My dad celebrated his 65th birthday just a few weeks ago and naturally I requested to make a cake for him. Well, let me rephrase that — I declared, “I”m making a cake for you.” I don’t really give people a lot of choice. But I wanted to make sure it was something special. His birthday often falls on Thanksgiving so it’s easy for a celebratory birthday treat to get overshadowed by pies.
Growing up he always purchased his own birthday cake. He knew exactly what he liked and where to get it, so he figured it was easier to just take care of it himself. Each year, without fail, he came home with a square cardboard bakery box containing a white layer cake with classic French buttercream piped along the sides and top in a luscious basket weave pattern. The icing had to be two inches thick, like tooth-tinglingly sweet brick mortar. It’s the kind of cake you can eat about half a slice of before going into sugar-induced coma. Two more tiers in gradually larger sizes and it could have been a wedding cake.
This year, since I planned to try my hand at making his cake, he asked if I would make the decadent chocolate-raspberry masterpiece I made for my cousin Hallie. That cake was insane — both in looks and process, so I was reluctant to recreate it. But it inspired me to incorporate raspberries. Not exactly commonplace at a Thanksgiving dessert buffet, which was precisely what I liked about it. I decided to go with a classic white cake topped with rich vanilla buttercream to honor my dad’s birthday cake from years past. The twist being that I filled it with raspberry buttercream and adorned it with fresh berries.
The cake was a hit and certainly left my simple pumpkin pie in the dust. The cake was quite large and took a prominent place amongst the traditional Thanksgiving leftovers throughout the weekend. Even after I left to head back to New York, the cake was still leaving its mark. I got an email from my dad the Monday after Thanksgiving, subject line: Haicake. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant until I read the body of the email:
Sliver by sliver I eat it – so rich, so good. I share with no one. Insulin shock beckons.
My dad, the poet.