Sunday, September 25, 2011

Siddo's Birthday Cake

Abe Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2011)

In June, my nephew Sidd called from Seattle.

"Susie Auntie, can you make my birthday cake?" He was on the cusp of turning eight.

"Of course, Siddo. What kind of cake do you want?"

"I'd like it to be square."

"O.k., but what flavor should it be? Chocolate, vanilla, strawberry? As the family baker, I consider this an all-important question.


After years of baking, I've come to recognize the power of a homemade cake. I can't recall any of the gifts I received at Sidd's age, but I can still picture the butterfly birthday cake my mom set before me, year after year.

Abe Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2011)

For the next several weeks, Sidd and I continued to chat about the cake.

"Susie Auntie, I know what I want on my birthday cake. It's something very old and something that you can use to buy things."

A riddle. I liked the challenge. Before I could respond, Sidd began again.

"Think about it, Susie Auntie. Do you need a clue?"

"Siddo, do you want it to have a dinosaur?"

"Yes!" he replied. "You're right Susie Auntie. Now try to guess the other thing."

Abe Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2011)

"Could it be money, Sidd?"

"Yes, money!" In the last few years, Sidd has developed a fascination with cash that no one wants to claim.

Putting our imaginations together, we talked about frosting a sheet cake with green trim to resemble a dollar bill and replacing Jefferson's profile with the head shot of a dinosaur. But after more thought, Sidd asked if I could make a cake with a giganotosaurus counting money.

"What's a giganotosaurus?" I asked naively.

My oldest nephew Paul picked up the other phone

"Susie Auntie, it's one of the biggest dinosaurs ever!!!"

I would have to Google it.

Abe Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2011)
In a few weeks, Paul, Sidd, and I were in my parent's kitchen measuring out ingredients. Flour flew, milk splashed, and sugar crystals scattered. I poured the glossy batter into floured pans and passed them the mixing bowl. Conversation slowed as they slid their fingers over its surface, creating an abstract silver pattern.

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2011)

We stirred together a butter cream frosting, and Paul and Sidd scooped out a spoonful before I started to trim the cake.
"Mmmm...that's so good!"

By the time we got to the dinosaur, they were fazed by all the kitchen work. They chased each other in and out of the room while I sculpted its body together.

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2011)

In the end, the cake was a little lopsided, but it possessed layers of meaning like a handwritten note. Paul pronounced it the best birthday cake ever and Sidd said that he wouldn't sell the dinosaur even if he were offered a million dollars. Having interned at a fancy-smancy bakery, I could pick out all its imperfections. As an aunt, I knew we had crafted a deeply memorable cake.

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2011)


I love to decorate cakes and cupcakes with modeling chocolate. It's easy to make and tastes like a high-end Tootsie roll. Just be sure good chocolate like Ghirardelli, Guittard or Lindt. If it's a really special occasion, splurge on Valrhona or Amedei. I use this recipe as a guide. If it's too hard to knead after you pull it out of the refrigerator, microwave it for a few seconds. Keep in mind that it hardens as it dries.

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2011)
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  1. I love anything chocolate related, especially with a narrative! Great read!

  2. Looks yummy. Not sure how it would compare to my Dukes of Hazzard cake at age 8.

  3. Awesome read! I am about to make my sons first birthday cake, so this gave me a lot of inspiration and confidence knowing that it does not have to be perfect! Plus, love the dinosaur idea. Thank you, susans nephew!

  4. Awesome read! I am about to make my sons first birthday cake. I appreciate the inspiration and the confidence to know that it does not have to be perfect! Thank you susan and susan's nephew!


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