Tag Archives: birthday

Number 30 on number 31 (Oh and 29 too)

A whole year gone, and I’m excited to say I’ve completed my mission – to taste, make, eat, and share 30 cakes  from birthday No. 30 until birthday No. 31. The last few weeks I was quite anxious that the whole thing might fall apart, but thanks to a delicious (and nutritious?) breakfast on my birthday morn’ and an English treat at one of Vancouver’s finest pubs, the Cheshire Cheese Inn, I can officially stop pestering everyone with photos of cake.

No. 29: Mini, cloud-topped double  vanilla beauties.

No. 29: Mini, cloud-topped double vanilla beauties.

Brambleberry Trifle

And, finally, Brambleberry Trifle.

Double vanilla I won’t sour with an explanation. Just promise you’ll try it… maybe even for breakfast. The trifle, however, I feel keen to explain. Wikipedia says some of the first trifle mentions date as far back as the 1590s and I though that fitting to celebrate my grown-up-ness. Custard,  liquor-soaked bread, brambleberries and a heap of whipped cream makes for an impressive cake indeed, especially when it follows a pint of celebratory lager.

As this  took a whole year to complete, I feel like I should be able to offer more fanfare, but the soft landing of some of our most worthy endeavors often fails to be easily described. The best I can say is that I got to share this year-long celebration of me with some of the very best people I know – sister, husband, friends, and a few quietly with me, myself, and I.  So here’s to being older and to accomplishing even the silliest of goals.


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30 Cakes (26, 27 and 28/30)

This week I’ve had a familiar cake from a stranger, and some unfamiliar cakes baked with love by friends. The first one, the carrot cake, was nice enough and made for a happy little afternoon tea-time treat, but made me miss my sister and her version made with apple sauce and a lot of shaved carrots. Shaving carrots takes some commitment, but watching as the roots are stripped and fly like mad confetti into a big bowl is actually one of my favorite culinary experiences. This version is from one of Vancouver’s many great not-Starbucks coffee shops, Koffee. While this was delicious, I’m now really looking forward to getting out the vegetable peelers and talking my sister into making her version while we’re home for Christmas.

Eat your vegetables.

Eat your vegetables.

The second cake, well ‘cake event’, was happily found at the annual holiday party of my wonderful knitting buddies. This Knitmas, the table was filled with sweet treats which included an anise and almond cake and peppermint brownies both made by some really talented knitters I’m happy to know. With a pile of friends celebrating a common interest, a plate full of cakes,  and other holiday parties on the way, it turns out the end of the 30 Cakes is nearly here.

2013-12-01 17.40.40

The superstars are there on the bottom left and top-ish-middle  buried around a few assorted “not cakes”, am I right? Let’s call it a ‘cake event.



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30 Cakes (22/30)

Of all the phrases we hear (and use) too often, and I think ‘pleasant surprise’ is one of the ones I like least. This is only because when I actually do encounter one, the phrase kicks in and I immediately stop considering what makes the surprise pleasant. Like the other day when I ordered apple pie and coffee at a sandwich shop as part of my endeavor to eat 30 Cakes in this, my 30th year. It’s a deli so, low expectations, right? Wrong.

Apple pie and sweet surprises.

Apple pie and sweet surprises.

Turns out this sandwich shop (it’s called PHAT, you know, like pretty, hot and tasty) has an apple pie good enough to be tagged as a pleasant surprise. ‘Pleasant’ in that it’s nice to be presented with a something the maker of which cared about, took their time with, and wanted you to like. ‘Surprise’ because we spend so much time noting the petty problems and annoyances of a day, so when something nice comes at you, it’s probably better to drop the over-used phrases and just enjoy it.

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30 Cakes (20, 21/30)

This time last year, I had a little mini obsession with thinking being 30 would be hard. Days of dread, anticipated shame, and fear of having to start spending more time looking at wrinkle products drove me to finding something fun to ring in the year. What did I decide? That for something as eventful as turning 30, a single cake didn’t seem fitting. Thirty cakes, however, did. 

