I have mixed feelings about my birthday. Sometimes I dread the further passing of time, the continual march towards my untimely demise. It’s dark and gloomy I know, but there it is. My preoccupation with death was more troubling in my early years. I was a very morbid child and at the age of ten had already planned out my funeral—it was an ostentatious affair—right down to the music. This was more of a coping mechanism than anything else. I think we all have that moment as children where we realize that we too are in fact mortal and try to grapple with what that means. Eventually I grew out of it but I would still get antsy around my birthday. Imagine that, a kid struggling under the weight of time. I was so strange. Haven’t grown out of that.
I used to work in an afterschool program and I adored the kids who thought if you weren’t seven you were sixteen, max. It was delightful. When I turned twenty-two I opted to turn twenty-one again because “that was old enough”. Some years I refused to celebrate at all, preferring instead to let the day pass unobserved. Besides birthdays in general, I also don’t like attention, so the idea of celebrating a day all about me makes me anxious. I don’t like being the center of attention at parties. I hate posing for photos.
Some years I’m more open to the idea. I’ll acquiesce to a small party or family gathering. I’ll try to enjoy myself and appreciate all the wonderful things in my life. I have had good birthdays.
Some of my fondest birthday memories are:
- Getting SCUBA certified with Simon.
- My Mad Men themed birthday with my family four or five years ago.
- Ringing in twenty-one on an airplane to Cabo (the pilots sang happy birthday, I got unlimited free drinks).
- My fourth birthday when my grandma made me a Barbie cake and an actual Barbie was wearing a cake dress.
This year, I’ve been moving towards my birthday with moderate indifference and calm. I’m not particularly stressed or concerned. I’m not feeling any strong aversion to the concept. I’m—dare I say—looking forward to it. After several years on this planet perhaps I’m finally growing up. That last point is not likely but I’d like to think that’s the case—that with age I’m finally learning to express more gratitude and appreciation for my life and where I am in it.
Well that’s enough reflection for one post. On to the cake! We are all familiar with my tired proclamations that I am no baker, but after making this cake I don’t think I can say that anymore. This is the most incredible cake I’ve ever made, hell—the best I’ve ever had! It’s full of tangerine flavor and incredibly moist. The cake recipe is from The View from Great Island blog—I’m not at the point where I can just whip up cake recipes.
I chose the recipe because it looked wonderful, easy, and was described as not being “overly sweet”. Perfect. I’m not that into sweets. It also happens to be flourless and as a result gluten free. The only change I made was to add some fresh minced rosemary and I’m so glad I did. It lent such brightness to the intense tangerine flavor. This is going to be my new birthday cake recipe FOREVER! I can’t handle how good it is. I made up the frosting recipe (I was brave enough to do that—and opted for a ginger and tangerine zest infused buttercream. Then I decided to top it with fresh blackberries and candied blood oranges. Amazing! I’m getting emotional just thinking about it. It’s my birthday so I don’t mind bragging. Not to mention, I think it’s quite stunning. A work of art really.
But in all seriousness it is delicious! It’s like biting into an actual tangerine! The secret is using the whole tangerine, rind and all. Trust me, just do it. You boil them to remove bitterness and it’s magical. I can’t wait to try it with other citrus!
You can find the original recipe here. I’d like to take this time to thank TVFGI, you seriously changed my complicated feelings towards cakes in general. As I mentioned above I added rosemary, ½ tsp. but this is completely optional.
I’ll include my frosting recipe and method for candying the citrus below!
Make this cake today! And save me a slice…
- For the Buttercream Frosting
- makes about 2-ish cups
- 1 stick unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp ginger zest, optional
- 2 tsp. tangerine zest, optional
- For the Citrus
- 2 small blood oranges (or lemons, limes, whatever) thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup sugar
- Make the Frosting
- Place cold butter in a stand mixer and mix with the paddle attachment on low until creamy. This may take a bit longer but ?I think you get a thicker frosting as a result.
- Add in 1 cup sugar and mix until combined.
- Add in the rest of the sugar along with the vanilla, ginger, and tangerine zest if using.
- Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Make the Candied Citrus
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and place citrus slices in for about 1-2 minutes to help remove bitterness.
- Drain and set aside.
- In a saucepan heat 3/4 cup sugar and 3/4 cup water until sugar dissolves.
- Add citrus slices in a single layer and simmer on low for about an hour or until rinds get translucent.
- Allow to dry and cool on a baking rack until sugar sets.
- Now my citrus slices were delicious but a little sticky. I've never made them before so I have no basis for comparison. But they still tasted and looked fabulous on the cake!