This week’s obsession: Farewell Cakes
We left Maui two and a half months ago. Being new here in SF was hard because of general transition issues that were made way worse due to COVID, yet city living felt very natural at the same time. But then again, nothing was natural. I mean, hello, I had to wear a coat for my own birthday. IN. AUGUST. #NothingNaturalAboutThat
With this weird weather pattern unique to San Francisco, aka “Winter in July”, I suddenly found myself scrambling to find things to wear that had become foreign to me after island life. Things like pants, long sleeved shirts, and shoes that aren’t flip flops (or in my man candy’s case, just shoes in general).
It was such an adjustment that became so omnipresent and mind consuming that the island with perfect temperatures (read: I really like hot weather!) that I just left became a distant memory, almost a lifetime ago. I found myself daydreaming about the persistent heat that I secretly enjoyed but always agreed with people whenever they commented on the weather that it was, in fact, “too hot”. From there, I started reminiscing about all the good times I had there with my friends, especially the fantastic send off party we had before we left the island. And I can’t leave off the cake!
As usual, I'm happy that I found a way to make my own cake. Often people will oppose me for making my own birthday cakes (or in this case, going away party cake), but the reality is that if I don’t make my own cake for my events, most people’s minds somehow go directly to getting grocery store cakes for me - never to making it themselves, and certainly never to getting a cake from an actual bakery. And on Maui, the most common grocery store that people went to for “specialty cakes” was Costco. And I… I just couldn’t let that happen. Again. 🤦🏻♀️ (I say all of this very aware that last month for the first time in my career as a chef, someone bought me a cake from a renowned chef for my birthday and for that I am very grateful. It was truly a joyous experience for me! In this post, I'm speaking of my experiences prior to last month.) Usually when someone declares, “You can’t make your own birthday cake!” I inform them that this is the main reason why I do it myself (sometimes if I’m feeling cheeky I’ll follow up with, “But you can make me a cake if you feel that strongly about it!” and then pure terror creeps into their eyes 🤣), they concede my point that grocery store cakes just don’t cut it in this circumstance.
If you know me, you know for certain that chocolate chip cookies are my favoritest dessert. I make them all the time, and I always have a batch of cookie dough in my freezer for those moments that require one or two fresh baked cookies. You know those moments - after a long day at work, or if you’re super stressed about the current worldwide pandemic and upcoming elections, or a Tuesday, for example. Those are all great times to have a ball or three of cookie dough waiting for you so you can bake and eat at will - purely for stress management purposes.
I think I "blame" my mother for my ultimate love of chocolate chip cookies. It goes way back to this decadent cake that she made, that for some reason I always thought was my birthday cake.
Forgive the photo quality - this was from the 80's. But I remember loving the crap out of this cake. I'm pretty sure it was an ice cream cake with sprinkle-topped chocolate chip cookies around the edges with chocolate drizzles, whipped cream decor, and cherries on top. Way to go, Mom! Turns out this was not my birthday cake (although I love that I was convinced that it was mine right up until the moment I asked my mom to send me this photo), this was actually another going away cake for when we were about to move to New Orleans ⚜️ My mom dressed my sister and I up, invited our two best friends over, and we had a party.
I don't remember the party, but I definitely remember this cake! #typical Side note: I still have those sweet dance moves you see me sporting in that first photo.
So when it came time to decide what type of cake to make for our going away party, and of course, how on earth I was going to decorate it (keeping in mind that all of my cake supplies, baking equipment, and decorating tools had been packed up), I returned to the basics. #AdviceToLiveBy
Cookie dough is very easy to make the day before (or several days in advance, actually. And there is always the option to freeze it!) and cookies cakes need minimal decorating which was ideal for this situation. Plus, the taste!
I can’t fail to mention that I had some amazing neighbors who not only agreed to supply me with most of the ingredients for this cake, but also with a refrigerator to store my dough in, an oven to bake the cookie in, and a kitchen to decorate the cake in.
Things were moving along so smoothly until mere hours before the party when I realized that I didn’t have my trusty cake transporter. Not that this massive cookie cake would fit in it anyway. I had to keep it on the sheet tray that I had baked it on the whole time I was decorating because there was nowhere else to put it! Now that it was decorated and needed to be driven to the beach location of our party, I really needed to cover it up to protect it from dust/dirt/bugs/fingers/general exposure.
We wandered around my neighbors' apartment picking up random things like chopping boards and marble platters to see if we could use anything at all for this task. Then they mentioned something about how this cake was the size of a large pizza… it was like light bulbs went off over all of our heads! They came up with the genius idea of going to a pizza parlor and asking for a box. And wouldn’t you know it, we lived right across the street from a pizza place! So we waltzed across the street, picked up a pizza box from our friendly neighborhood pizza parlor/dive shop #MauiLiving and whisked the cake away to our lovely farewell party. And the rest is history.
So there you have it, folks. My tip of the week is that sometimes you need to think outside of the box (or in my case, inside the [pizza] box) when it comes to your cakes - or you should surround yourself with people who do so - because it can absolutely save the day! #LoveMyNeighbors
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