Baking an Italian birthday cake for our one year old Livia
This has been my birthday cake for decades. It is a classic sponge cake, sliced into three layers, soaked in alchermes, and filled with vanilla pastry cream and chocolate pastry cream.
And so, you’re one, Livia. You were born when the blackberries ripen in the hedgerows, when the first thunderstorms cool down the summer heat.
Last year I had a late lunch after what felt like an interminable labour with you asleep next to me, my first lunch as a mum, with pasta al pomodoro, pork loin, and the best baked apple I have ever had. Today we’ll be feasting on roast chicken, pasta al pesto, and a birthday cake for you.
You grow up in such a hurry, Livia.
There are traits of your character and personality that only lasted for a blink of an eye, that defined you, that helped us become your mum and dad, and love you every day more fiercely. You outgrew clothes, habits, and rituals.
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Now that you are a big one-year-old girl, it is time to pass the baton. For a lifetime, this has been my birthday cake, first baked by your great-grandma and decorated for me by your nonno, then my solo project since I was a teenager, and I was attempting my first steps as a home baker. So, Livia, now you have your birthday cake. We will decorate it together, and you will be allowed to use all the sprinkles, flowers, colours, and candies your bubbling, cheerful personality will want.
The Italian Birthday Cake
This has been my birthday cake for decades, and probably also a fixture of birthday parties for all the Italian kids my age.
It is a classic sponge cake, sliced into three layers, soaked in alchermes, and filled with vanilla pastry cream and chocolate pastry cream. My nonna would frost it with a traditional icing, often in a shade of pale pink given by a few drops of alchermes. My dad, not a pastry chef but the most resourceful man I know, would pipe chocolate from a pastry bag to decorate the cake, writing my name, my age, and adding a few doodles, all for the final photo that would be printed and attached into the family album.