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Monday, April 20, 2009

April 20th... my birthday!

I have had a sweet tooth since the day I was born!  Who doesn't enjoy a birthday cake?  Vanilla, Italian cream, German Chocolate, it doesn't really matter to me. I like all cakes, pies, cookies, etc... My mother was a terrific cook. Duck a l'orange, Greek Leg of Lamb, Stews, Soups, Salads, appetizers were all terrific.  The one thing she did not enjoy was baking. We rarely had flour in the house. Was it because she didn't like sweets? Flour made such a mess in the kitchen? Not sure. I think it's a combination of both really.  She finally started purchasing flour when I graduated from the Easy Bake Oven and advanced to "real" baking.  Of course, my parents would gladly visit the bakery for a birthday cake (In Atlanta, it was the Rich's bakery downtown...but more on that later).  

When I advanced to the "real" oven, I took an interest in making my own birthday cakes! I enjoyed making them, the family enjoyed eating them, and I always liked them.  I remember when I made my first yellow cake with cream cheese frosting.  I knew that I liked cream cheese, so I doubled the recipe!!  I remember to this day, that I tinted the frosting green. I guess because pale green is a lovely spring color.   Needless to say, I think others left quite a bit of frosting on their plates.  Not me, I enjoyed every bit...... didn't feel so great the next day, but that hasn't stopped me from eating cream cheese frosting.  It has stopped me from doubling the recipe though.

Mom had several cookbooks.  I would read them from cover to cover.  I still continue this pleasure with the hundreds of cookbooks I have collected over the years.  I especially liked her book of recipes from all over the world.  What a way to learn about other cultures.  My love for Paris developed the first time my family set foot in the wonderful "City of Light".  Of course, my birthday cake one year had to reflect the passion I felt for that city.  I was only 12 years old or so on my first visit, but the foods I remember fondly.  I made a "Paris Brest". It is supposedly named for the bicycle race between the cities of Paris and Brest.  The cake is made of a pastry called choux (similar to that of an eclair).   The pastry is shaped in a circular shape to represent the wheel.  It is cut in half and filled with a cream.  The cream can vary, but I know I used a custard cream.  Not difficult to make really, just takes time.  Other favorite birthday cakes:

The Black Forest cake is wonderful. Filled with kirsch soaked cherries, rich chocolate, and topped with whipping cream. What's not to love?  

Greek Baklava!!! It's not a cake, but it's MY birthday and I made it!  Just put a few candles in it and voila, a birthday treat.

There have been many others too.  I think the favorite cake of my children has to be the Krispy Kreme Donut Cake.  A platter of Krispy Kreme Donuts stacked like a pyramid with, of course, candles on top!

This year, my aunt had a yellow cake with fudge frosting. It was delicious.  Also on a platter were several Greek cookies, candy, and cake from a delicious Greek Bakery in the Atlanta area. What a treat!

My sons know that birthday cakes are not typical at our house.  As a matter of fact, not much is typical about birthdays.  My sons are 18 and almost 21, their cake may be an ice cream cake, cookie cake, two layer cake, donut cake, or a special cake yet to be revealed on my son's birthday May 4th.  You'll have to wait and see.   They know that even now, mom might have "Bob the Builder", "Scooby Do", "Speedracer", "Blues clues", etc.... for their plates.  I'm young at heart, so they never know what to expect.

One of my fondest birthdays was when my two sons made me brownies! It was a delicious birthday treat! YUM

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Ingredients I must have in my kitchen (It's a long list, but I try and have these items on hand)

  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Cheese
  • Cumin
  • Curry
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresh Bread
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Greek Oregano
  • Kalamata Olives
  • Lemon ( At least 3 or 4 ALWAYS)
  • Peppers (Wax, Jalapeno, banana)
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Regular Olive Oil
  • Rice
  • Salad Ingredients
  • Sea Salt
  • Spanish Olives
  • White Balsamic Vinegar