Figuring out what I wanna be when I grow up.
Oop..I AM grown up...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Birthdays, CAKE, and Birthday Parties

There are a few birthdays in late Autumn that we celebrate around these here parts, and I always feel like they're the last stop before the Christmas season really starts to sneak up on me.

It was my brother's birthday recently!  Happy Birthday Brother of mine!  First of all, check out this photo editing:

I blogged about my brother, the King Of All Pests, HERE 

Hooray!  Here's my brother and little me.  How old am I in this picture....4 maybe?

And now, thanks to the magic of computers, check this out:

Seriously--is it not amazing what a little online photo touch-up program can do?  Thanks Picnik.  No, they're not paying me or anything to say that, but I was feeling all smoochy toward their program after I worked some magic over an old, yellowed 1970's photie.

So, because it was my brother's birthday, I made his favourite cake, which is a sour cream "coffee" cake.  It is an oldish recipe that we have that my Mom always used to make.  It's a moist, yellow cake with a layer of brown sugar cinnamon candied nut heaven in the middle.

a good recipe is always splattered with something

This is my bro's favourite cake.  It's not overly sweet, and not covered in icing, but dusted lightly with powdered sugar.  So, now that my Mom is gone, I have made this cake for the past two birthdays.

I have to tell you, I love making the cake for my brother, but I don't love making the cake.  I feel like I'm not supposed to be the one making this cake, and damned if the thing is just different enough to not be like my Mom's.  This reminds me of a small story a woman I know told me about how her mother used to make the most wonderful Christmas puddings and cakes and things, when she was alive, and try as she might to recreate them, they just never came out the same.


Somewhere along the road to just-about-asleep one night, I had this sleepy, dreamy thought that maybe the secret ingredient is not the flour the person used, or how precisely or imprecisely they measured, or even the difference in their cake pans--maybe the secret ingredient is the person themselves.  Does this make sense?  It made so much sense in bed that night after a day of just being sad.

My sister's favourite cake is a black forest cake.  Is that supposed to be Capitalized...hrm...  Anyhow, whatever the Black Forest Cake is supposed to really be like, traditionally, this is how we always ate it:  layer of chocolate cake, layer of  cherries in the middle, another layer of chocolate cake, thick, fudgey chocolate icing on the outside and whipped cream on the top.  Maybe there was a third layer of cake and another layer of cherries as well....


How can I not remember?  My Polish Grandma made this cake ALL THE TIME.  It was my Grandfather's favourite.  Dear Grandma, please forgive me when I say it was never MY favourite cake because of you.  Grandma's slice of black forest weighed approximately 100 pounds, and she'd cut the biggest slice possible and hand that over to me with a giant glass of whole milk.  That was nearly impossible for a little kid to finish, and believe me, if I didn't finish it, this surely meant the cake was no good, and clearly I didn't like it.  And so, struggle I did.

My Dad's favourite cake used to be a white-as-snow white Duncan Hines beauty with vanilla icing.  Actually, I used to LOVE a "box cake".  I thought there was nothing wrong with a mix until I started mastering the homemade cake, and now I think there's nothing better than a good cake from scratch.

My Mom used to love a hazelnut, Amaretto-soaked cake from a local bakery.  But then I started baking her cakes when I was old enough, and she kinda got whatever concoction I came up with that year.  Ah well, at least Mom was nice enough to never complain.
Criveller Cakes

So what about me?  I haven't been like my brother and sister; holding on to their most beloved cake for dear life for YEARS AND YEARS.

When I was a kid, I used to always ask for a "white cake with chocolate icing."  Then I loved the box "cherry chip" cake.  Then one year my Mom made the Ina Garten coconut cake, and that was it.  That was my favourite.  Mom added a thin layer of raspberry jam in between cake and coconut icing layers to cut down the "richness" of the cake.

Damn.  That's one freaking good cake.  Seriously, you may have a heart attack immediately after finishing your slice, but OMG PEOPLE.

 I have decided as I get older that I don't love birthday parties as much anymore.  Oh, don't get me wrong--a few cocktails and I'll always belt out the Thelma Houston, but now I just kinda think that birthday parties were much more fun when I was a kid.

