Life is full of cycles and surprises.
Of late, my family circle has been experiencing a birthday cycle of the zero years, the “round birthdays,” as friend Lee calls them. It began with Madeleine’s 30th last September, followed by
my mom’s 80th in February, and now, gasp, Bill’s 60th.
For a man who 1. needs nothing and 2. is rather chagrined at the sound of …utter it in low, almost inaudible tones…Sixty, this particular birthday presented a bit of a challenge.
How to make something new…different…memorable?
A bonafide surprise party , that hadn’t been done for the man!
We did manage to pull it off, no easy feat. I had Bill convinced that while I had planned to give him a dinner party at our home on his actual birthday–a Monday—too many friends were unable to come that night. Jenn had to study for an exam, for starters. Wendy and Jim had to meet up with the relatives from Tupelo, no getting out of that.
” We’ll do it Friday, instead, when everyone can come. You don’t mind, do you?” I said.
A shake of the head. No.
“Roger invited us to the Indian restaurant,” I continued. “It’ll be fun.”
A smile and a nod.
Everyone was instructed to show up at said Indian restaurant at 6pm, with cars parked out-of-sight and a toast or a roast in hand. We’d arrive at 6:15.
It all worked like a symphony.
In the meantime, I had to furtively make this singular cake that ended up showcasing two of Bill’s faves: strawberry and chocolate.
To be truthful, I had started out to make a fresh strawberry cake, which would have been perfectly delicious in and of itself. But, then I remembered a lone layer of chocolate cake in the freezer—wouldn’t that be scrumptuous sandwiched between two strawberry ones?
Sometimes I surprise myself.
The strawberry cake is simple to make—and perfect timing:local berries are just now coming in. It is especially nice with cream cheese icing, recipe found here. If you add a chocolate layer, some chocolate ganache icing, and strawberries in syrup spread over the dense cake will push it over the top.
3 c. fresh Strawberries
11/2 c. Sugar
1 c. Butter, melted
1 c. Milk
1 t. Vanilla
2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour, sifted twice
1 T. Baking Soda
1/2 t. Salt
2 9″ cake pans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Pulse strawberries in a food processor fitted with a swivel blade until pureed.
In a mixer, whip together strawberries with sugar, milk, vanilla. Beat in eggs., then flour, baking soda, and salt. Pour in melted butter and beat well. Pour into 2 (” cake pans that have been coated and lined with parchment. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove, cool on racks.
Post Script: What a difference a week can make: Nashville and surrounding counties have all been inundated by drastic rainfall–over 15″ in only two days. We had a flooded basement-about 8″ of water in Bill’s studio, but got it pumped out. Many, many friends have experienced much worse. A flood of historic proportions affecting unlikely, unforeseen places. All kinds of surprises in life—and all best thoughts to those who lost so much.