When the day finally approached, none of the bad feelings had really materialized and , 300 or so days later, I can this has turned out to be one of the most fun challenges I’ve set for myself. I say challenge because managing the cake schedule has turned out to be harder than turning 30 every even dared to be. Rolling toward the end of this endeavor, I’m  two cakes closer to the goal with an eight item to-do list ahead of me.

I swear I almost always eat hummus and pepper sandwiches at work because I’m super cheap, but sometimes I wind up in a little cafe watching the rain and all the downtown business people out an about. Doing so over a latte and lemon cake for number 20 is a pretty nice way to spend a half hour once in a while.

Number 21 is a bit of a cheat but it feels right in my heart – after all, what’s not cake-y about confetti cake batter? Thanks to a recipe found over at Tasty Little Crouton and a wonderful guy who understands that an ice cream maker is a romantic gift, a frozen version of my either birthday is now sitting happily in my favorite mug. 

Lemons for lunch.

woah, icecreamy.

woah, icecreamy.



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30 cakes (19/30)

Stitches and pumpkin cheesecake.

Stitches and pumpkin cheesecake.

Normally, I’m not a believer in organized fun. Events at work, group concert attendance, meeting strangers at coffee shops to discuss a common interest, none of these are what you might call “up my alley”. Thankfully, I seem to have usually had a nice little circle of close friends – people who are up for whatever and don’t need to plan things in advance. When we arrived in Vancouver, that circle shrank considerably, so I started looking for places to meet people outside work.

Adding to or building up a group of friends can shape your impression of a place. Even on vacation, we often judge the entire place we’re visiting on the few interactions we have with the locals. Where I grew up, people would often say that they didn’t like New York after visiting – “Everyone was so stuck up and busy,” “No one would talk to us” – these kinds of comments are thrown around as the official judgement of an entire city.  Whereas, if you have pleasant encounters on a trip, you tend to head home with warm feelings and happy stories more so than I think we often realize.

Vancouver is sort of notorious for it’s icy attitudes. People I meet here who are from other places often describe their friend-making experience as a challenge. Vancouverites have a class to attend or special interest group work to do or allergies to wheat, all of which can make going to grab a beer with someone more complicated than I’ve certainly ever encountered. Also, it’s a transient city, and that’s something I do know about. Living in a beach community as a kid meant summers filled with new kids to hang out with and weird, empty feelings when everyone went back home. In Tallahassee, where we lived last in Florida, the college atmosphere seems to make people want to “move on”. It was a place where attending going-away parties was pretty common. Since moving here, I’ve said good bye to a half dozen of the buddies who were drug away by work permits, calls to their home town, or jobs far away.

What I did find is one totally excellent group of knitters who are brought together by stitches and coffee and Thursday evenings. This is, technically, organized fun, but I have to say that seeking a interest group pretty soon after we arrived has been one of my best decisions yet. Found originally on meetup.com (Eek! How organized does that sound?) this group has strengthened my appreciation for how good we can be to each other without even knowing it. What you might call general chit chat and laughs over this or that thing we all experience in our knitting or in our lives has made a lovely little impact on me over the last few years. In the midst of people not making eye contact on the side walk or talking to their neighbors, there’s a little cluster of us who bring our own backgrounds and stories while we happily step away from our various jobs and kids and partners for a brief moment.

For this reason, I’m super happy to have indulged in cake #19 with my knitting buddies. When this sweater finally gets finished, I’ll be reminded of a chilly October evening with friends at Trees coffee shop where, by the way, you can get an absolutely delicious pumpkin cheesecake. And, if you’re someone living somewhere new, let me take a moment to tip my hat to those to are pulling together strangers at some coffee shop on some corner in your town. The work of connecting people sure isn’t easy these days, and a little appreciation to the talkers and the planners was given with each of this cake’s bites!

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30 cakes (16, 17, and 18 / 30)

Homemade plum cake, heavy on the egg whites.

