Birthday Cakes and Entertaining

I am an introvert.  I enjoy being an introvert.  I like to sit next to my cat and write about food.  I also like to sit next to my cat and read books.  Or watch Arrested Development.  Anything really, as long as its just me and my cat.

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He’s into the sound of silence.

Being an introvert doesn’t mean I don’t like people.  I love them and I have a small number of close friends that I cherish more than anything in the world besides Jethro.  I’m quite happy to spend almost all of my time with them, because being with them, I don’t need to entertain.  I can sit silently or be aggressively chatty or eat more cheese than any of them and it doesn’t matter.

But people I don’t know?  That’s another story.

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I spend all day at work meeting people I don’t know.  I’m selling them tacos and burritos and burrito bowls and fancy lemonade that has basil in it telling them all about our restaurant (a casual fine dining establishment that focuses on farm to table new American cuisine by the way.  Reservations are two weeks out for weekend nights if you’re thinking about visiting Newport, Rhode Island).

I’m making friends with them.  Because they tip me a bit more when I tell them an anecdote or joke with them about something in Rhode Island or give them a taste of our lemonade just because I want them to try it.  I love this job.  I’m good at it.

But here’s the thing.  It’s tiring.  Not only am I on my feet for up to twelve hours a day (if I even think about sitting down, I will not get up) but it also wears out my introverted side.  I do love it, because I do enjoy meeting new people, but at heart I hate small talk.  I’m the person at the party who finds a couch near the cheese and sits and talks to at most 3 people all night.

Loner cat.

Loner cat.

All this pretend extrovertedness has left me quite dead when it comes to entertaining my father and his girlfriend’s friends.  When I returned home dirty and smelling like braised beef on Saturday, I found 12 people I didn’t know too well sitting in my living room.  And I felt terrible because I knew my extrovert side that can chat and be nice and friendly and doesn’t just want to sit and nurse a beer silently all night had been left at the taco shack, a few miles and a bridge away in Jamestown.

I went upstairs to shower and try to finish a birthday cake for my dad and his girlfriend that I had made the day before in a massive fit of baking.  It was a vanilla bean brown butter cake soaked in an absinthe syrup, filled with raspberries and iced in a Grand Marnier buttercream frosting.  The cake tasted lovely, but I was not quite up to the task of making it look pretty.  No matter, because taste has always mattered more to me anyways, although next time I would work on the aesthetics just a wee bit.

A question mark for those who can't tell.  A true lady would never reveal her age on a birthday cake.

A question mark for those who can’t tell. A true lady would never reveal her age on a birthday cake.

I returned downstairs to where dinner was to be served, absolutely starving because I’d spent the whole day selling tacos, not eating them.  And I had a nice time, I chit chatted with a neighbor about his trip to Europe (and learned some fascinating things about guilds!), but by the time it came to sit down to eat, I didn’t know if I could say another word.  Dinner was a long affair, filled with lots of lovely foods.  When my dessert, and also a worthy dessert from another guest, finally arrived, I knew that I would soon have to disappear.  I made a valiant effort to finish my cake, but in the end, when there was an opportunity to go upstairs to choose more wine, I made a decision to run up to my room and watch tv alone for a little bit before passing out.  My feet were tired, its true, but even more tired was my mind.  It needed to rest up for the next day, when I would again be selling tacos, making jokes, being friendly to people for hours on end.

Although maybe it had something to do with all that absinthe...

Although maybe it had something to do with all that absinthe…

Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Cake with Grand Marnier Frosting

Adapted from The Sweet Life: Desserts from Chantarelle

Not gonna lie, had some difficulties with this cake.  I”m just going to leave you the recipe for the buttercream and for the cake because I clearly don’t actually know how to ice cakes…  Even though I did work in a bakery icing cakes once (I also spent a lot of time doing dishes because I hated how my cakes always turned out lopsided).  I also only had one cake pan that was the right size, which meant my cake was bound to turn out imperfect.  Oh well.  Let me know if you have any tips for making pretty cakes plz.

