My birthday was on Tuesday, and I have to say, I have always loved having a birthday in December. My whole life people have said, "Oh, I feel so bad for you that your birthday is so close to Christmas." But honestly, I have never once felt jipped out of anything. This time of year always feels so special - the shops are decorated, pretty lights are in the windows, Christmas music is on 24/7 (yay!) and people are generally in a cheerful mood. The hectic Christmas rush hasn't quite started, everyone is just beginning to enjoy the season. Sometimes it even snows! I love getting my birthday presents wrapped in Christmas paper - a thing I think other December babies find annoying, but honestly I love it . Sure, I often get the old "this is your birthday AND Christmas present" thing, but hey - this time of year is tight for most people, so I understand that. Honestly at this point in my life I don't need anything - just have a cup of tea with me and take some time to actually have a conversation…that is the best present anyone could ask for.
My mother created a bit of a monster in us children with the birthday celebration (a very happy, excited, sugar-rushed monster). She went ALL out. I mean a full day of celebrating beginning when we first opened our eyes and ending when we went to sleep. Our birthdays always began with a present and a balloon by our bed for when we woke up - usually something small like a little toy and a box of candy (chocolate covered cherries were always my treat) - and often a generous sprinkling of glitter spread about our bedroom, our pillows, our faces even. Everyone would march in to the birthday girl or boys room, showering them with kisses and, of course, an early morning round of "Happy Birthday".
After opening our bedside gift, we would venture to the kitchen, which was always decked out with streamers and balloons, candles and music. Mom made us a special birthday breakfast, usually one of animal shaped pancakes with M&M's for eyes and a nose. There would be a present waiting at the breakfast table, at the seat unmistaken for the birthday girl or boy - the chair looked more like a throne - always decorated with ribbons and balloons.
The celebrating continued all day long. There was usually a party at some point, with friends coming over for lunch and a fun activity. I remember one year we made gingerbread houses with all of my eight year old friends - I think more candy was consumed than decorated with, and the girls were literally bouncing off the walls. My sister fell on her head and had to be taken to the hospital. My poor mother. Nevertheless, birthdays have always been an exciting and beyond special event in our family. I have always looked forward to my birthday, never caring about the age I was turning - it's just a number after all. Who cares how old you are? I certainly didn't…until this year. This year I turned 30.
I am going to sound like a crazy person if I try to explain why I was so emotional on my birthday - mostly because I have NO reason to be emotional. My husband, my family and my friends were beyond good to me this year. On Saturday I was surprised with a little afternoon in my favorite town (Concord, MA - home of Little Women and Louisa May Alcott - huge dork right here) where Phil took me out to lunch and on a tour of Orchard House. We had a really nice day together, and I am constantly reminded of what an amazing man he is and how lucky I am that he is all mine. We then met my family and my best friends for dinner - which was perfect. My sisters even got little decorations together for the table at the restaurant. All of these really sweet personal touches that let me know how much they love me. And on Tuesday, my actual birthday, I met my mom, my sisters and my aunt and cousins at my grandmothers for a tea party lunch. It was so sweet, and everyone (once again) went out of their way to make the day special and beautiful.
So you see, I have no reason to have cried like a little baby on my way home from my grandmothers. But I did. I cried to my mother on the phone like a child. And I think she was right in telling me that I probably didn't realize how much turning 30 would impact me. Even tho everyone tells you (especially everyone older than you - how convenient for them!) that age is just a number - it's the number that you are. And sometimes it hits you like a ton of bricks when you are least expecting it, and possibly when you are most vulnerable.
I don't want anyone to think that I am not happy to be turning 30, because I really am. I am so excited to be in my 30's. I know that I have a lot ahead of me, God willing. I am the happiest I have ever been in my life. It was hard being in my 20's and not knowing what I wanted to do with my life, or even what my passion was. I have found that now, and my 30's are going to be for cultivating and growing that passion. I felt a bit like a nomad in my 20's, living here and there for periods of time but never comfortable where I was. I now have a home that I am excited to be in for perhaps the rest of our lives, in a town that we both adore. Most importantly, the best thing that came out of my 20's was meeting and marrying the love of my life. We didn't meet until the end of that decade, but it was well worth the wait. I am most excited to see what we accomplish together over the next ten years - growing both in our relationship and in our lives together.
So there you have it. I was a blubbering mess because I turned 30. Who would have thought? Seriously, all you people under 30, age is just a number. Who cares? (ha!)
I made this birthday cake in hopes of a distraction from the subconscious importance of being 30. It has some of my favorite flavors - grapefruit and rose. I love that citrus fruit is at its best this time of year (why, I don't know…) and it pairs so well with the floral perfume of rose. The cake is light and moist, and this was the first time I made a buttercream frosting that didn't have the consistency of cement. Win.
• Grapefruit Cake •
adapted from Urban Comfort
• 3 cups cake flour
• 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 1/4 cups + 3 tablespoons whole milk
• 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
• 1 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
• 2 3/4 cups + 2 teaspoons sugar
• 5 large eggs
• 1 tablespoon finely grated pink grapefruit zest
Preheat the oven to 350℉. Grease two 9-x-2-inch cake pans. Line the bottoms with rounds of baking parchment, grease the parchment lightly, then dust the pans lightly with flour. Shake out the excess.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk them gently for even distribution. In a separate bowl combine the milk and vanilla.
Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until it is light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the eggs gradually, mixing well after each addition, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl often.
Lower the mixing speed to medium-low and add the flour mixture to the butter in 3 parts, alternating with 2 parts of the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Just toward the end, mix in the grapefruit zest. Mix just until it is evenly incorporated.
Divide the batter equally between the 2 prepared cake pans. The pans should be about 2/3 full. Smooth the batter so it fills the pans evenly. Place the pans on the center rack in the preheated oven. Bake them for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake is almost ready to pull away from the side of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Cool the pans on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert them onto a wire rack that has been sprayed with cooking spray and lift off the pans. Cool them on the rack completely. Before frosting, be sure to remove the parchment from the bottom of each layer. While the layers are cooling, prepare the frosting.
• Rose Buttercream Frosting •
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
• 1 teaspoon rose water (I use Nielsen Massey)
• 6-7 cups powdered sugar
• heavy cream
In a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high until smooth. Reduce the speed to medium and beat in the rose water
Beat in sifted powdered confectioners' sugar, 2 cups at a time, until smooth. After you've added 6 cups of the sugar, test your buttercream. If it needs to be thinned, add heavy cream a tablespoon at a time. I find that my frosting gets very thick, like putty, and adding heavy cream little by little makes it a bit thinner and fluffier. If the frosting needs thickening, add 1/2 cup of the sugar at a time until you've reached the desired consistency.
listening to: Mistletoe and Holly by Frank Sinatra