Yesterday was Otto’s birthday. I like it very much when Otto has a birthday, because he is the youngest man I’ve ever dated (I, apparently, used to have a thing for older men), and it is only between his birthday and the following summer when I have MY birthday that I can claim he’s a year older than I am.
(Why yes, his birthday IS all about me. Why do you ask?)
I have been ribbing Otto for a while about what we’d do for his birthday, because my birthday this year didn’t work out all that well, due to a number of circumstances. It wasn’t a big deal, really, but you have to understand that Otto completely and totally screwed himself the year of my divorce—when life had been running at maximum suckitude for several years already—by making my birthday not only a veritable festival of extravagance and pampering, but he somehow managed to draw the whole thing out for about a month. (“It’s your birthday week!” he’d say, and then “It’s your birthday month!” after that, and by the time he was into “It’s your birthday quarter!” even I had to concede that possibly this was enough.) Anyway, dude neglected to pace himself, is all I’m sayin’.
Nevertheless, I am not about payback. I am about making birthdays as awesome as possible, because when you love someone, what better way to show it than to celebrate their birth with toys and frosting?
(No frosting ON the toys, though. That would be gross.)
So, I’d mentioned that Otto had requested a red velvet cake, and after reading through your comments and perusing recipes, I decided I was ready to take this on.
Understand that until fairly recently, I firmly believed that homemade cakes came from a box of mix. As with nearly anything baking-related, I have since (for the most part) been pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to actually make things entirely from scratch. So with the task before me I figured it would be NO PROBLEM.
First there was the grocery shopping. Three separate trips, because first they didn’t have any red food coloring and then I realized I had no cocoa powder (and oh! the arguments for and against “dutch” vs. “non-dutch” in various recipes, lord). Ingredients assembled, I set to work the day before.
Well, I ran out of canola oil. Of course. It would not be ME BAKING unless I ran out of something and had to improvise. I, um, topped off with olive oil. Delicious! Just like Grandma used to make, if Grandma was Italian and a little bit tipsy!
The recipe I used called for parchment paper on the bottom of the cake pans. That’s, like, the third recipe in a row demanding parchment and OKAY, I GET IT, I SHOULD BUY SOME. But in the meantime, a quick consultation with Google confirmed that I could use wax paper instead. I braced myself for waxy cake but it worked out alright in the end.
During the egg part I managed to drop an egg on the floor. But at least Monkey was on the phone with his dad when that happened. “Mama is baking a cake and she totally just threw an egg on the floor! But I think it’s okay. She has lots of eggs. I wonder if she’s gonna drop another one.” (Thanks, buddy. With your vote of confidence I did manage to muddle through.)
And finally I reached the moment of truth, when I decided to STAY TRADITIONAL and YES, I dumped TWO ENTIRE BOTTLES of red food coloring into my batter. And I continued to use the mixer on low, because the recipe warned me that IT MIGHT SPLATTER.
Let me tell you something. Red food coloring WILL NOT BE DENIED. Red food coloring does not care if you are stirring at a rate of one revolution per YEAR, it will FIND A WAY to get all over your kitchen. By the time I poured that damn batter into the three waiting cake pans, it looked very much as if I had slaughter a medium-sized lamb in the kitchen. Also, I STILL have red stains on my hands. (Out, out damn spot!)
No matter. This was all for the man I LOOOOOOOVE.
The cake layers sat in the fridge overnight, and yesterday I made the frosting and leveled the layers and finished it off. The frosting was without incident, but I did discover that there is no tidy way to put coconut on the sides of your cake. I mean, I considered sticking a large dowel up through the bottom and then just rolling the entire thing in some coconut as if it was a giant lollipop, but I thought better of it.
And in the end? Well, we showered Otto with birthday wishes yesterday at breakfast, then he came home a bit early so that we could do presents before dinner. We went out and had a really nice time at a local Mexican place, then came home to top off the day with cake.
The cake was… fine. Good. Not stupendous. A little overcooked, actually, I think, which has me thinking we really need to get a thermometer for our oven, because this is not the first time I have begun to suspect it’s running a little hot. Nevertheless, it’s cake, and that’s good.
The very best part of the cake experience, I think, was Monkey waving his fork around in consternation, declaring he really needed to not have “so much pineapple” on it.
So, you know, we had the traditional “coconut and pineapple are two different things” discussion. Like everyone else. (What? You don’t do that? Oh. Um. Hey, look over there! Something shiny!)
I think Otto had a nice day despite the less-than-stellar cake.
Happy birthday, baby. I love you truly, madly, deeply, and will always celebrate the day you came into this world.
P.S. Next year we are buying a cake.
P.P.S. You are old. Ha!