Tag Archives: birthday

The thrilling conclusion to Birthday (Cake) Week

Despite the Great Flapjack Failure of 2014, I gave browned butter another try. I’m glad I did, because this is probably the best muffin I’ve made so far. It required grinding oats and buckwheat (separately) in my gigantic, 80s-era food processor, definitely a more labor-intensive process than I’m used to. And of course, I burnt the butter, but luckily it still all worked out. The chocolate chips and streusel topping take it over the top, and the banana and healthy flours make it acceptable for breakfast (or lunch, or pre-lunch…in my case a few minutes ago).

The extravagance of the week though was these red velvet brownies. Next time (if I trust myself enough for there to be a next time), I’ll stick to the recipe as is and maybe make the annoying buttercream frosting. Buttercream is my nemesis, mainly because I don’t have the right tools (and by extension, the right kitchen) to tackle it. This time, I tried to make a cream cheese topping from a recipe via the Food Network, which I won’t link to because it was a complete disaster. My “swirl” was a runny mess, probably because I used store-brand cream cheese, which just didn’t have the thickness required here. Also, it tasted kind of bland, so I dumped in a bunch of extra sugar. After trying to “swirl” it into the brownies, I ended up with a hilarious, runny mess. So, I attempted to salvage it by pouring the topping back into a bowl…which I mixed with powdered sugar, and which we’ve been pouring over yogurt and granola as a consolation prize.

Luckily, the brownies still turned out, probably more fudgy (fudgey?) than intended, but that’s never a bad thing. The birthday boy and guests at last night’s dinner seemed to like them. I did too, although too many bowl-licks and “cutting off just this one piece to make a perfect square” tastes left me feeling terrible. Seriously, baked goods are my kryptonite. So I’m calling a moratorium on the sweets for a while. Well, making them myself, anyway. Ice cream will find its way into my mouth sooner or later, mainly as an act of desperation to hang on to this rapidly disappearing summer.

Birthday (Cake) Week

It’s the husband’s birthday on Thursday, and what better way to kick off a week of celebrating (because one day isn’t enough) with cake? Cakes, actually. This week I’ll be posting 4 recipes, because we both have 4 letters in our first names and John is turning something-4. 

First up is Smitten Kitchen’s blueberry crumb cake, which is currently in the oven. I’m a little nervous, because I don’t have a fancy stand mixer, nor the patience to mix with my adorably old-fashioned  egg beater device that you crank by hand. So, I mixed all the liquid ingredients at once with my trusty stick blender, and hoped for the best. Also, my oven temperatures are kind of a joke. There’s a dot for 175 C, and then again for 200 C, so I had to guess where 190 was. And finally, of course I don’t have a 9-inch cake pan, so I used a small round (5-inch, maybe) souffle dish and a 4 x 8-inch glass baking dish. 

Everything I’ve read about baking warns you to be precise (in ingredients, tools, temperatures and times) but I usually have good luck just winging it. Except for those failed lemon-rosemary cookies that turned into one big puddle. 

Oh, I found another stranger’s shopping list today. This one is less interesting but also more confusing than last week’s edition, so I figured I’d share: 

– Method wood polish (I’m a shameless Method fan, too).

– milk

– milk for children (they need different milk than adults?)

– Peper Shop (no idea)

– black chorizo (I’m pretty sure this doesn’t exist)

– Gaugin Guitars or Picasso instruments (they definitely don’t sell these at Waitrose)

My prediction is that the owner of this list is a housewife who can’t spell, and who believes your age should determine the kind of milk you drink. I hope she finds her black chorizo someday.

P.S. The cake looks good!

One more month

Yesterday I realized that my birthday is coming up in a month, and got all giddy for about 30 seconds. Not many people seem to get excited about birthdays past the iconic age of 21, but I think they continue to serve as a reliable, yearly milestone. Much more so than January 1st, anyway. I bet you’ve all forgotten your New Year’s Resolution (capitalized because this year you’ll really stick to it, you mean it), just like I have. I suppose I could scroll back through old blog posts to find out what it was – likely something to do with reading more. I haven’t done so bad on that front, actually. My standards are set low, so my one completed book makes me pretty happy. (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan – it was just okay).

I’m particularly enjoying this Sunday because I’m typing this from bed, with a gigantic mug of coffee next to me. The mug says Cipramil in bold green letters. I’ve been meaning to look it up, and finally did – it’s the UK equivalent of Celexa, an SSRI used to treat major depression. I think coffee is equally, if not more, effective. 

But back to birthdays. I remember, in my awkward middle school years, spending the week before the annual cake-for-breakfast day drafting self-improvement plans for the year ahead, usually through something superficial like buying new jeans that would be long enough for my gangly legs or using my grandma’s birthday money to buy the latest JANE eyeshadows (still miss that brand). This would become a tradition, though I abandoned the list-making probably in high school. My birthday became a day for me to think about what I want to do differently, and why.

I don’t think I ever got to the “how” part, though, and this is probably why I spent year after year not really feeling any different. In many ways, I’m still the awkward middle-schooler, looking toward improvement but having only a vague idea of what will get me there (answer: it’s not eyeshadow). 

This year, I’d rather just be happy. I want to spend more Sundays lounging in bed, drinking my big mug of anti-depressant coffee, and appreciating the idea of nowhere to be, nobody to become. John says I’ll change the way I feel about birthdays once I turn 30, but I don’t think so. I have two more years to prove him wrong, though.