perfect moment monday ~ birthday cake

Last week we celebrated my uncle’s 70th birthday. My uncle is my Mom’s younger brother and like my de facto surrogate dad, since I lost mine when I was 16. His kids (my cousins) are like my brothers. His wife (my aunt) is like my second mom. His Mom (my Nana) has been gone too long now, 14 years.

Since my Mom was first diagnosed as terminal, every visit has been precious, even when they’re hard. She needs to make plans and get out of her routine; she needs something to look forward to. Yet after three worldwide trips to visit her grandkids this past spring, her travel has drastically declined along with her health and energy level. Still, she wanted to be here to celebrate her little brother’s 70th (and my little girl’s first) birthday.

I volunteered to bake my uncle’s birthday cake. My Nana was a baker and I inherited her recipe tin along with her love of food and baking. While she made some classic cakes, however, none was just right for the occasion. My uncle wanted a traditional chocolate cake — not my favorite molten lava cake or the best party sheet cake ever. So I had to do some research. The stakes were high, not just for the big occasion, or even because my Mom would be here. My uncle would be returning from three weeks of riding a Harley across Europe, including a few days of dining in Paris before coming home on the eve of his birthday (and party). How could I possibly compete with the best Parisien patisseries? I could not. But I could make a delicious cake.

Given the occasion, I decided on a traditional old fashioned chocolate layer cake (original recipe here, but subscription needed; try it here too). For such a seemingly simple cake, the instructions were sort of complicated, involving a number of bowls plus a mixer with two attachments and double boiler. I was determined not to screw it up — I have been known to omit a critical step or ingredient when I am distracted or sleep deprived (like, often), thereby ruining an otherwise fabulous recipe. The people who tested the original recipe tried numerous recipes and tested this one over 400 ways, so, you know, you have to follow directions.

The day before the party, I undertook the daunting task and baked the cake with our three year old. The aroma wafting through the house was divine, like warm cocoa clouds. We would have to wait to taste it, though. The next day I measured out the ingredients for the icing. I waited for Jaye to get home from school so she could help when I put the baby down for her nap. Just then, we lost power. Apparently a pole went down and we’d be without electricity indefinitely. So I had to pack everything up — stand mixer and all — and bring it to the party to make the icing and frost the cake there. Definitely a pain in the ass while lugging two small kids, etc. But I did it. Everyone ooh-ed and ah-ed, impressed with the undertaking. It was lusciously delicious, rich and creamy.

My favorite part, though, was serving the cake on my Nana’s best cake plate, which my mom had recently passed on to me. My uncle was really moved. And my mom, well let’s just say that she had a Moment too. She described how she felt seeing that cake on her own mom’s platter. She said she felt like a kid walking into her own kitchen, her mom at the counter frosting a tall chocolate cake. It brought her back to being a kid with her little brother, in their kitchen with their mom, who delighted in baking. Old fashioned indeed.

My mom sharing this experience with me was my perfect moment, the icing on the cake, so to speak.

To check out other Perfect Moment Mondays, or to add your own, please visit Write Mind Open Heart.

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~ by luna on September 24, 2012.

10 Responses to “perfect moment monday ~ birthday cake”

  1. I love how the cake, the plate, the ritual, came full circle. From grandmother to mom to you to daughter. And for such a milestone occasion!

    Ugh that you had to be mobile for the last stages of the cake. But man, can you improvise!

    Clearly you come from a long line of awesome women 🙂

  2. What a beautiful story and truly perfect moment. Typing through my tears picturing everything just as you described. So glad that you, your uncle and your mom all experienced your own related and yet unique perfect moments together in honor of such a special occasion. I am very impressed by your undertaking and success with that cake! It looks delicious! Thank you for sharing.

    We just celebrated my mom’s 70th birthday this weekend, as I wrote about in my Perfect Moment Monday post today. It is such an awesome milestone and our celebration was filled with such wonderful and bittersweet memories.

  3. I can taste the love that went into that cake. I have been deemed the family baker, passed down my Nana’s deep sheet cake pan that she made all of her family recipes in. Just pulling the pan out of the cupboard brings so many memories of our times baking together.

    So glad that you were all able to come together for your Uncle’s birthday.

  4. I want chocolate cake now. It sounds like a wonderful moment!

  5. What a beautiful post. I am so happy you were able to celebrate with your mom. What’s that? Yes, I do have something in my eye.

  6. I just have to say, I don’t know you, but I LOVE you!! Powering on through the power outage!!! and still making sure to include your children in the making of the cake. The power outage is definitly something that would happen in our house. Can almost smell the aroma myself with the description of Cocoa Clouds. Love the cake on your Nana’s plate and the memory you gave your Mom and Uncle. Truly perfect.

  7. Marvelous post, in so many ways.

    I baked a cake with Burrito and Tamale for the first time a few days ago — quite the experience.

  8. I LOVE a good old-fashioned chocolate cake! I also love that you but real thought and love into it. Sorry to hear about your mom.

  9. […] a high school senior who knows both girls and lives up the street. We were supposed to go out for my uncle’s birthday but that plan fell through, so we saved the sitter for DATE […]

  10. Gorgeous post and wow does that cake look yummy! Sending thoughts of peace and strength for your mom …

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