Happy New Year! It’s only been a week so far, and some things already hit the ground running. Back when I was a kid, I hated my birthday because it was so close to New Year’s. I still kind of hate that but I’m growing to love it because I get to start fresh at the same time everyone else does. Looking at it like that makes it seem less special but it is to me.
Looking back, my 24th year was pretty eventful. I started out 2014 at probably one of my lowest points. Sad but true. Everyone in my house was unemployed and miserable. The holidays that year was one of the worst, aided by the fact that Christmas didn’t even feel like Christmas. It just sucked. When my birthday rolled around, I hoped for a change in all of our lives. Despite whatever was going on, I was determined to keep it positive.
Fast forward to March. We’re still all kinda miserable and unemployed. Through my efforts on the internet, I was able to apply to some jobs for my mom. She was desperate for a career change, and I did my best to help her out. She loves kids and used to babysit when my sister and I were younger. She wanted to get back into that so I did what I could. Through one of those caretaking websites, I applied for her to one post that caught my eye from day 1. The poster replied back to me, which I honestly wasn’t expecting. Once I cleared up I was the one who applied for my mom, she insisted on meeting the both of us. Taken aback, my mom and I went and the rest is history. My mom now takes care of the cutest and smartest little baby girl. They welcomed my mom into their family, just as we did to them. My mom, the baby, and her family are all happy. That alone put me at ease, despite the fact I was still unemployed and unsure of my future.
For me, things didn’t start changing until maybe June or July. I got an email from my former professor, to whom I reached out because I was desperate for a job. Graduating into a recession is the worst thing ever because no one wants to hire a graduate. In that email was an application to a startup non-profit organization, called CO*OP, that focused on helping graduates find their footing in the industry. This sounded like what I needed so I applied. This was the best decision I had made in the entire year. It was the biggest blessing for me because it was exactly what I desperately needed. Not only did I learn a bunch of new skills, I got a group of friends (including a few special ones) that I never thought I’d have, and sort of had a new job. The founder of the program hired me this past December, so exciting things are happening!
Thanks to CO*OP, I changed so much as a person. I figured out why I am the way that I am, and how to amplify my greatest skills. I became more outgoing and a little more confident in myself and the things I do. Still a work in progress! My new friends became my support system and they helped bring out the best in me; for that alone I’m grateful. I can’t wait to see what happens in my life this year but I’m hoping for some surprises, some love (ahem!), and stability.
Now, let’s talk birthday celebrations. I celebrated my 25th birthday this past Friday. As usual, I baked my own cake but before I get to that, let me tell you how I celebrated.
My sister took me out to dinner at Cafeteria, a cool restaurant here in the city. I’d never been, so I was excited. I’m not one to go out to dinner for birthdays, mostly because that’s not something my family did frequently. I was dying to go out so my sister did me the honors.
Dinner was fantastic! For appetizers, we had mac and cheese spring rolls. As an entree, I had my usual cheeseburger with fries. I get that basically everywhere I go but this was the first time I had one medium rare; it was delish. My sister had a roasted chicken sandwich. I also had a “liquid passion” cocktail, which was a champagne cocktail with passion fruit. For dessert, we had deep fried Oreos that came with a mini milkshake and a scoop of mint chip ice cream with crumbled Oreos in the middle. Everything was amazing and my sister and I were beyond full.
We also had a mini adventure because every year, I dress up really nice for my birthday. I got myself a pair of heels to go with my pretty dress this year. The problem is that I don’t usually wear heels so my feet were killing me before we even made it to the restaurant! I had to go to the pharmacy and pick up a pair of those fast flats. After dinner, we walked to the nearest Marshall’s where I bought a pair of real flats. Let me just say, the judgmental looks I got from my little leopard print sock like flats were unreal but super entertaining.
When we got back home, it was time for cake. Now, this year, I opted to make my cake the day before to save myself some of the hassle the day of. This was mostly a good idea except I ended up with kind of a huge cake fail. The cake itself worked beautifully. I made Deb’s recipe for yellow birthday cake, which is becoming a favorite now. However, due to poor planning, I never figured out how I wanted it flavored in terms of frosting, so I decided to give Swiss meringue buttercream a shot. This is where I messed up, big time.
I gave the buttercream a go the day before as well. When I was making it, I knew something was wrong but trucked on anyway. My meringue wasn’t as fluffy as it should’ve been so the texture was off. Using the instructions to troubleshoot the buttercream, I added more butter. It looked right, so I stopped there and put it in the fridge for the next day. To assemble the cake, I forgot to let the buttercream come to room temp. Another huge mistake right here, as my rushing messed up the buttercream completely. I tried adding more butter to fix it but it ruined the texture of the frosting and made things worse. I wasn’t about to whip up a new batch, as my butter supply is dangerously low, so I rolled with it anyway. Not my best or proudest cake but I couldn’t have a birthday without my cake.
Despite the buttercream coming out way less than perfect, the cake itself was amazing. It was so soft and tender. Deb likens the recipe to her favorite Duncan Hines box mix and she’s definitely right about that. It totally brought back those feelings from when my dad used to bake us cake mixes. That alone was enough to complete my birthday. Even though the texture was off, the taste was still there, so my birthday cake was still somewhat of a winner.
I hope that the couple missteps I’ve had this past week aren’t any indication of how my year is looking. I didn’t quite start on the right foot (which I’ll talk about another time), but I handled it in an adult way. I guess this means I really am an adult? Either way, I hope this year is as successful and eventful as the last half of my 24th.
- 4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (530 grams) cake flour, sifted
- 2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
- 1½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
- 2 sticks (1 cup, ½ pound or 225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups (400 grams) sugar
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 cups buttermilk (475 ml), well-shaken
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and line two 8" round cake pans with parchment, buttering the parchment as well. While you're at it, line a couple of cupcake wells with cupcake liners. Set aside.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In another large bowl, cream the softened butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is incorporated before adding the next one. At a low speed, add the buttermilk. The mix will look curdled but it's right; keep going.
- Add the flour mixture in three batches, making sure each batch is incorporated into the batter before adding the next one. Divide the batter among the cake pans, filling them about halfway. Use the remaining batter to make a couple cupcakes. Rap the cake pans on the table a couple times to get rid of air bubbles. Bake the cakes for 35-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Cool the cakes in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing the cakes out of the pans and onto the rack to cool completely.
The cake recipe is originally for two 9" rounds. I only have two 8" rounds, which is why there's extra batter for cupcakes.
I forgot the 'rap the pan' part, which is why you can see the giant air bubbles. Not too pleasing to look at but still delicious.
The buttercream recipe is obviously missing. I won't post it till I get it right!
If you're making the cake a day ahead, wait until it is completely cool before wrapping in several layers of plastic wrap. You can refrigerate it or keep it room temp after that. For a firmer cake that's easier to level and work with, I suggest refrigerating.
Cake adapted from Smitten Kitchen