Today is my father’s birthday. My dad is an amazing person, and essentially one of the most important individuals in my life. He is mildly mannered, soft spoken, and the most kind and hardworking person. As a pharmacist, neighbour, or friend, he is the kind soul who always lends a helping hand, and he is the person everyone likes to work with. As a father-in-law, he is the person who likes to make fun of JH the most, and banter with him any chance he gets. As a father, he is the person who sacrificed everything in this world and worked so hard for me and my siblings. To me especially, when every single meaningful person in my life kept on leaving, he was my constant, the person who lifted my chin up, the person who made me believe that all could maybe somehow be okay. He has, always been, and always will be my hero and best friend. I would also like to think that every positive attribute I have, I inherited from him.
He will probably never read this (even though he is more social media inclined than most parents I have met in my generation), but he knows how crazy I am about him (though I wish I did better with expressing how grateful I am for him in my wedding speech 4 years ago). I am a daddy’s girl through and through, and he has been there for me for every happy moment where I needed him, and equally, helped me through every single down in my life. I could probably write a billion pages of memories fondly from when I was a little girl until now reflecting on my relationship with my father, but the impact of last year and how he helped me through it resonates with me most at this moment in time.
Last year, when I was in the hospital, he was the person who spent every afternoon with me (when he was not working – he is semi-retired), walking around the courtyard of the psychiatric unit when I could not stand to spend another hour in my eerily quiet room because I was not allowed to leave the unit for risk of wanting to harm myself again. He clasped my hands when I cried, stroked my hair, and said nothing but a quiet “love you, honey” every so often. He didn’t tell me it “will be okay” because we didn’t know if it would be, but he tried to be understanding where he didn’t know how, and it was inexplicably hard to. He wanted to be there for me like every good father does for his kids. The anguish in his face and the wrinkle on his brow tore me inside because he could not understand why the idea of suicide would ever enter our lives; but at the same time as a pharmacist, he had probably encountered and counselled hundreds of people in my situation, and understood the difficult medicines I had to adjust to. He actually understood far more than most people in my life.
When it came to me ‘disappearing’, me and my dad thought our bond was stronger than that – but sometimes the mind gets dark, and when a person cannot hold on, she just lets go. There were seriously moments last year where only glimpses of JH or my dad (or even the thought of writing each of them a good bye letter) would stop me through an extreme low; and there were times last year, that even thinking of them was not enough, and a good bye letter never even had the chance to enter picture. And that’s a scary thing. All I know is that even though days are not perfect now, and there are days where I still question everything, I am grateful for the chance to continue being with my dad everyday, celebrating his birthday this year, and going on a trip with him later this year. Sometimes people do not get that chance, and I am ever grateful. I love him so much.
Last weekend, my family came over for dinner, and I made my dad a cake as part of the meal. It turned out a little bit more ‘fall’ in aesthetic than I wanted, but I had some gooseberries / strawberries in the house and everything just went from there. The cake was actually strawberry-vanilla, but I hate making a strawberry cake pink just for the sake of the cliche. I also know the chocolate-drip thing is getting so old, but I still think it is pretty.
Dad hates lots of buttercream, so I tried to keep the icing to a minimum. All and all I think everyone enjoyed the cake – dad ate his full slice, and this was great considering some years he left a bit behind because I used too much buttercream. Every year I love watching my dad blow out the candles. I just hope that each year he gets every wish he asks for, and I hope this year that he made a really good one.
- Mood – I cried writing this post, but as I continue this conversation, it is just going to get heavier and heavier from here. I wanted it to be a therapeutic exercise, and openly talking about last year is part of that release.
- Focus – Dad, and how much I love him.
- Craving – Strawberry vanilla layer cake.
- Feedback from the husband – This was all about dad today, but JH seemed to enjoy the cake. He is still eating the leftovers this week.
The Not-So-Secret Secrets:
DAD’S STRAWBERRY VANILLA BIRTHDAY CAKE
COMPONENTS – adapted from Style Sweet CA
|5 large egg whites||Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8-inch cake pans. I cut parchment paper circles, grease them and place them at the bottom of the cake pan to double-ensure that the cakes do not stick.|
|1 tsp pure vanilla extract, 1/2 tsp lemon extract||In a small mixing bowl, combine the egg whites, extracts, and half of the cream.|
|3/4 cup cream (I have also used whipping cream and sour cream before in other occasions)||Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Mix on low until just combined. On low, add the butter and the remainder of the cream until the ingredients have just come together. On medium-high, mix for a minute until fully combined. Scape down the edges and bottom of the bowl.|
|2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
|In 3 additions, slowly add in the egg white mixture and mix for a few seconds. Scrape down the edges and bottom of the bowl after each addition. Do not over-mix.|
1 tbsp baking powder
2 pinches of salt
|Using a kitchen scale, distribute the batter evenly between the three cake pans. Bake for 23 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean (know your oven).|
|1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature||Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans. I remove them directly onto plastic wrap. Wrap them up lightly and either freeze or refrigerate for a day before frosting.|
Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream ( Note: I split the batch. I used strawberry puree only on the inside because I did not want a pink cake. The outside layer of buttercream, was flavoured with vanilla extract only which is why it retains that white-brownish colour).
|5 large egg whites||Combine egg white and sugar over a double boiler. Whisk constantly until the mixture is warm to the touch.|
|1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup strawberry puree
|Transfer mixer bowl to stand mixer. Beat using a whisk attachment at medium-high speed for 10 minutes. The mixture should be cool with stiff peaks.|
|1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into mini-pieces
1 tsp vanilla extract
|Switch to the paddle attachment. On medium-low, gradually add strawberry puree and vanilla extract. Add pieces of butter, only a few at a time, mixing to incorporate after each addition.|
|Pinch of salt||If the mixture looks clumpy, continue to mix until smooth.|
|57 grams bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (weighed using kitchen scale)||Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream, salt and corn syrup at medium-low, whisking slightly until the mixture steams a little.|
|1/4 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp light corn syrup
Pinch of salt
|Pour the mixture over the chopped chocolate and whisk until smooth. Place glaze in the fridge for about 10 minutes before dripping over cold, iced cake.|
- The whole layer cake process usually takes me a few days.
- I make the cake layers on the first night, and then freeze them so they are easier to ice. Freezing them also makes it easier for trimming in case the layers are not even. Layer cakes are just so ugly if they are not even.
- I make the icing the next day, and then do a first layer of icing (the ‘crumb coat’) to get the cake to the ‘naked cake’ stage. After the cake has been refrigerated for awhile, I do a second solidifying layer of icing with the assistance of an off-set spatula and a bench scraper.
- I refrigerate the cake at this point for another day. I make the glaze the next day, and then drip it (once cooled) over the sides of the cake and gradually in a thin layer over the top. The glaze was a bit thick (I did something wrong this time) so I ruined some of the left side (as can be seen in the picture). I warm the glaze for a couple of 5-second intervals in the microwave to get a thinner glaze to work with.
- At this point, I added speckled gold dust macarons for garnishes (yes, I still owe a recipe and post), and in this case, gooseberries and some crumbled cookie.
- The cake topper is from Jaimie of Bash & Co Party. Her work is wonderful. I am a big fan.