Post image for There Is Nothing Quite As Sweet As Birthday Cake

I had drooled over (hopefully not drooled on, given the tequila) a particular flan cake at a fellow line cook’s birthday party last fall and told him that I had to have that cake for my birthday. I say things like this sometimes: I have to have that $500 pair of shoes, I have to have that chef’s knife that costs more than my computer. As sometimes happens with language barriers, this either got lost in translation or I didn’t take him seriously when he said he would make me my own flan cake. When I saw him walk into the kitchen yesterday with the cake and a can of peaches, it made me smile. There really are few expressions as sweet as a birthday cake.

It wasn’t until the middle of the 19th century that the modern birthday cake started evolving…and evolving, and evolving, and evolving… As a former cake decorator, I can attest to the fact that the decoration on the birthday cake is of superior importance to the taste or flavor. The cake decoration is a personal, artful expression; it is a gift to make someone’s day special. During the cake consultation, we would talk about the birthday gal or guy, and with wide eyes the customer would tell me what they liked and didn’t like. “Make sure there are no flowers. Judy is not a flower person.” Sometimes the ideas would be sketched out in great detail and I would be entrusted to execute the vision of their daughter’s perfect 16th birthday cake. Oh, the pressure! I pictured my sugary art sitting in the pages of photo albums to be reminisced about years later. I had the power to make someone’s day. I loved decorating cakes because I knew it was an important job. Cakes make people smile. Especially if they are done with love and thoughtfulness.

I argue, even though taste is important (we live to eat around here), the gesture is what is most meaningful. I will always remember a former boss telling me, it’s difficult to remember what someone said, but it’s easy to remember how someone made you feel. It will be difficult to remember exactly how something tasted, but it will be easy to remember how it made you feel. A birthday cake is one of the greatest examples of how people connect with each other through food. And it is sweet.

“We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” -Mother Teresa


Pumpkin Flan with Chile-Spiced Brittle

Incredibly delicious and intriguing, this caramel-glazed custard, reminiscent of pumpkin pie, makes an elegant alternative to the holiday favorite.

Flan de Champagne

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This flan is our variation of a classic Latin American dessert that is usually made with milk.

Apricot Ginger Flan

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Flan can be tricky — or not; but this recipe is worth your time to try.