Homemade plum and strawberry cake, heavy on the egg whites.

Lucky's doughnuts - lemon creme!

Lucky’s doughnuts – lemon cream!

My own invention - coconut pistachio with brown sugar caramel!

My own invention – coconut pistachio with brown sugar caramel.

September made for a strange collection of cakes – plums from BC made into a egg-white-heavy cake, a delicious treat from Lucky’s doughnuts, and an invented (as in, thrown together from whatever was in the cabinets) coconut and pistachio cake drenched in brown sugar caramel. Not too bad for a month, but still more work to do!

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The Halfway Report: 15/30

With the year mark coming back around faster than I am keeping up with, my plan of having 30 cakes in the first 365 days of my 30th year might need a little recap and refresh.

Luckily, I didn’t have to dig very deep to remember that I started this count at the birthday lunch I had with a wonderful friend who took me out for mini cakes and a palm reading (yes, both services are offered at the same venue – obviously an incredible pal for finding it and knowing how thoroughly happy it would make me). From there I was surprised at work with a chocolate cake breakfast and the ball, as they say, was officially in play.

I’ve since had cakes for Christmas, a famous Vancouver-style cupcake, and a stunning southern classic cake paired with champagne and a healthy dose of my girls back home. I’ve baked a few, including this coconut beauty, and tucked in a couple of  mini treats to what would have otherwise been regular days.

All told, I still have exactly 2 months and 29 days to finish. With the installment of #15 (spiced milk cake with caramel icing) and the incredible looking strawberry cake recipe that I was gifted recently, I think I’ll be well able to note this as a happy 30th year indeed.

15/30 - a classic milk cake recipe (with cardamom, nutmeg and all spice added to the milk) plus a brown sugar caramel icing - helps start Fall off right.

A classic milk cake recipe (with cardamom, nutmeg and all spice added to the milk) plus a brown sugar caramel and elderflower icings to help start Fall off right.


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30 Cakes (13/30)

This year had a good feeling from the start. Perhaps because the dread that afflicted me from about the day after my 26th birthday had finally worn off. Perhaps because it started as one of those years that felt like neat things were going to happen. Perhaps because turning 30 isn’t so bad after all.

Whatever the case, this year calls for more celebration than just one day. How am I celebrating, you ask? Well, by making, baking, or just plain ordering 30 different cakes before my next birthday.

A little more than halfway there, number 13 is one I made myself.

No. 13: Elderflower and Lemon

No. 13: Elderflower and Lemon

It’s been so nice outside lately that I wanted to make something to celebrate blue, cloudless skies and warm sunny lawns. Having recently purchased a new bottle of Ikea’s elderflower syrup and a couple of extra lemons, inspiration was right there in the fridge. The cake is Martha Stewart’s plain vanilla layer cake plus the juice and zest of one lemon. The butter cream has a not-so-little touch of elderflower. Together they turn out to be a perfect pair for the steadily strengthening summer!

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30 Cakes (12/30)

In December I turned 30 and to celebrate one day of fun just didn’t seem appropriate. Maybe it’s all the hype with becoming a real adult. Maybe it’s just because I like baking new things. Either way, this year is the year of 30 Cakes.

Number 12 is a nutty adventure – Walnut with Cardamom butter cream.

Spicy, nutty number 12.

Spicy, nutty number 12.

It’s modeled after a recipe found in a baking book left here by a friend of mine who has moved on to more southern climes (Australia, actually, which is almost as south as you can get! ). I modified it a little by adding yogurt to the ground-walnut-based batter and cardamom to the icing a little at a time until I ended up with just a hint of flavor beyond delicious sweetened butter icing.

Made in a loaf pan, this is a tasty little cake that might just wind up as breakfast tomorrow too!

(Hey. You on Instagram? I promise I don’t just take photos of cake!)

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30 Cakes (11/30)

In “The Life Aquatic”, Steve says that 10&1/2 is his favorite age. This I understand to be a protest of the power of 11.

