This afternoon we had the joyous privilege of celebrating my grandmother’s 90th birthday! We gathered at her house for lunch and, of course, cake. 😉
I was lucky enough to bake for the occasion – I made an old fashioned yellow cake with almond icing, and, for one layer, an orange marmalade filling. Inspired by my grandma’s love of flowers, I decorated it with a floral motif in bright citrusy colors.
The yellow cake recipe I worked with is an oldie from a McCall’s cookbook. The texture is very different from what you’ll find in a boxed mix today, it’s rather dense and more akin to a pound cake, but that does make it a nice base for a rich frosting and ice cream. The kids at the party were not impressed with this one, but I’m sure some of that was a difference in expectations about what a cake should be like….also, prior to cutting the cake they were making guesses about what flavor it was, and they were all rooting for chocolate! Sorry kiddos.
For the icing, I worked with my basic buttercream for the main icing and an orange marmalade filling (details below) for one of the layers. The filling was something I whipped up after thinking about how much my grandma enjoys jelly and jam, but I also like that it helped to tie the outside motif to the flavors inside. To make the decorations more resilient in the warm weather, I used my cake decorating instructor’s icing for the flowers and borders, as shortening tends to hold up better than butter.
I will confess that when I started on this project I was worried I was in over my head because I hadn’t really decorated a cake like this in several years, but I think it really came together at the end. The key to this style of cake is to put the big pieces on first – make large flowers and distribute those inward in a spiral pattern, fill in the gaps with medium flowers, then add small flowers, leaves, vines, and buds until it looks full. I started this around noon yesterday and didn’t finish until 10pm, so it would certainly qualify for “labor of love” status. My piping hand was basically an immobile claw after making this, so if you have the time, you may want to make some of the roses ahead of time to give your hands a break.
All in all, the party was a great success! Grandma received lots of lovely gifts and cards, we had tons of yummy food, and the weather was absolutely perfect. I hope we’ll be lucky enough to get to throw her a party twice as nice for the big 1-0-0!
Happy Birthday, Grandma!!!