My Birthday Cake

A few weeks ago when I was figuring out what I wanted to do to celebrate my 29th birthday — dinner with friends? a weekend trip? — I decided that I wanted to spend the entire weekend (and an unlimited budget for Callebaut chocolate!) decorating a really fancy cake to share with my friends and family on Sunday night, my birthday.

The cake is four tiers of my absolute favorite chocolate cake. A  client of mine gave me the recipe after I tasted it at a dinner party she hosted; it was the most delicious cake I’d ever had and I was practically drooling in between bites as I asked her where it had come from. She told me it was her mother’s recipe and a family secret but a few days later I received a hand-written card in the mail from her with the recipe for both the cake and the icing! It is seriously one of my most favored possessions, and every time I make it people go nuts for it. And of course, every time I make it I tweak it slightly so it gets bigger, better, and fancier!

I’ve always loved making cakes and cookies, and I especially love piping icing and playing with chocolate, so I couldn’t have picked a more exciting way to celebrate my birthday. I started out on Thursday night by making the dark chocolate roses. Each rose is shaped by pressing a tiny ball of chocolate clay (made by mixing melted chocolate and corn syrup, letting it set up and then kneading it until it’s pliable) into the shape of a petal and clustering a number of them all around each other. It’s a labor-intensive and tedious process, especially when you are making three dozen of them, but I’m weird like that and think it’s fun! It’s hard for me to explain just how intensely satisfying this kind of thing is to me, but there’s really nothing I enjoy more.

In spite of said enjoyment, however, by Friday night chocolate wasn’t the only thing melting down… I wound up despondent and on the phone with my sister, lamenting the fact that (and wondering why) I can’t just be a normal person and be satisfied with, like, a Duncan Hines funfetti sheet cake, or something… Why do I feel so compelled by these profound urges to create the complex and extraordinary?! Why do I turn almost everything I do into an elaborate make-work-project? Thankfully, though, my existential crisis was short-lived; Saturday was a blur of creative rapture and by the time I finished the cake at 6 p.m. on Sunday — barely an hour before my guests would arrive — I was jumping up and down, laughing almost maniacally at having pulled this off. I was so excited; nothing makes me happier than creating something beautiful — especially if it tastes delicious, like this cake, or feels exquisite, like one of my dresses — and sharing it with people that I love!

10 Comments

  1. Colettie don’t change!! If you weren’t ‘compelled by these profound urges to create the complex and extraordinary’ you wouldn’t be you!! I remember the first time I took you to Jefferson’s! It was like taking a child to a candy store! I was in awe as I watched you shop!! You’re amazing!! Brilliant! Talented! Awe inspiring! The most creative person I know!!!
    (now with this praise can I have the recipe??!!!!)

  2. I think you should re-brand your business to offer high-end wedding cake – wedding gown combos. Who does that? No one! Gorgeous work, sis. Hope you had a fantastic day.

  3. Colette, it’s amazing and I totally understand! You are extremely talented and I am proud to call you a friend… keep it up. And, I agree, you could totally do dresses AND cakes!

  4. Beautiful. I’m drooling wishing I could try it! I’m sure my son would love it, too. He is a self-proclaimed “chocolate boy.”
    Happy belated birthday. Sounds like a good one!

  5. Exquisite work–but no surprises there! This cake needs to be in a magazine–except you’d need to use a different recipe to protect the family’s secret recipe.

  6. Beautiful work as always. I think it is wonderful that you have that patience and talent to make something so beautiful, whether it is made of flour and sugar or silk and satin. I find myself drawn to similar things, though at this stage of my life with two kids, I rarely find the time to act on such urges. I hope it was as good as it looks. Stunning!

  7. Colette, you are so gifted! To be able to see and create with such aptness ~ ambrosial! Such a beautiful cake! Happy Belated Birthday! The cake does look de-lish!!

  8. Well, the birthday cake you made for me had NINE layers. That said, this iteration TOTALLY DOMINATES. (Note the self control — not even a mention of “takes the cake” or some other horrible food-related pun). Happy Really Really Really Belated Birthday!!! -Brad

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