Eleven marks a click in another dial. It is different. It’s the beginning of the time after the beginning.

The eleventh cake in this series is different too and is a testament to my kitchen-improv skills. I was in the mood to bake but realized only after preparing some of the ingredients (including the broken eggs if I remember correctly) that I was missing certain key liquids.

What to do? I could have made a quick trip to the store but decided instead to substitute rum for buttermilk.

Results? Not bad. Messy, but delicious, and a pretty good beginning to “the middle” if you ask me.



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30 Cakes (10/30)

Best cake name yet goes to this one: "The Diplomat"

Best cake name yet goes to this one: “The Diplomat”

Having your sister in town after finishing an awesome road trip is reason to celebrate so Cake 10/30 came with a few glasses of wine. This one is from True Confections, a desert-only restaurant here in Vancouver. Great idea, huh?

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30 Cakes (9/30)

Everybody needs goals, right? Well mine is to encounter 30 cakes this year in celebration of a certain birthday milestone. With February coming to a close, I’m just enjoying number 9 on a rainy afternoon.

9 of 30

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30 cakes (8/30)

So it’s half way through February, I’m at eight, and feeling quite good about the 30 Cakes Project. This one is a homemade attempt to rectify the many differences in coconut cake recipes I’ve been looking at for the last couple of days. I kept finding that I didn’t have all of the ingredients for any one of them so came up with a version containing what I did have. There’s apparently a neat way of making coconut buttercream with eggs that I want to try one day, but I’ll need like six eggs to make that work along with a fluffy cake. I only had three eggs and was tired of waiting for coconut cake so I improvised and came up with this beauty.


It was incredibly coco-nutty and really sweet. I’ll need to do some adjusting to this before calling it a home run. Still, you can’t really go wrong with coconut anything if you ask me.

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30 cakes (6/30)

Thirty cakes on my 30th year. I’ve been missing loads of cake time lately! Catching up now with homemade chocolate lava cake. Small, but oh so gooey and delicious!


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30 Cakes (4/30)

Today’s installment comes from back home with my sister and good friend at the lovely Tallahassee restaurant, Food Glorious Food. They do mostly southern-influenced dishes but with nice adaptations for modern and, well, less country southerners but the main event is desert. I mean, check this out. Creative, delicious and hard to choose from, but glorious indeed. My pick this evening was the Hummingbird Cake (which is something you’d be likely to see at a good hearty southern church pot-luck) and the girls got Perfect Chocolate (a FGF original that I’ll endorse as perfect) and  a cranberry coffee cake in the spirit the season. Cheers with a bottle of champagne and thanks to good friends!

What a spread!

What a spread!

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30 cakes (3/30)



Welcomed to my sister’s house with a mess of balloons, streamers and delicious sprinkle-flecked cupcakes with delightful Betty Crocker chocolate icing. And she didn’t even know about my cake mission… a sister is the best present!

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30 cakes (2/30)

chocolate breakfast!

Like the good man says, there’s nothing like a little help from my friends who surprise me with chocolate breakfast cake at work. What better way to spend an office birthday than draped in a dollar store sash and eating chocolate cake for breakfast. This one is from the Maple Bakery on Davie Street and was wonderfully fresh, rich and extra sweet!

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30 cakes (1/30)

Zinc’s atomic number. The total number of the Western musical scale. The number of years in a very famous war. The number of a cross-continental  highway that starts in Oregon. The number of sides in a tricontagon. If I was married this long, I’d get pearls. If I was Jesus, I’d be healing. If I was politically minded, I could now be a senator. Since I’m not, I’ll just say welcome, year thirty. And I’ll make a solum oath to eat 30 cakes before you are over. Here’s to a pretty good start.

tea and cake

tea and little cakes

The best thing about these (besides a lovely time with a good friend who shares my appreciation for fine pastry) is that the Notte Bakery employs a real live physic in house so you can have your fortune read along with your desert. I was advised to exercise the patient side of my personality and to trust in the future. Not going to argue with either of those pieces of advice!

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