Though he’s not here to spend it with me, today is Jarred’s 33rd birthday. And there are a lot more birthdays to follow close behind – for one, by the time he’s back in town, we’ll be about two days out from my mother’s birthday. This means I’m on cake. Cake on top of cake on top of cake.
As much as I like to bake, I was selfishly hoping someone would request I buy them an ice cream cake. No one ever requests ice cream cake, and never eating ice cream cake hardcore bums me out.
Jarred asked for this cake, which I almost feel bad about, because it involves about as much work as cornbread. I’ve made it before, and it’s great… but is he sure he wouldn’t like some sort of 12-layer cake instead? He’s sure. And just like that, we’re celebrating his Jesus birthday in a fashion that feels very ancient Rome. (N.B.: he also asked for birthday tabbouleh.)
[For the record, if you do have any call for a layer cake, I recommend the cake portion of this recipe. I can't speak to the frosting, and I have yet to be convinced that soaking a cake is ever a great idea, but the cake recipe itself is tops. Nice flat cakes with the perfect crumb for slicing crosswise and futzing around with.]
While I may be feeling slightly guilty about the lack of effort, when my mom asked what I was making for him, she visibly recoiled. The horrible thought of anyone eating an unfrosted (“do you at least top it with powdered sugar or something?”) cake flavored with extra virgin olive oil led to some obviously reactionary birthday cake requests of her own.
In case this recipe she immediately mentioned wasn’t obviously enough a direct response to his unacceptable birthday cake choice, she also started emailing me any other labor- (and calorie-)intensive recipe she’d come across in the past year. Even in an Eastern European family, does chocolate babka really say “birthday” any more than olive oil cake? Not really, but it does take an entire day and contain more than two pounds of chocolate, and so it entered the running.
By the time my own birthday in June rolls around, I will be sort of cake-weary, but I will say for weeks that I’m finally going to get my ice cream cake on, which I’ll then lose all enthusiasm for a day or two before the 15th. Because tradition is the something glue that holds something something together.