I’m really happy when someone requests for a chocolate cake. And Jane did just that for her 17th birthday this year.
I knew exactly which cake to bake for her. It was one of those…never baked before but looks extremely good from the recipe and have been bookmarked for ages…kind of cake. Not surprisingly, this cake is one of Pierre Herme’s – the Autumn Meringue Cake. This cake was described as a simple cake that “tantalises, satisfies, and delights your five senses” in Pierre Herme’s cookbook and I’ve no doubt that this cake did just that.
This year, all the children (including the plus ones) decided that for my mom’s birthday this year, we will take her to bali! This surprise has been a long one coming since we conceptualized the idea more than a year ago. We had wild ideas for this surprise and had planned to secretly pack my mom’s suitcase and drive her straight to the airport. In the end, we decided to tell her during yet another surprise – home-cooked breakfast. We whipped up a complete breakfast with ham and cheese savory crepes and sweet crepes with blackberries, strawberries and banana. Unfortunately, Jon couldn’t take leave and therefore couldn’t join us for breakfast so the night before, he scripted and recorded this ridiculous video of himself and Jane as his “apprentice” to lead my mom to find Joy, where he had wrapped a paper around Joy’s collar with his Happy Birthday message. While there were many pictures taken of the morning, I’ll not be posting any of the pictures because besides the garden and food that looks extremely good, everything else in the photo (i.e. all the people) look terrible with unwashed faces, no makeup and in PJs. Hey, we jumped out of bed very early to make breakfast okay!
The number of lies we told to make this happen were quite amazing. Since it was the weekend before Chinese New Year, we had to try to fend off all plans that my mom were trying to make. We had a whatsapp group among the children where frequent desperate messages like “Mom just told me that she wants to arrange for this pickup during the weekend. how How HOW?” Very often did we have to solve the issues with a multi-prong approach, with me dissuading her in Singapore saying that it is too near Chinese New Year and that we would already have so many things to do, with my brother calling from the US telling her that he has appointments already booked for the weekend. It was quite hilarious since my mom was oblivious to what was happening that weekend and even during the dinner before the weekend, my mom was planning what we would need to accomplish in preparation for Chinese New Year. I must say, it was tough keeping our mouths shut! (Note: photos are taken by my brother, myself and Donny using a combination of my brother’s Canon SLR and the iphone)
For birthdays within my family, it is somewhat unspoken that not only am I tasked (as always) to bake a delicious birthday cake, I am also usually expected to bake a cake I’ve never baked before!
As years go by and as the number of someday-I’m-definitely-going-to-bake-this-stunning-cake type of recipes are used up one by one, I found it especially hard to find the perfect cake for my mom’s birthday this year. I thought pretty long and hard, looked on the internet to look for the perfect recipe and when I couldn’t, I turned to my pile of trusty baking books to gain some inspiration. It was just a couple of days before her birthday did I finally set my mind on which cake I was gonna bake – Pierre Herme’s Melody Cake.
The recipe for this cake was almost 10 pages long and referenced 3 different parts of the book. It had quite a number of components and while it was quite intimidating, I was so ready for a challenge! This cake turned out to be quite manageable, in hindsight, but I do recall being really nervous and careful as I was making all the different components and it definitely didn’t help that the recipe would say stuff like…”extremely fragile”. The cake consists of 7 layers (starting from the bottom): cinnamon cookie, genoise, twenty-hour apples, bavarian cream, genoise, cinnamon cookie, sliced apples.
It’s Joy’s third birthday today!
For her birthday, I decided to get her her favorite can food from Fancy Feast (this is not a Fancy Feast ad!) She really really loves Fancy Feast and would purr so loudly every time she’s eating it or sees me opening the can. I also decided to make her 2 toys – a stuffed toy mouse and a catnip fish. She’s such a lucky cat :P
The next time you decide to light a candle on food for your pet, remember that your pet might not care too much that there is fire. That’s exactly what happened to Joy as she tried to sniff her food, only to realized that tips of her whiskers were starting to light on fire! Hilarious but so dangerous, tsk.
If Joy actually knew that today’s her birthday, and that she is supposed to be treated like a special queen, I wouldn’t be surprised if she thought that birthdays are the worst. As I was making her catnip toy, all should could do was look, smell and wait. She waited so patiently for me to fill the fish with catnip she must have almost gone crazy. Then, as soon as I was done with her catnip toy, without letting her take a whiff of it, these humans opened her absolute favorite thing to eat, and had to put a candle, prevent her from eating it, just to take a picture for their own satisfaction. Well Joy, you have to work for food in the real world, yknow!
As soon as we took the candle off, she dived into her food. She was so pleased that she started eating with her eyes closed and purring ever so loudly. There’s my contented cat!
Pardon me, but I can’t resist not putting this picture up:
After Joy ate, she leaped off into the garden and there she was. Happy, full, alert, and a year older.
To me, birthday cakes are an integral part to any birthday celebration. I am quite sticky about this, and maybe a tad too opinionated. I always feel that no matter how great a birthday celebration is, something is always missing when there is no birthday cake.
Just as I am thinking a little more about why I feel this way, I guess what makes a birthday really special is during that couple minutes where the whole group, as one, dedicates a birthday song to that person. It is really that couple of minutes that everyone comes as one, and focuses on wanting to give joy to someone else. In a society where we many a time take things for granted and move too quickly, stopping for a couple of minutes to appreciate someone’s life really makes a difference.
In my family, celebrating the day you’re born is really more like celebrating the week you’re born :P
Due to busy work schedules, we usually find it hard to arrange an actual birthday dinner and end up celebrating birthdays all through the week. It is actually pretty awesome since you get to have many nice dinner treats and get to have many birthday cakes. It’s even more awesome for Jon and I, since we treat the “birthday week” (maybe it should be birthweek, haha) like a special week for that individual. This means that since last week was Jon’s birthday week, he got to tell me things like “help me go get a glass of water. It’s my birthday week!” And I’ll just have to do it. I can’t wait for my turn in November! *sinister laugh*