This weekend we are celebrating #1 step-son’s 21st birthday. 21st’s are a very big deal here in Australia. They are a cross between a wedding, graduation celebration and a bucks/hens night. The party provides an opportunity for those who helped you reach adulthood to be acknowledged and celebrate the young person’s achievements. It then devolves into the young folks drinking far too much. It’s the way this culture celebrates.
The party has been months in the planning. After a long discussion it was agreed that an afternoon of lawn bowls would suit the multigenerational component. Finding a venue that would allow for a 21st was a challenge, owing primarily to the historically bad behaviour associated with the second half of the ritual.
We were able to find a lovely club that would allow for an afternoon affair. The manager was very clear that the event was over by 7 pm and the young people had to move on. To facilitate that we’ve organized a taco truck to come to a nearby park to feed them dinner before their night on the town at venues set up to handle young people and alcohol.
The evening before we are having a family dinner. Grandparents, aunts and cousins are converging on Sydney from all corners of Australia. We’ll celebrate as a family with speeches, presents and of course cake.
I’m not making the cake for the lawn bowls. We’re expecting nearly 100 people and that is well beyond the limits of my skills and kitchen. That cake is being supplied by our local cafe and is a magnificent sailing boat.
For the family though we’re going with the tried and true Marble Chiffon Cake. This is the boys’ default choice from the Hershey’s Chocolate Classics recipe book that they get to pick their birthday cakes from.
The cake is spectacular in both looks and taste. But don’t let that put you off, it is moderately difficult for an experienced baker. By experienced I mean that you can make a simple cake from scratch. The first time I made this cake my enthusiastic baking assistants were 3 and 8 years old and we managed just fine.
Here are my notes for making the cake with young, inexperienced bakers helping out 😉:
- The only tricky part is that you need a springform tube pan with a non-non-stick surface. This is essential as chiffon batter clings to the pan and climbs upwards. My 30+ year old springform pan works a charm because it was made before non-stick bakeware was readily available. A quick search on E-bay for aluminum angel food cake pans comes up with some good choices that are under $30 that can be checked out here.
- The chiffon cake is very light yet at the same time incredibly moist as it has a fair amount of oil in the batter. I use olive oil as it is what I have around.
- More importantly the cake is migraine trigger free as the chocolate components of the cake and glaze all use 100% pure cocoa. A slice of cake has less cocoa than a hot chocolate. I don’t think you need a fancy cocoa either, just use what you have on hand.
- I don’t use the cream of tartar in my egg whites. If you have a clean and dry bowl and your egg whites are not contaminated with any yolk you’ll be fine beating them to a stiff peak. Beat the egg whites first and then the cake batter so I don’t have to clean the beaters in between 😆.
- You need to invert the cake while cooling so that gravity is your friend, not foe, in keeping the height of the cake. I invert the cake for cooling over an old bottle. Much easier than the funnel method described. You could use any glass bottle that fits inside center hole of your cake pan.
- Don’t worry when the cake doesn’t come out cleanly, the chocolate glaze covers up those scruffy bits.
- The cake can be made 1-2 days in advance but store it in the baking tin to keep it from going stale. Just glaze it a few hours before serving.
- Trust the recipe for the glaze. The the butter, cocoa and water mixture forms into a ball. Then the magic of chemistry happens when you whisk in the icing sugar ½ cup at a time. If the glaze is a little thick I thin it with a tiny bit, 1-2 tsp, of milk.
So my friends, what is your go to birthday cake?