Beautiful birthday

“Do you want to have dinner on your birthday?” Shane asked me on the evening of Rose’s birthday (which happens to be exactly a week before mine). “In general, I like to have dinner every night.” I replied.

“Would you like pasta primavera for your birthday dinner?” he asked a little while later, as he perused the cookbook Rose gave him for Father’s day. “I would LOVE pasta primavera.” I said. “Let’s do dinner at my parent’s house. With the usual people. And early, so that Sid will be less likely to melt down. I know! A non-sit down dinner at a non-meltdown time!” Oh, I’m good.

Oh… I have good intentions.

Despite Sid’s numerous meltdowns, it was a lovely birthday dinner because the pasta was amazing and all of the salads were amazing and the cake—which was cut so fast I couldn’t get a picture—was my grandma’s recipe made by my mom, and had lots of chocolate in the middle and extra chocolate on the side. And most importantly, the people I love were there.

And we played Pictionary.

Happy birthday to me. xoxo


Summer birthdays

Labor Day 2016We close out every summer with a birthday celebration for my sister Anna. We either have steak or Mexican, and I almost always make a cake. This year was a steak year. But first, we had sidecar cocktails, veggies, dips, cheese, crackers, ribs from the smoker, shrimp cocktail, lots of family, 8 trips to the grocery store, an epic happy birthday song, and one husband almost lost at sea.

We really earned our sidecars that night. First, we had an awful lot of people and were just plain disorganized, thus the 8 trips to the store. Then, Shane decided to go for a nice kayak as hurricane Hermine approached.

Shane is a big, strong man, but he’s no match for a hurricane. While I decided whether to be mad at him for being dead, or mad at him for not showing up to make cocktails on time, my dad and Bob kept their wits about them. Dad and Bob drove around the bay looking for a big, stranded man and found him. He arrived back and made sure everyone had a sidecar in hand just in time for Sid to serenade his Auntie Anna.

Once we had everyone more or less intact, we sat down to steak accompanied by tater tots, Iceberg Wedge Salad, and ultimately Belgian chocolate Cake with Malted Chocolate Frosting (which some folks chose to eat as a Cake ‘n Cone).

I made Belgian chocolate Cake with Malted Chocolate Frosting for Anna’s birthday two years ago. It was amazing, but the filling—though interesting with white cake mix for flavoring—didn’t seem entirely worth the effort. This year I made it with just the malted chocolate frosting and 3 layers of moister-than-moist cake. It was a tremendous hit and I’ll be sure to make it again.

Thanks to all the folks who helped out with the kids and my mental state while Shane was off battling the hurricane and possibly dead. And happy, happy birthday Auntie Anna!




Many hapi returns

Lemon cakeThis was a special (hapi*) weekend. We had two wedding anniversaries and two birthdays to mark. We celebrated with a big dinner on the lawn by the beach, with lots of food and a real chill atmosphere. And cake, natch.

*There were no ordinary birthday candles, nor were we able to find the right letters to spell “happy” “birthday” “anniversary” or any of the initials of the folks being fetted.

We started the evening with local steamers dug by someone in our group, probably Drew. The young Patriots fans were particularly smitten with the clams.Young Pats fans love steamersThese beautiful paper straws looked so nice with the vegetarian appetizers. Olives and pretty strawsDinner was served buffet-style on a favorite old picnic table, which my mom and I insist on keeping even though it’s literally biodegrading before our eyes.Dinner on a licheny tableWhile one of my kids was napping and the other was out fishing, I revisited an old favorite cake recipe from the Silver Palate Cookbook. I chose glazed lemon cake, because I was not in the mood for chocolate mayonnaise cake and I wanted to use an analog recipe for a change. Lemon cake

• Glazed Lemon Cake •
From the Silver Palate Cookbook

½ pound ( 2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk (it’s ok to use regular milk mixed with 1 teaspoon white vinegar or lemon juice)
2 tightly packed tablespoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Lemon Icing (Recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 10-inch tube pan.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition.

Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Stir dry ingredients into egg mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Add lemon zest and juice and stir to combine.

Pour batter into prepared tube pan. Set on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes, or until cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool cake in the pan, set on a rack, for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and spread icing at once, while cake is still hot.

Lemon Icing
1 pound confectioners’ sugar, sifted
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 tightly packed tablespoons grated lemon zest
½ cup fresh lemon juice

Cream sugar and butter together thoroughly. Mix in lemon zest and juice; spread on warm cake.

Just another Cape birthday (not)

My little sister turned the big four-oh a few weeks ago. In a way, it was just another Cape birthday. We had a Mexican feast, we had Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake, we had a shitload of people.

The big difference this year—besides this being the end of her 30’s—is that my sister is married now! We all agree that it was worth the wait. Happy next decade little sis.

