There’s no butter in my fridge.
It’s not because I’m on some kind of health-nut diet. You know me better than that. It’s actually because I’ve been doing a lot of baking lately. The more-than-usual lot. This makes Shawn a bit nervous. How’s he supposed to stay slim with so many tempting sweets around?
Every year, I bake a new type of cake for his birthday and he deserves the attention. This tradition came about when we first started dating. It was a time long before food blogs and the internet at your fingertips. The first year, it was a Coconut Macaroon Strawberry Shortcake.
Sweet & simple.
I tried and tried to make that cake. And, the more things went wrong, the more determined I was to get it right.
This birthday cake was going to leave all the others in the dust. Weeks of planning had gone into play.
Miss Daisy and I had been holding power meetings over weekend breakfasts for months, discussing all the details…the gift (a new desk from me and a lovely lamp and Aussie candies from Daisy), the menu, table decor, venue, etc, etc, etc.
Scouring food blogs, cooking magazines, chef websites, cookbooks, we were looking for something over-the-top, something to make Shawn’s face light up.
Thinking about interesting food I’d have, I remembered Houston.
I nearly busted a rib.
Look, I’m all for innovative food, but nothing foofoo.
So, now what?
One look at Daisy and it hit me: Keep it simple.
We’d put two favourites into one: Sponge cake & Pavlova (crispy meringue).
It was a winning idea!
Shawn’s birthday officially fell on a Wednesday this year. There wasn’t much time for baking.
Mom & Dad came over to watch Daisy. We went to a bistro for a cozy date.
When we came home, Daisy was already asleep. So, the four of us celebrated with a beautiful mini cake I’d picked up from a nearby bakery.
Saturday was the official celebration and I was really looking forward to it. A big day was in the works to have a dinner & movie night with the kids and the rest of the family.
In the morning, my sister Nat & I reported to cooking class with Mom.
(Don’t worry – I’ll give you the recipe.)
Mom also taught us to make Grandma’s curry, a mild take on an Indian classic. I’ve made this one on my own a dozen times and it never turns out like Mom’s.
I don’t know
what she does,
but just plain ol’ onions browning in olive oil smell crazy good!
Thanks to Mom, dinner was ready, but there was still so much to do. Somewhere in that crazy, busy day, I had to make his double-the-goodness cake.
Add fresh raspberries?
That was the plan,
but honestly, I wasn’t sure I’d pull it off.
It’s not like me to be pessimistic. So I pulled up my sleeves and went right to work. I had two full-proof recipes.
To manage the sweetness, I decided to forego the custard and do a simple light whipped cream filling instead.
My niece & nephew helped Shawn with the candles and we cut right into the cake.
It was a hit! Crunchy, soft & spongy, a tinge of tart from the raspberries with just right amount of sweetness.
Here are the blueprints:
Berry Pavlova Sponge Cake
Part One: Easy Sponge Cake
What to Get:
3/4 cup cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
4 eggs, room temp, separated
1 tsp cream of tartar
splash of good vanilla
What to Do:
Preheat oven to 350*F
Grease and flour two round 8″ cake pans.
Sift flour with baking soda.
Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form.
Gradually add sugar, then egg yolks.
Gently fold in the flour & baking soda
Divide batter between the two 8-inch round cake tins.
Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Remove from oven and but leave cakes in tins for 10 minutes.
Remove them from the tins and cool over a metal rack.
Part Two: Simple Pavlova
Adapted from Nigella’s Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova
What to Get:
3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 tsp white vinegar
What to Do:
Preheat to 325*F.
Using a pencil or a Sharpie, place one of the round cake tins onto a piece of wax paper and trace around the
tin to form a circle of the same size.
Flip the paper over so that the marking is on the bottom and place the paper onto a cookie sheet.
Whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Then gently incorporate the sugar until shiny. Finish w the vinegar.
Gently spread the egg-white mixture into the circular space outlined on the wax paper.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the Pavlova is crispy on the outside, but spongy on the inside.
Part Three: Assembly
What to Get:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
splash of vanilla
1 cup fresh raspberries (or any fruit you like)
1/4 cup shaved chocolate
What to Do:
Whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Gently add the powdered sugar and vanilla.
Place one of the sponge cakes onto a cake plate and smooth 1/3 of the whipped cream on top.
Place the meringue/Pavlova over the cream and top with another smooth layer of cream.
Top with the second cake and smooth the last of the whipped cream.
Arrange fresh berries and sprinkle with shaved chocolate. Now you’re a rockstar.
Just resist swiping your finger across for a taste. 😉
This berry Pavlova Sponge cake is quite out of character for me. It’s not the usual easy, quick number.
But, on the plus side, no advanced degree in astrophysics or civil engineering is required to bake it – just some patience.
You also need someone very special in your life, someone who deserves all the fuss.
In honor of Shawn’s birthday, I’m offering a $10 gift certificate to etsy!
It’s my fav online marketplace, bursting with one-of-a-kind items, like cute clothes for kids made by stay-at-home moms and even edible goodies.
All you have to do is tell me what’s your favorite birthday cake.
This contest IS open to my overseas friends. Aussie Posse welcome!
Winner will be selected randomly and announced on Thursday, February 28th.
I didn’t marry for money. We don’t have a butler nor any Italian beauties nestled in a 10-car garage.
But at the end of the day, when I leave my dingy cubicle and walk through the front door, I can’t help but smile with excitement.