1 vanilla bean

24 tablespoons (12 ounces) butter

1 2/3 cups sugar

2 whole eggs, at room temperature

4 egg yolks, at room temperature

2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups milk, at room temperature

2 to 24 hours ahead of time:

Run a paring knife down the center of your vanilla bean.  Using the back of the knife, scrape out all of the little black seeds and put them into a medium sized saucepan.  Add in the butter and turn the heat to medium high.  Cook the butter until the liquid butter turns clear golden yellow and emits a rich, nutty scent.

Remove the vanilla bean and place the browned butter in the fridge until it solidifies, at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350˚F.  Grease and lightly flour two nine inch cake pans.

Place the chilled brown butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment for one minute.  Add the sugar and beat on medium high for 8-12 minutes, or until the mixture is almost beige in color and is light and fluffy and at least doubled in size.  Add in the whole eggs and egg yolks, one at a time and beat until fully incorporated.  Then beat for 1-2 more minutes, or until the batter is smooth and glossy.

In a bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.

With the mixer on slow speed, add in one third of the dry ingredients.  Then, add in one half of the milk, then another third of the dry mixture, the other half of the milk, and finally the end of the dry mixture.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 20 seconds on medium speed until everything is incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans.  Use a paring knife to even out the batter, running it around batter in a circular motion.  Bake the cakes until the center is set and a tester inserted into the middle fo the cake comes out clean (or just poke ’em until they feel right, like I do).  Allow them to cool completely before even attempting to frost the cakes.

Orange Buttercream (she recommends doubling the recipe, but that sounded like way too much butter for even me, but feel free to do so):

3 egg yolks

1/2 cup plus 2 T sugar

Zest of 1 orange or tangerine

16 tablespoons (8 ounces, 225 g) butter at room temperature

2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of sugar for 30 seconds.  At the same time heat up the rest of the sugar, the orange zest, and 3 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan.  Let boil for 30 seconds.  Drizzle down the side of the mixing bowl with the mixer running.  Continue running the mixture until the yolks have tripled in volume, hold the lines of the whisk, and have cooled.  Add in the butter and the Grand Marnier and whisk until the buttercream has stiff peaks.

To Assemble Your Cake:

1/4 cup raspberry jam

Even out the cakes somehow with a serrated knife.  Put raspberry jam in the middle layer of the cake.  Frost the cake in some sort of pretty manner.  Serve, enjoy.  Lasts 1 week, well wrapped, in the fridge.

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6 comments
  1. What a beautiful post. I know that feeling. I’m an extrovert who desperately needs time alone. I go crazy if I’m alone for too long, but also if I go too long without being alone. I used to work at a cafe and just give and give all day, coffee, myself, everything. Sometimes,it’s better to be alone with the person you love than at a party, especially after a day of giving. It was sweet of you to bake this beautiful, delicious-looking cake from scratch. I love the butter and grand marnier combo. Wow. Your dad is very lucky to have a daughter like you and I”m sure he knows that too. Plz send cake in the mail! 🙂

    • Eliza B said:

      I’d love to send the cake in the mail, but my father ate it up very quickly for breakfast the next day. He’s a sneaky fellow. I’m a true introvert, so I love being alone for days on end, although it can get a bit sad at times. I need it to recharge though from time to time. People are stressful!

  2. I know the feeling and often have to retreat and recharge. Lovely honest writing and a beautiful looking cake. And of course Jethro… Dr. Pookie sends cat love to Jethro.
    xo

    • Eliza B said:

      Sorry for the late response… been spending a lot of time in retreat mode when I’m not working. When will we see Dr. Pookie? Or when will Dr. Pookie deign to let himself be seen on the web.

      • Eliza B said:

        Oh my god what a perfectly proportioned cat! I love his knowing smile. Adorable.

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