Snow – bah humbug! There have been many years when Carm’s birthday has been snow free with crocuses pushing through the grass, ones where we’ve been out in t-shirts and having lunch in the sun. Alas, it is still very much winter out there, with the current temp at –5C and it is in fact snowing as I write this.
I started making his traditional burnt sugar birthday cake yesterday afternoon after I got back from the writing group meeting. There are several steps and since I only make a cake once or twice a year it takes me some time. First sugar is slowly melted until it is a dark golden brown. A volcano of splattering sugar erupts when I add the boiling water. The syrup boils until it is a bit thicker than maple syrup.
Butter is whipped in my stand mixer until it is a fluffy butter colour – oh, it was an almost dead match with the painting we did last fall. Sugar is added, the crystals blending with the butter in a creamy mixture. Now is when I add the cooled syrup and the pale yellow is suddenly transformed into a rich, red brown (almost the same colour as Kabira). Flour and milk mix together and the cake batter is ready. Hurray for stand mixers as there is much beating required.
My oven has only a variable temperature setting – meaning it doesn’t matter what you set it at, it will chose it’s own temp. Not good for cake making, but I kept a close eye on it, adjusting the knob as the oven thermometer varied. I’ve baked dry, crumbly versions many times, but I’m happy to say that this year’s was moist.
This morning I made the icing – heaps of brown sugar, butter and cream that boil on the stove creating sweet fumaroles. At just the right moment the pot is whisked off the stove and a few more ingredients are added. The electric beaters whisk it up until it is just about to turn into fudge. The caramel aroma almost makes me swoon. I stop the beaters and we have 1 1/2 minutes to get it on the cake before it hardens into fudge and is unworkable. It is a two person job to ice this cake!
Remember when your mom let you lick the beaters? She was being a pretty good mom cause I bet she wanted to lick them herself! Carm and I each got a beater and then fought over the pot. yummmmmmm.
It was hard to resist cutting into it right away but we stepped back to let the icing fully set and cool. Fresh coffee was brewed and enjoyed with wedges of splendid sugary cake. Oh… the sugar rush!
I like birthday cake. It's so symbolic. It's a tempting symbol to load with something more complicated than just 'Happy birthday!' because it's this emblem of childhood and a happy day. ~Aimee Bender
The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it. ~Jean-Paul Satre