So, I leave you with a memory of my very first real birthday party.  It was my kindergarten party, and my entire class was invited, because Mom thought it was most fair to invite EVERYONE.  It was MAYHEM.  Picture kids running around, a free-for-all with my new toys in the GOOD LIVING ROOM on the red, gold and green shag carpet.  One kid was taking my slinky dog for a walk.  Slinky dog promptly got snagged in the shag, his coils were bent and he was pretty much garbage after that.  One kid was so shy he just sat in the tv room and watched cartoons, too freaked to join his manic classmates.  My friend Matt was running around the entire house, up the stairs, down the stairs, upstairs, around the bedrooms, and then he slipped and knocked his head on the bedpost of my brother's bed.  He was calm after that.

I thought it was great.

I think my Mom was burnt.

I didn't have another birthday party with classmates for a loooooooong time after that.  That party might have been in grade 8 and involved some really pathetic games of Truth Or Dare, and some kissing.  I seem to have forgotten ;)

So...Do YOU have a favourite birthday cake?


  1. i don't like most cakes very much, but there's one my mom makes that's a typical yellow cake done in a big flat pan with some whipped cream spread thickly on top, then piles of chopped up pineapple and cherries spread around on top of the whipped cream. it's cake heaven on my tongue.
    reading your mom-missing posts always make me wonder what my life would be like without mine. it's hard to imagine or comprehend.

  2. not really a fan of cake, but, I do enjoy carrot cake with pineapple, and walnuts in it. yummm

    and I do like black forrest, for the rest.......blah.

  3. We still celebrate my brother's and sister's birthdays, and yes we do make the one cake that my mom used to make for us. They are not the same though. I love chocolate cake with lots of frosting, my little sister I make a carmel cake, once it weighed in at 10 pounds, I weighed it. My oldest sister's cake we hate to make, so I make the little sister make it. Strawberry squares, it is more like an ice cream, not my kind of cake so I always make some extra cupcakes for those of us who do not like it. My brother's cake is a sort of cheese cake/regular cake mixed together with blueberry sause on top. I LOVE cake and I could have some in my house every week.

  4. Birthday cakes is not a fun topic in our family...asd my sister and I share a birthday...we fight every year on what the cake will be...she likes Angel Poo cake with whipped cream I like a chocolate cake with white buttercream icing....and for everyone elses birthday...we have to have Angel Poo cake..cuz "its better for you" Oh and dont forget the fruit wrapped all around that Poo cake. My kids are too young still, to demand what kind of cake they they get the standard birthday cake as well :)
    For none birthday cake...cake is cake...I like pretty much any kind of cake...well, okay, not every kind...I do not like Angel Food cake...could ya tell?
    Happy Birthday to your brother!!

  5. Sherilin, your cake sounds like the anti-cake, so maybe that's why you like it--no super sweet icing, just very summery and fresh.

    These replies are interesting though, because they do give me cake inspiration and I loves me some inspiration.

  6. Melissa, carrot cake IS dope. Cream cheese icing--forget about it. Lurv it.

    I did make a black forest cake for my sister that I didn't find to be overkill. I have to admit I used a boxed cake for the chocolate cake part, and only did two layers. It didn't overwhelm me with heaviness...speaking of Alaina's TEN POUND CAKE!

  7. Alaina, I am amazed at this 10 pound cake LEGEND. Holy cow! How does it taste??? I wonder how much that Ina Garten coconut cake weighs...that thing is LOADED with butter. Loaded. I make a version that doesn't have nearly that much butter in it.

    Anyhoo, thanks for sharing about your siblings favourite bday desserts. It's interesting to me!

  8. Angel Poo cake Steph? Is this your hilarious derogatory name for Angel food cake? Ha! That's funny. My god, I forget that you two share the same birthday!!NOW THAT'S an interesting pickle we haven't talked about!

    My kids' birthdays are 3 days apart, and even though it's exhausting, I make two cakes and have two birthdays...well, at this point at least anyway.

  9. I'm a total slut for a good carrot cake with cream cheese icing or an angel food cake with flaming bananas. That's when you soak banana's in rum, butter and brown sugar, put them in a pan and set the whole bloody thing on fire. The bonus is when I make it I add extra rum and get a little blasted myself.

  10. Lizbeth, that was a cake porno, what you just type out there you know. FLAMING BANANAS! Oh, that is another great idea. I am a freak for all things banana...

