There is much improvising in my kitchen. Baking experiences come fast and furious these days and there are usually mistakes. This time it was one broken cake layer (three large pieces that were easily saved) preceded by discovery of only one round cake pan for a double layer cake. As it was already 9pm I didn't want to be baking extra hours so I switched to ordinary aluminum square cake pans found crinkled/stuffed at the back of my stove drawer.
I should mention this cake was a family project. My mom's blackcurrant jam provided a tartness against the sweetness I craved; Rebecca guided me to the Smitten Kitchen recipes; Ann shared a birthday week with me, helping focus my chocolate cake decision making; Nick suggested the cake needed more texture and contrast (hence the almond design); and Jessy held the cake on her lap in the car on the way to dinner, mostly to protect it from little Twiggy who might have eaten the entire cake had we let her. (I understand the temptation little dog...)
I was born in a blizzard in Cape Breton 38 years ago. Mom was caught in the January storms this week but mercifully found her way to uncle Jim's wake in Syracuse, New York. In 1978 Jim trooped up and across the northeast to see his younger sister (my mom) and her family on a beautiful hippie farm in 1978 ... check out our lovely family picnic:
Uncle Mike's photos started a sentimentality in me because this year I was compelled to write Jim a birthday card - my first handwritten note to him in my life. Jim was turning 70 years old. I chose a funny card I had been keeping for the perfect occasion (for at least five years): a colour photo of lots of naked people standing with their backs to the camera in a gilded opera house... "Wishing you the best seat in the house on your birthday." I imagined it made him chuckle. I felt so good for having sent him that card. Jim was a happy organic farmer, philosophy professor and he was always smiling a lot. He made my mom and her sisters smile a lot too.
My successful baking experience of this cake is significant because it helped me celebrate life and all that tastes good in it. Here's to birthday cakes made for me and my family - and of course here's to all the leftover frosting...