It took me longer than a week to accept and mentally register the turning of age. I think it has something to do with the fact that 365 days of the year are spent accepting your previous age and only a dozen with your new age, giving the brain little time to adjust. When a colleague asked me my age, I replied "24, er, no, sorry 25," he sneered: "do you not know how old you are?" And that, is at least something I should know.
Then I realised. I hadn't blown the candles on a birthday cake.
Blowing candles on a birthday cake is a little like the confirmation of your turning of age. It is like the marriage vows at a wedding, if they are not said, are the couple "married"? No. Similarly to the blowing of candles on a cake. If the candles are not blown, the age has not passed. Kind of.
It also doesn't help if your memory isn't up to date.
You know, blog-reading friend, I spend every day making cakes for people and the one and only day when a cake should be made for me, it isn't. The line has been crossed.
For my birthday, I got a recipe book on how to make cakes. A bit like a D-I-Y cake making. (Just incase it was something I'm not familiar with, or something.)
I hope my sarcasm is not mistaken for lack of appreciation in its tone.
For a week after my birthday I dreamt of my ideal birthday cake. I wanted one of those really naughty big layered chocolate cakes that you aren't ever really allowed to eat unless it's a birthday party. Those cakes don't exist in France. You know, the ones with loads of buttercream icing. The ones that you find at kids birthday parties. Sugar and butter galore.
The pastry chef Conticini who owns La pâtisserie des rêves The Patisserie of Dreams (in Paris and in London) is convinced that the most delicious food is the food that children love. His patisseries are aimed at pleasing children and recreating sweets that kids love. I am a true believer that the food and desserts which bring you back to your childhood retrieve emotions and memories like no other.
I have a ton of recipe books, but none of them had the actual cake that I had in my mind. The cake I was dreaming about, (yes, dreaming) was a lightened version of a classic chocolate cake from our family recipe using melted chocolate and butter, sugar, yolks, beaten egg whites and flour. Lightened, I say, in order to compensate with the fact that I would layer it on with loads of dark chocolate cream.
And it would be slightly salty.
Did you know that salt cancels out the bitterness of chocolate?
Well, so does butter and sugar.
Jokes aside, if you take a very dark piece of chocolate and you add a tiny pinch of salt to it (fleur de sel is better) then you can't taste the bitterness anymore. Try it for yourself.
And it would be bitter by using chocolate with 70% cocoa solids.
And it would have a tang of sourness by adding fromage blanc to it.
"On est jamais mieux servis que par soi," is a saying that my chef often says, meaning: "you are never better served than by yourself."
I think that saying is priceless. It is also, very true. You are the only one who knows what you truly want. And I wanted my cake to be like this.
So it was.
The stickiness of the upper layer, by having purposefully undercooked it with the creaminess of the salted butter and dark chocolate cream, the lightness of the chocolate cake holding it altogether, before it got devoured to the very last crumb.