  11. Because our birthdays are on the same day....we always have to share the freakin celebration! Even when were kids...we had our parties at the same time! Grrr...It wasnt until my sister was a teenager and had boy/girl parties that we stopped that...but even still we always had a family party...shared. Aunts and Uncles would give us presents to share...can you imagine how awesome it was when I was 8 and got a curling iron to share with my sister who was 13...good times!
    I got some birthdays "to myself" when my sister moved to Guelph for school...BUT even then, my sister would talk my parents into going up there to visit and have a birthday dinner....go up and spend my sisters birthday with her...or stay home and party it up with friends??? Now that we are both married and have families of our own...we still have a shared birthday dinner...BUT we have added a new husbands birthday is 4 days after now we celebrate 3 birthdays at the same husband was all "we have to share our birthdays dinners???" Hmm Hello? I have been doign this my whole life!! I could go on and on about this topic!

  12. Steph! That is fascinating! Love the part about shared presents. Holy crap, any kid would just adore that part now wouldn't they! That's too funny. Yeah, you have been doing that your whole life. Do you even look forward to your birthday, or does it just feel like a hassle in some ways?

  13. Well, I actually kind of dread it...we fight about what to eat for dinner...what kind of cake, what time, whos house. AND gawd forbid the year Rich got me tickets see my favo band (motely crue) on my birthday...the HORROR! we had to have our family dinner on a different night! Yeah, birthdays are a pain in the a$$. I think this is why I make a HUGE deal of my kids make them feel special on their day!
    Oh the sharing memebers used to buy us matching outfits (so not funny) or tapes to share (before CDs came along) Oh here girls, heres a Judds tape for you both! (gag, do you not know my taste in music, even at the age 7, i had better taste in music!)

  14. Hi Karen! Long time - sorry! I've launched a new company, and been absent from Angst school - my apologies, teach - owe you an apple!
    CAKE: all chocolate - yum city - anytime.
    You're correct about the baker - it's the secret ingredient for sure, it's the love.

  15. Sorry, I blacked out after the word CAKE; must've gotten dizzy and hit my head on something. But I feel much more peaceful now.

    While I lurv the high-end fancy local bakery cakes, I have total fondness for my mom's b-day cakes. The icing is deadly good.

  16. any cake with creamcheese on,or in it is good to me!mattsmom also makes the yummiest icing,the kind thats a bit hard on the outside and creamy on the inside ahhhhh yum.

  17. You might have been the cutest kid ever!!! That is pretty amazing how you were able to change the color on that photo. A while back my husband and I scanned a bunch of old family photos our parents had and put them on our computer. It took forever, but it was worth it. Happy birthday (a little late) to your brother!

  18. Oh Steph, a Judds tape for both of you. Remember the wise words of the Judds, Steph: Love CAN build a bridge.

    Har! Well, you made an interesting point about shared birthdays. I'll bet there are a lot of people who feel the same way you do!

  19. Christina--no worries. I know you've been busy. I WAS just thinking this morning though that it was time to come lookin' for ya.

    All chocolate, huh. I have yet to find a chocolate cake recipe to call my own, but then, I'm too focused on vanilla :)

  20. Matt, that cracked me up when I read your comment this morning. Poor Matt, you must be so, so, so, so tired of that story by now, but that's what happens when you've known someone so long you're like family: you too get to suffer through the same remembrances :)

  21. Paula H, now I love you even more. You too are in the RIGHT KIND OF ICING club. It has to be slightly sugary in texture. None of this whipped junk that always stays the same texture as butter. Not for me.

  22. thanks Paula--maybe I was having a cute day that day, har har.

    Yeah, scanning old photos can be so soothing and fun. Time consuming though--holy crap. I love putting them in some of these programs and really "cleaning" them up.

  23. I totally forgot to comment on the looks AWESOME!! I wish my computer would do fun things liek that!! I would love to have that doen to my parents wedding photo...its all yellow and looking VERY aged :(

  24. Steph, do you have a scanner? A lot of the newer printers are also scanners. Anyhoo, then you sign up for a free account at, OR, you can open up a free account with google Picassa web albums ( ) On Picassa, you just have to upload a photo that's already on your computer, and once it's uploaded you can "edit" it, which will take you over to anyway. You can then tool around with the colour and lighting, or use their "auto adjust" features and voila! Photo magic!

    Picnik does offer a lot of free photo editing options, but apparently there are a lot more if you're not a cheapskate such as I, and become a premium member.

  25. sadly I do not have a scanner:( BUT we have them at work...perhaps I could bring it to wok...have it to myself at home! Bam! awesoem wedding photo??
    Thanks karen...sounds pretty easy when you put it that way!


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