Monday, 21 June 2010

Aging always feels better with cake - 30th Birthday Cake.

I love birthdays and always feel genuinely distressed at the number of people who prefer to leave the occasions unmarked. OK, so the growing older, wrinklier and creakier of joints bit isn't much fun, but that's not the fault of birthdays per se. It's the gradual work of the brutal hand of time, pointing its nasty, little, jeering finger at us, giving us age spots and making us wake up several times in the night to go for a wee. Poor old birthdays cop the flack because they make us take note and take stock of ourselves and our bodies. Forcing us to remember that this time last year we could touch our toes, sit down without making a "what a relief" groaning noise and were left unphased by overly loud music in bars. But birthdays themselves, without the weight of blame and responsibility we lumber them with, are truly wonderful things and should be celebrated as such.

You get cards and presents and phonecalls from child relatives singing "Happy Birthday" songs at you. You get text messages, Facebook messages and emails sending best wishes for a wonderful day. You get bought lots of drinks and don't get judged for drinking every single one of them. You get £5's worth of free stuff from The Body Shop if you've got a loyalty card. But, most importantly, you get to celebrate with people you really really like, in the same room, at the same time, on a particular fixed date. If ever I have tried to arrange a get together with more than 6 people, the dates are thrown back and forth and swapped about so many times, that, more often than not, it ends up never happening. This doesn't happen on birthdays, because the date isn't negotiable. It just is when it is. Granted, there are always people who can't come, but that's OK, it just means more celebrations are to be had with them at another time, and more cake can be eaten.

True to form, I have managed to have four celebrations for one birthday already this year. I like to drag them out for as long as humanly possible. The last celebration was on Saturday night and it was a joint party with two dear friends of old. We lived together as students at Leeds University and had fairly regular parties at our gaff back in the day. This time round we made mixtapes and banners, but what's a birthday party without a cake?

I made a two tier cake, iced in light blue sugar paste. The top tier was a sachertorte (a Viennese chocolate cake named after the Sacher Hotel) and the bottom tier was a chocolate and black cherry cake: a grateful nod to a childhood favourite - the black forest gateau, which gets a very undeserved bad press these days. I decorated the bottom tier with Spring/Summery flowers, bumble bees (a personal favourite addition to any cake) and butterflies. I painted the top tier with clouds, a big red kite, a "V" formation flight of birds and a big gold "30". For all the painting, I used edible powder dye mixed with melted cocoa butter. For the flower heads and butterflies I used floristry paste with royal icing centres and I used sugar paste for the bumble bees. The photo is unfortunately very dark as it was quite late at night by the time the camera came out, but in real life, the cake's colours were bright and sunny.

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