Friday, January 25, 2013

Let Them Eat Cake!

Hello! Today is my husband's birthday, so in a short while I'll start making his birthday cake. From a photo of last year's birthday cake, you can see how it'll look:

The recipe comes from the Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook. Though a bit fussy, it's not hard to make, so I'm always amused when I recall the time in 1993 when I encountered a very similar cake under very different circumstances. 

My husband and I moved out to suburban Philadelphia in 1991 when he took a teaching job at Villanova University. We initially lived in an apartment because our house in Wisconsin hadn't sold yet. When it finally did so in the summer of 1992, we were free to house hunt. We bought a house late in 1992 and moved into it in January 1993. 

Of course, we moved onto a middle class street, but from having already lived in the area for over a year (our apartment was only about a mile away from the house we bought), we were well aware that we were surrounded by a sea of great wealth - money both old and new abounded. (it was the norm to see ladies in fur coats at church once the temperature hit below 40, and luxury car dealers were down the block from our apartment complex). 

But eager to meet new people, I accepted the invitation to attend a meeting of the local Newcomers Club for those like myself who had recently bought houses in the area. 

I admit, I felt a few qualms when I drove up to the hostess' house - it was undoubtedly worth around five times more than what we had just paid for ours. My Ford Escort wagon was one of the few domestic makes parked among the row of BMW and Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

The hostess was gracious and welcoming, and of course the interior of her house was beautifully decorated. But what I mostly remember about the evening was the dessert buffet artfully arranged on her dining room table. The hostess gestured to a cake that looked identical to my husband's birthday cake (minus the candles, of course). She mentioned the name of a fancy local pastry shop from where it had come and gushed, "And do you know, they deliver!" I wanted to bust out laughing at the thought of her having spent a good sum of money on something I make as a matter of course every year. 

That was probably the highlight of the evening. The other invited guests were very nice, but I was disappointed that many of them weren't even really newcomers per se. Like me, they had recently bought houses in the township, but unlike me, they had grown up in the area. Some had previously lived in a neighboring township, in communities just a few miles away from where the gathering was being held! I don't know about you, but I would have felt silly going to a "Newcomers Club" if I had been born and raised in the area.

Nevertheless, most of the attendees joined the club on the spot. I did not. It wasn't exactly that I felt intimidated and unwelcome - I was working in an upscale store at the time, so I had become used to being around wealthy people. And there were some nice activities within the club, like an antiquing group. But I reflected that the other members of that group would be likely to favor the high-end antique stores that were out of my price range. 

I had no regrets about not joining the club, and eventually found friends elsewhere. But I still have the memory of that fancy cake at the Newcomers Club meeting - and now I'm off to the kitchen to make one myself!

(note: the cake is called Mocha Cream Roll - it is a chocolate sponge cake filled with whipped cream that has been flavored with powdered sugar, cocoa and Kahlua. It is iced with a chocolate ganache and then further topped with a powdered sugar glaze.)


  1. Great story and a wonderful looking cake! We received a visit from the local newcomers (or something like it) committee when we purchased our house on 37th St. One of the members lived across the street. Both of us were born and raised here, so we really didn't need info on the area, but the coupons were nice. I don't think we purchased laundry detergent for several years with the coupons for a FREE giant box of Sears laundry soap that we received a couple of years in a row.

  2. This year's cake is now gone; my husband demolished it yesterday! The Newcomers' Club I mentioned above was strictly local - I'm sure the other women would have shuddered at the thought of using coupons.