Today is my Nonna’s birthday. She’s a young 89.
Everyone comments on how cute she is. All. the. time. There’s something about her Italian accent combined with her emotional expressions of gratitude and her height of 4’10” that makes people find her adorable.
I hope people think I’m cute at 89.
Anyway, I made her a cake because 1) It’s her birthday (obviously), and 2) she likes sweets almost as much as I do.
I used this recipe for Juniper Chocolate Cake which I thought sounded delicious (I love the pinecone-y taste of juniper berries). It burnt a little at the top, but I wasn’t worried because I was going to cut the top off to even it out and frost it. Matt sampled some of the trimmings last night after I baked the cake.
“Umm. . . it tastes really burnt.”
I taste it.
“It’s not that burnt, are you sure that’s not the juniper that you’re tasting?”
“Oh. So, it’s supposed to taste like that?” . . . followed by a disgusted face that Matt was trying very hard to disguise.
Disregarding Matt’s opinions, I thought the texture of the cake was great. It was nice and dense and substantial (which I really like in a cake). I didn’t mind the taste, and actually the more cake that I ate the more I liked it. But, yeah, the juniper flavour was a tad on the strong side and I could have lived without it.
I topped the cake with this recipe from Joe Pastry for Heritage Frosting, which is buttercream for poor people (or calorie conscious people, if that’s your bag). It uses a cooked flour&milk combo beaten into the standard butter&sugar combo of buttercream. It’s dead simple to make and while it doesn’t taste quite as rich as American buttercream, it is still very sweet—just the way frosting was meant to be.
It’s nothing fancy, but you all know I can’t make anything look nice.
So I made a dense chocolate cake with sugary frosting that was surprisingly quick and easy to pull together. Were it not for the strong juniper taste this would have been the perfect cake.
Nonna liked it, but she likes just about anything that contains sugar and butter (and, God bless her, she’s 89 and not diabetic. I hope I have her genes.).
Back in the old country in the 1920s, if you were lucky, for your birthday they would make pinza: just flour mixed with figs and cooked under embers until you got a rock hard ‘cake’ that would, according to Nonna, “break your toes if you dropped it on your foot.”
I guess anything is better than the pinza.
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