Post-wedding wedding party

A couple of weeks ago, on Father’s Day to be precise, my lovely sister and delightful now brother in law Chris, tied the knot in a surprise ceremony at Chris’ parents house. Actually, they crashed his mom’s party with said wedding, but I’m pretty sure she was cool with it.

It goes without saying that the next time the newlyweds came to the Cape, we had a party.

Dinner was salmon baked in parchment with leeks, an absolutely amazing red rice salad with edamame, walnuts, lemon and herbs (see below) made by Ronni, and a yummy green salad to round things off. It was pretty highbrow for the Cape. And delicious.

For dessert there was a wedding cake made by my mom (aka the mother of the bride). Our family favorite, the chocolate mayonnaise cake with mocha butter cream between the layers to make things fancy, and beach rose embellishments.

See photo captions above and click on images for a bigger view.

• Red (or Black) Rice Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette •
from Bon Appetit

1 cup black rice (we used red)
Kosher salt
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice or 3 tablespoons regular lemon juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon agave syrup (nectar) or honey
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
4 ounces green beans, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350°. Cook rice in a medium saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, 35-40 minutes. Drain well, spread out on a plate or a rimmed baking sheet, and let cool.
Meanwhile, spread out walnuts on another rimmed baking sheet. Toast in oven, tossing once, until fragrant, 8-10 minutes. Let cool; chop.
Whisk lemon juice, vinegar, and agave in a small bowl. Whisking constantly, gradually drizzle in oil. Season vinaigrette with salt.
Toss rice, walnuts, scallions, edamame, tomatoes, green beans, and vinaigrette in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.


 I’m always up for making a chocolate mayonnaise cake. Recipe here, enjoy!

Cake: Part 2

VeganCake_IMG_5261Remember the cake I made last weekend? I was testing out a recipe to bring to work to celebrate Jenya’s birthday. One of the gals on our team is vegan and lately I’ve been enjoying the challenge of making a delicious dessert that everyone in our group can enjoy.

This amazing vegan chocolate cake was a roaring success. It’s super-rich and moist, the frosting is heavenly, and it’s quick enough that you can make it after putting the kids to bed on a weeknight.

• Delicious Vegan Cake Topped with Chocolate Ganache •
cake from this recipe and this recipe

for the cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons neutral oil (like corn, canola, or vegetable)
1 cup cold water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

for the ganache:
6 ounces (1 cup) good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup coconut milk (I used the kind that you get in the dairy alternatives section of the grocery store)
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Heat the oven to 350° F. Mix together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar, and salt. Sift. In a separate bowl, whisk together the water, oil, vanilla, and vinegar. Whisk together the wet and dry mixtures. If lumpy, whisk until smooth, or pour through strainer in to a bowl and break up lumps, pressing them through. Mix again, and pour into a greased and lined 9-inch round cake pan. Tap the edge of the pan against the edge of the counter, or drop from 6 inches to the floor several times to pop air bubbles. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top springs back when pressed gently. Do not over-bake. Cool before removing from the pan.

While the cake is baking, make the ganache. Put the chocolate chips into a small to medium sized heat proof bowl. Bring the maple syrup and coconut milk to a gentle boil in a small saucepan. When the mixture boils, pour it over the chocolate chips and let sit until the chocolate chips are melted. Whisk the mixture until smooth. Remove cake from pan and place it bottom side up on a rack. When cake is cool, slowly pour the ganache over the cake, letting it drip down the sides a bit.

Let sit for several hours for ganache to set, then remove cake from rack onto a serving plate. Serve at room temperature. 

Rose’s birthday

I’d be remiss if I didn’t post about my eldest’s 7th birthday. By request we had hamburgers for dinner and (gasp) a store-bought cake. I know it’s very unlike us to buy a cake, but have you seen the amazing creations from Party Favors? Rose_7_IMG_2720 Rose_7_IMG_2723 Cake_IMG_2728

There was a homemade cake too, of course. For her birthday party Shane made the now-famous-in-our-household Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake. But we didn’t stop there. Shane and half-brother-in-law Chris invented an amazing thing called the Cake n’ Cone, which is a slice of birthday cake and a scoop of ice cream in a waffle cone. Genius!
IMG_2821CakeNConeIMG_2825Happy Birthday Rose!



Epic pasta birthday

Tonight we celebrated my mom and dad’s birthdays with an epic pasta-making enterprise and meal. The lousy weather provided a perfect backdrop for the monumental task of making fresh pasta for 17 people (or maybe it was 15).

Shane spearheaded the operation with help from pretty much everyone in some way or another. A lot of the meal and prep is not pictured because I was totally obsessed with documenting the pasta-making process.

Not pictured are the three racks of ribs Shane had pre-smoked at home on Thursday, two types of homemade barbeque sauce, Ronni’s delicious salad, the preparation of Chris’ sauce, and dessert prep.

Inconsistent documentation aside, it was a delicious meal and a grand time was had by all. Happy Birthday mom and dad!