My birthday happened recently, which got me thinking about cake. Well, ok, that’s not entirely fair- I think about cake on a regular basis. But last week got me thinking about birthday cake, specifically, and what it means to me.
“What it means to you?” you say. “Birthday cake means nothing- it’s just carbs and sugar!”
Technically, yes. But friends: it’s meaningful carbs and sugar. As I mentioned in my last post, baked goods play a big role in my family’s celebrations. And like I said, my mom baked the same birthday cake for every one of my childhood birthdays. The flavors are simple, but delicious. It’s a 3-layer yellow cake with mint chocolate frosting in between every layer and smothered all around the edges. The recipe was adapted years ago from one of Abby Mandell’s Cuisinart Classroom cookbooks, and it stuck. I have many fond memories of my family singing to me before we cut into that cake- along with fond memories of eating it for breakfast the next day, and of sneaking extra pieces when no one was looking. Our birthday parties with friends may have featured cakes with Disney characters or flowers made of icing, but our family celebrations always centered on the same chocolatey delight.
Of course, there have been years we weren’t home for my birthday and we didn’t have access to an oven. Enter this orange cake pictured here, which my parents bought when they visited me during my semester in Madrid (customized with extra chocolate pieces, because why not?).
Another year we enjoyed the blueberry lemon cake pictured to the left, which we got while out to tea in St. Louis. And then there was my sophomore year of college, when my mom mailed me a “cake” shaped out of pure, solid chocolate, since a real cake seemed too difficult to mail.
Like all good family traditions, I’ve adopted the cake-baking tradition as my own. So lucky loved ones now get their very own cakes. But instead of subjecting everyone to MY family’s tradition, I pick my cakes based on friends’ preferences. My favorites so far? This apple cake over at Smitten Kitchen, the same author’s carrot cake and JustJenn’s cookie cupcakes. Up next: this snickerdoodle cake with brown sugar cinnamon buttercream from Foodie with Family. Anyone have a birthday coming up?
And for those of you who don’t want to make it yourself, here are some of my favorite places to buy delicious cakes:
SusieCakes (California locations)
Molly’s Cupcakes (Chicago + NYC)
Crumbs (various cities throughout the US)
London Tea Room (home to that blueberry cake, St. Louis)
Austrian Bakery (Chicago)
Claim Jumper (mud pie, a.k.a. ice cream cake- various cities throughout the US)