I believe birthday cake is most important.

I would go so far as to say that choosing a birthday cake is one of the most important decisions you can make. For me, the choice of a birthday cake is the establishment of a theme, a mood, a rhythm for your birthday.

I start auditioning cakes well in advance of my birthday. Sometimes I don’t go for cakes at all. Sometimes I bake the cake myself. Many times Mamma Cream Puff bakes it for me.

This year, I wanted something spicy and yet familiar. What I got was a warm cake filled with love. I got a cake that was part Canada and part Italy (thanks to the chestnut flour). It was a simple, beautiful, deeply touching cake. It’s exactly what I wanted.

When someone asks me to bake a cake for their birthday, I take this request very seriously because just as I want to set the tone for my birthday, I want to make sure that I bake the right cake for the right person.

Think what you want.

But I firmly believe that there’s a right moment in time very every cake. Or cookie. Or pie. And you should bake what’s right when it’s right.

Last week, I was asked by a coworker if I would bake a cake to the celebrate the 50th birthday of another coworker.

Of course I would!

And then I promptly went home and spent an entire evening looking at cakes. I covered the couch from end to end with baking books. I had stacks of cake books on the floor and I even brought one or two to bed with me.

Some cakes seemed sort of right. Some were completely wrong. But I knew that the right cake would reveal itself and it did: Tiramisu’ Cake from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne.

The woman celebrating her special day is someone I’ve gotten to know fairly well over the past few years. She told me once about how she grew up baking and cooking and how much she wished she had the time to pursue those activities as much as she did when she was younger. She also told me about how as a student, she’d spent time in Italy, which she looks back upon so fondly.

Knowing how much she loved her time in Italy and what an impression it left on her, when I saw the recipe for this cake, it just popped right out at me and said, “I’m it. Bake me.”


So I made three layers of genoise and I bathed them in espresso-rum syrup. I made a zabaglione cream that I had to literally force myself not to eat. I soaked cake layers, piled on cream, stacked other layers and piled on more cream. Then I showered it all in ground chocolate and built a beautiful crown of chocolate curls.

And because every cake you bake is an opportunity, I took this opportunity to learn how to wrap a cake in ribbon.

It was a lovely cake not just because it tasted good (sorry, no pics of the sliced cake) but mostly because it was right.

If there is a religion of baking, then I like to think that a birthday cake is like a blessing of sorts.

It’s a wish.

Make it count.