - actually, for anyone's birthday. Nom nom nom nom nom nom nom!!!)
- 2 cups plain flour, sifted after measuring
- 1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 tablespoon ground Ceylon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoon cocoa
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 cups peanut oil
- 4 eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups finely grated carrots
- 1 1/2 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. That is 180 degrees in the new money - blah blah adjust for fan forced - whatever - about middle stump, what you always use for baking.
* Lightly butter and flour 3 20cm cake pans.
Or in our case, 3 x 20cm-ish cake pans, because our pantry doesn't extend to having 3 x 20cm cake pans just like that. We make do.
If you have a free child who wants to help but her help is hindered by quality programming on Sunday morning television, the buttering is the job to give to her. I have shots, and will use them for bribery purposes in a few years.
I have to admit I do get a bit of a thrill flouring buttered pans (I know, how bland my life must be to achieve such cheap thrills) - but come on, there is some - um, kindergarten-y delight in putting a bit of powder in and banging it around a tin. I defy you to not delight (with a rum-pa-pum-pum).
Of course, if you take up the child labour option for the buttering of pans this is a bit tempered by irrational irritation at the realisation that the pan is not buttered enough in some areas (and the flour doesn't stick) but frankly, with this recipe it matters not. It is so dense it will stick a little, but not break up on release...
* Put flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and cocoa in a mixing bowl, and whisk together to blend.
Now, I know it says "baking soda" and that is not the same fish as "baking powder" - but really, if you pretend to be a bit dim about that and don't notice, then I have noticed that the cake - or at least the eaters of the cake, who are the most important arbiters - do not notice either.
And while we are on the topic of "oops, I don't have that ingredient in the cupboard" issues, I have to admit that actually, the cinnamon I used was not of Ceylonese heritage. Horrific, I know, and I must admit that I am ignorant of the background of the cinnamon that I used.
I do know it was in the coffee and cocoa cupboard rather than the spice cupboard, because there are occasional cravings for something sweet with a little spice (not followed through on, of course. I am a slave to my svelteness - or rather, I am a thlave to my thweltneth, because that would be a tongue in my cheek).
* Put the sugars in a large mixing bowl, and whisk in the peanut oil. Then whisk in the eggs, 1 at a time, followed by the vanilla.
Now, shall we laugh about the irony of sugar for a moment.
Notice the good people of the Food Network asked for "light brown sugar" and "granulated sugar" like people can just go out and get whatever type of sugar they like just like that! I mean, what do they think, we have a sugar mill just down the road or something?
Well, actually we have a few sugar mills just down the road, but that doesn't help us because for some reason the concept of "sugar mill just down the road" does not equate to "choice" or "price" or even "light brown sugar" and "granulated sugar" ending up in my pantry.
I used "raw sugar" - cause its sort of tasty like brown, and sort of crunchy like granulated - and "caster sugar" because it is neither. I figured that it would work itself out - and it did.
I am a jeanie-ous.
* When fully blended, add the flour mixture all at once, and mix just until smooth.
* Stir in the grated carrots and the nuts.
* Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans. Drop each pan sharply onto the counter from a height of about 6 inches to remove any air pockets.
Please note - this step is REALLY fun - don't tell your family you are about to do it and then "BAM" - man, do they come running. Of course, by the third one the joke is RATHER thin - but take a look at the washing up that has been building and USE THAT stress to get a good BAM going.
* Bake for 25 minutes, or until the centre springs back gently when touched. Remove from the oven and place on cooling racks until completely cooled; then unmold.
See that innocuous "unmold" there? Well, what that means is it sort of shrinks from the sides but has sort of stuck in the pan, because of the density and the buttering strategies of the very young.
Again with the percussion, I know, but there is nothing better than inverting these onto a plastic chopping board and having a nice little roll going to get the cakes out.
Nice crunchy offerings for slave labourers and those who are not so self-concerned about the svelte.
300g butter, chilled and cut into pieces
500g cream cheese
2 cups sifted icing sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
* Place the butter in the mixing bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on medium speed just until the butter begins to become malleable, about 3 to 4 minutes.
* Add the cheese gradually and mix until thoroughly blended. Slowly add the confectioners' sugar and vanilla, and mix until blended.
* Increase mixer speed slightly, and continue mixing for 2 to 3 minutes, until the frosting becomes light and fluffy.
Ice between layers, top and sides.
We took some out for decorative purposes - I had my orders on what amounts for what colours, and I think my artistic director did pretty well - don't you?