Right after Christmas, begins the countdown to March. Why? Because someone thought it would be funny if my entire family was born in March. I, however, am the lone wolf. I was born in July. So you’re welcome family. In the past, I’d always spend days trying to find the right birthday card. This fabled card would contain the perfect amount of wit, humor and sass. If I didn’t stumble upon anything that made me smile, then I’d go for the next best thing. I don’t have any pregnant friends at the moment, but it’s always fun to send one of those to your brother on his birthday. I’m kooky like that. So even if you get the card, you still have to remember to send the card out in time. Sometimes March would just appear out of nowhere and my Dad’s birthday, a mere four days into the month, would arrive and no card had been sent. Then I’d have to plan on my Mom and brother’s birthdays. Their birthdays are one right after the other. And even though I’ve known them my entire life, you would think I would remember who’s is who’s. But I don’t always. It gets confusing. I’d say my Mom’s was first because she was first. But then I’d doubt myself and say my brother was first because he’s the younger one and what a great way to ruin a birthday by making your mother sit in pain as people stare at her in a gown, all sweaty, yelling at her to “Push!!” When I met Lance and he told me his birthday was the March 8, I knew right there that I’d more than likely be marrying the guy. It just made sense. Stupid March Birthdays.
Update: I still failed at cards this year. And phone calls. I got one card out. Although for the last birthday, I blame getting sick at the very end. Maybe one year I’ll get it all done perfectly. Maybe I should start planning now! You would think that for someone who loves making to-do lists and planning as much as me, I’d have my act together. But we all have our weaknesses. Maybe it’s my subconscious telling all those March birthdays to screw themselves and spread out and share some birthday love with the other eleven months in the year. I’ve only just figured out that it’s much easier to do cakes. Crazy right? I guess that’s just how my foodie brain works. Most of the Christmas gifts I give are usually food themed too. Interesting. I ended up making just two cakes this March. It’s hard to get everyone together. Or mail a cake.
Lance’s birthday was first. That was the one where I attempted to make the Coconut Disaster cake. Not a total disaster, but also not what I wanted. And I’m sure a bit of a letdown to Lance. I also know I’m much harder on myself. So when I knew I’d be heading home to my parents for my Mom’s birthday, I took the opportunity to redeem myself with another cake. This time, I stuck to what I knew would work. And of course it did (thank God!). Knowing that I was making a cake, I thought about what kind of cake I could do. I’d be able to get three birthday people at once. So something somewhat generic that everyone would love, but also something easy to decorate, but beautiful to look at. I ended up going with strawberries and chocolate. It’s Spring. The perfect time for that. And who doesn’t like those two ingredients? (Ok, my Uncle for one. He’s allergic to chocolate. That’s up there with being allergic to bacon. I don’t think I could go on.)
You want to start with the cake first. For this particular cake, I wanted to soak it in strawberry syrup, so I knew I wanted to use a sponge cake. A cake that isn’t really all that tasty, but can take a good soaking and throw all that flavor back in your face. Ever since I learned how to make a Genoise in culinary school, it’s all I ever make for a sponge cake. It only take a few ingredients, most of which I usually have on hand, and isn’t all that much work if you’ve got a stand mixer. Seriously, you just throw everything in the mixer and do nothing for 20 minutes. So easy.
Strawberry syrup sounds much fancier and complicated than it actually is. Throw some strawberries into a pot of sugar and water, bring to a boil, turn it off and then you just let it soak for a day. If you’ve got a strawberry liqueur on hand, a drop of that wouldn’t hurt at all. If you end up with any extra syrup, the best thing to do is strain it and then leave it in your fridge. Use it for making cocktails. You’ll thank me later. I also like to make the syrup ahead of time. Often what I will do is make the syrup and then pop it into the fridge, strawberries and all, and let it sit for a couple days to help intensify the flavor.
Then there’s the buttercream. Light, fluffy, amazing buttercream. It’s what dreams physically look like. Traditionally, there are three buttercreams: French, Italian and Swiss. There’s technically a fourth if you include American. But I don’t. I’ll explain at a later date. Let’s just focus on the real buttercream on hand. Swiss buttercream is where my heart lies. It’s airy and wispy, sweet and buttery and full of flavor. I have a base buttercream recipe I’ve come to love and so I always end up modifying that to get the desired outcome. This time I experimented (this time it worked) with some freeze dried strawberries. If you can find them, use them. I just crushed them up with the handle of a wooden spoon until dusty. It helps flavor and color the buttercream with effecting the texture.
Lastly is chocolate. Ganache, to be exact. There is no chocolate in the cake. Because the chocolate is ON the cake. The reason is two-fold. First, it just looks really great. Second, I’m just lazy when it comes to decorating a cake. But this was a birthday cake, so I added some fresh strawberries layered into the cake and some on top. A nice bright contrast with the dark brown coating.
So how did it turn out? I would say pretty darn great. Lots of strawberry flavor, a light cake, a sweet but not overly filling frosting and deep, rich chocolate. Great with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. And lastly, Happy Birthday!