Thursday, June 30, 2011

Avoid the Birthday Alternative

Birthdays come and go, and they mean different things depending on who you are and how fragile your psyche is about getting wrinkles, droopage, and having to put your name in your undies so you and the nice lady who finds you wandering along a busy urban highway wearing said undergarments over your pants will know your name. I love the pic on my blog - it's me at my birthday party, I'm guessing year 3 maybe? I look snarly even then....but then it was probably a good thing I didn't smile a lot considering I had the front teeth of a mature beaver, albeit not as nicely spaced. But birthdays when you're a kid are almost always don't know what's going to happen to you in what seems like just a few short years.

Because of all the kids in our family unit, most of our parties were just us, and that was plenty. Add grandparents if they're in the area and we still had a crowd around the dining room table to sing Happy Birthday in the most heinous notes we could Grampa went to his reward without us ever heeding his plea to "Let's sing it NICE this time!" Poor Grampa....he was a wonderful piano player and loved Lawrence Welk, and I'm sure we were a great musical disappointment to him. Mom always made a cake from a box, and frosting from scratch, and it was always good. Everyone had their favorites - I really only remember my older brother's was always German Chocolate with broiled coconut icing....can't even remember MY fave - cake was cake, and I didn't care what kind it was as long as I got a corner piece with lots of frosting.

One year mom made my cake in the shape of a butterfly, and it was so beautiful with colored coconut on was Saturday, so we had to go and help Father Aldo by stapling the church bulletins for the next day's Mass, so it was left on the table for our return and the big par-TAY. We got back and found the door open, and my cake had been violated by small hands....there were large chunks missing, and a bit of a mess....we followed the trail, and found that the little kids two doors down came over when we were gone, invited themselves in and had a little party all by themselves. We (me especially) were quite indignant that they only got scolded, and that she gave us their "dessert" of stale cupcakes she had lying around....I was ready for a trial and public hanging. Stupid little kids.

I think when I was in 3rd grade, I had my one and only REAL birthday where I got to invite girls from school. I have pix of that too....I am still mad at my Mom that she thought I would look cute in a pixie haircut "just like Sandy Duncan in Peter Pan!"....really? Nothing like taking a kid with a giant head, bigger teeth and not much in the way of social graces and shaving her head so she has to hide in the library at lunchtime so as not to get tied to the tetherball pole and smacked around for looking like a hare krisna without the tambourine. But my classmates came, I got some cool stuff (real GOLD giraffe necklace and ring...), and we had cake and ice cream while I wore a pretty dress (hand me down of course) and only got sent to my room once because I didn't want Debbie Lees to play with my new Barbie clothes and lose the shoes. I wasn't being selfish, it was my BIRTHDAY....moms are SO mean.

Now birthdays are passe....I like to spend them with Handsome Stranger, maybe my kids if they don't tease me if my undies are on the outside. The big milestones are always a crap shoot....never know when some relative is going to decide this is the one where they need to bust out the polident, depends, and the cane with the horn, rear view mirror and bicycle bell on it. Lucky for me, mine are mostly ambivalent about that day themselves, so rarely put themselves in a position for payback. There are far more embarrassing things you can do with two pink Hostess Snowballs than make them into a boobie cake, and I WILL utilize them if need be. I like the day to pass quietly and without fanfare....which is why I try to always take the day off from work. Altho with Tina around, you can't escape....she is one of those birthday fairies that WILL make sure everyone knows....but in nice ways so it's OK.

# 1 son had a birthday bash/hippie fest up here in the woods Saturday/Sunday and it was an absolute blast - great fun was had by all, young and old, hip and not so much. He tells me he doesn't like cake, and from my sketchy recollection (I just keep getting older), I do recall he always asked for blueberry cheesecake on his birthdays. This year he wanted strawberry-rhubarb pie, so who am I to say no? But since I know most of you would not even attempt such an undertaking, I will share two of my favorite frosting recipes, one from when I was a kid, the other from my wedding Betty Crocker cookbook - I put the French Silk one on chocolate fudge cake mix, and Creamy French on pretty much anything....but graham crackers are a fave! Cake is not cake without icing....and cake from a box is A-OK in my book! Lick the bowl, baby....

Creamy French Icing

I have no idea what makes this was in the St. Clare's cookbook, circa the 60's, so probably got the name from someone trying to be fancy. Or perhaps they used it to glue together an Eiffel Tower made of salty pretzel sticks?? Dunno....but it's "tres bien"!

2-3/4 C. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg (yup, I said egg....stop cackling, would I steer you wrong?)
2 T. water
1/4 C. sugar
1/2 C. shortening (butter flavor will make pale yellow frosting)
2 tsp. vanilla (so even if you use white shortening it will be beige-ish)

Mix powdered sugar, salt and egg in a bowl and beat with mixer until combined. Put water and sugar in small saucepan and bring to a boil, cook 1 minute or until sugar is dissolved, then pour in a thin stream over sugar/egg mixture and beat until smooth, scraping sides of bowl. Add shortening and vanilla, beat until fluffy.

My mom always put chopped walnuts in this and mixed it in - it seems weird to eat it without. I think it reminds me of divinity....but that is a judgement call, you can do what you like.

French Silk Frosting

This is just's light, fluffy and does not suffer in chocolate flavor just because it's not dark and fudgy looking - it's my fave choco frosting, and can transform a chocolate fudge, German chocolate, or even brownie mix into a stunning dessert....with the German choc I also put coconut-pecan filling in the middle, which requires me to go find my elastic waist pants.

2-2/3 C. powdered sugar
2/3 C. butter, softened
2 oz. melted unsweetened chocolate, cooled a little*
3/4 tsp. vanilla
2 T. milk

Beat powdered sugar, margaine and melted chocolate with vanilla in a small mixer bowl on low speed. Add milk gradually, beat until smooth and fluffy.

*OK, I never EVER had unsweetened chocolate on hand before - that stuff tastes like crap when you're looking for a choco fix. SO.....I always used the substitute: 1 T. shortening, melted + 3 T. cocoa powder PER OUNCE of chocolate. Melt the shortening in the microwave, then stir in the cocoa powder....and since I use the extra dark stuff, it gives it a much richer choco flavor. I think you can use sweet chocolate too....there really is no such thing as the WRONG chocolate.

There you go - now you can whip out a cake mix and frost it with one of these and tell everyone it's "home-made" without lying. Or you can just make a bowl of either one, then sit and watch all of the Anne of Green Gables DVD's and eat it with a spoon. Not that I would know anything about that....


  1. I used the "Creamy French" icing on a yellow cake, and the "French Silk" on a chocolate cake- rich and utterly delicious...
    I was doubling the recipes, so the combo of 5 cups of powdered sugar and butter in the Kitchen-Aid did make for a small, personal cloud and a good laugh too- where's the camera when you need it!

  2. I used the "Creamy French Icing" on a yellow cake and the "French Silk" Frosting on a chocolate cake- rich and utterly delicious- never looking back!
    I was doubling the recipes, so the combo of 5 cups of powdered sugar and butter in the Kitchen-Aid quickly made for a personal cloud and a good laugh :-D