It’s just after 8, and I’m failing to drift back to sleep. Sheltered from the morning chill outside, it’s warm under my blankets. My pajamas comfortably enslave my limbs, but my mind aches to break free from the confines of my comforter. Under the sun’s warm and welcoming glow through my window, I struggle to coerce my eyes back into a state of unconscious repose.
But I fail.
It’s been like this for awhile
On my feet, I take all of three steps to the bathroom. Undoing the lock – quietly – I step inside with the clothing I had laid out on the dresser the night before grasped tightly to my chest. Placing the pile on the thin bathroom shelf is like piecing together a puzzle, but once methodically deposited, I catch a quick glimpse of myself in the mirror.
Remnants of the previous night are written on my face. My hazy eyes are encircled by smudged eyeliner and ornamented by trails sweeping over my temples. It’s exactly what I was expecting; when I returned to my room after watching a basketball game at S’s apartment, I had only enough energy to brush my teeth, slip in my retainer, shimmy into my pajamas and happily drift under the covers. My phone, lying dead on the dresser, is but another testament to the previous night’s exhaustion. I remember thinking to plug it in before drifting off, but I simply couldn’t be bothered to stand and fit the cable to the phone as I lay contentedly between my sheets and covers.
Just under two years ago, this never happened. Sure, I stayed up late, but I wasn’t out having fun with friends into the early hours of the morning and I seriously doubt I was wearing eyeliner or makeup. I don’t think I even owned either until the tail end of my senior year. I can’t even remember why I started wearing it.
I strip my face of the memories and brush my teeth, staring absentmindedly at the lower-right corner of the mirror. It needs to be cleaned.
I’ll get to it later.
I’ve changed a lot in the past year, I think as I zip my hoodie and step into the hall. The door protests loudly as it swings shut, and I reprimand it with a swift turn of a key.
In recent years, I haven’t considered my own birthday very significant or at all monumental. I did in the past, of course, when I was much younger and wide-eyed over the thought of parties and cake and friends and gifts, but I feel like I grew out of that phase quickly. As I aged, I craved less and less attention. I realized, as one is apt to do, that a birthday is just another day. I understood that I wasn’t going to magically feel different. I knew that I wouldn’t suddenly transform into an older version of myself. I was ok with it.
The years are just another thing to tirelessly remember.
But this birthday seems different. I do actually feel older. Not at this instant, mind you, but in comparison; I know where I was at this point in my life one year ago, and I know that I’ve grown since then. A lot. I was happy then, but I’m happier now. I can see the new places and faces in my life, the ups and downs, the new experiences and the old indulgences. It’s the first time that I’ve really felt this way in my life.
This is the first birthday that I’ve actually felt older for.
Today I am nineteen.
Today I am happy.
Lemon Chiffon Cake
This cake is very light, perfectly lemony and just the right thing for welcoming spring. It was the only thing I wanted for my birthday!
Lemon Cream via Fanny of FoodBeam
This is the most delicious stuff I have ever tasted. This is one of the few recipes that I make over and over and over again. It’s amazing, and so is Fanny!
1/2 c (100 g) sugar
1 1/2 lemons, zest of
2 large eggs
1/4 c (65 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)
10 1/2 Tbls (150 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into big chunks
First thing: fill the sink with 3-4cm of cold water (I use a large bowl). You will be placing the hot pan of lemon cream in it, so make sure whatever you’re using is large enough!
Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl (I use the bowl of my Kitchenaid stand mixer) that can be set over a pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.
Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, and start stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 185F, stirring constantly – be prepared, as it can take quite a lot of time.
As soon as it reaches 185F, remove the cream from the heat and place the bowl into the sink and allow to cool down to 140F. Gradually incorporate the butter, whisking after each addition (at this point, I like to use my Kitchenaid fitted with the whisk, hence the use of the Kitchenaid bowl).
When all the butter as been used, blend the cream with a hand-held blender for 8 minutes. It might sound long, but will ensure a too-smooth-to-be-true lemon cream.
Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of cling film against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate overnight.
Chiffon Cake via Alton Brown
It’s official; I’m addicted to chiffon.
1/2 c (62 g) cake flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 egg whites, at room temp
2 egg yolks, at room temp
1/3 c + 1 Tbls (85 g) sugar, divided
1/8 c (31 ml) water
1/8 c (31 ml) vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to 325F (160C) and prepare two 6″ round baking dishes by oiling them, lining the bottom with parchment, and oiling again.
In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Place the egg yolks and 2 1/2 ounces of the sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk on high for 2 minutes or until the mixture becomes pale yellow and ‘ribbons’ when lifted. Add the water, vegetable oil and vanilla and whisk to combine. Add the dry ingredients and whisk just to combine. Transfer the batter to a mixing bowl while you whisk the egg whites.
Place the egg whites and cream of tartar into a clean bowl and whisk on high using the whisk attachment, until it becomes foamy. Decrease the speed to low and gradually add the remaining sugar. Increase speed to high and continue whisking until stiff peaks form, approximately 2 minutes.
Transfer 1/3 of the egg whites to the batter and whisk until well combined. Add the remaining egg whites and fold in gently. Transfer batter into prepared pans. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean or the top springs back when lightly pressed. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack, and cool in pans 10 minutes. Cut around the perimeter and invert onto cooling rack to cook completely.
Italian Meringue Buttercream For step-by-step directions for making Italian Meringue Buttercream, please click here!
1/4 c (63 ml) water
1 c (210 g) sugar
5 egg whites
1/4 c (53 g) sugar
1 c (237 g) butter, softened, cut into small pieces
1 tsp vanilla, more if desired
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer.
Heat the 1 c sugar and water on the stove to 245F stirring occasionally only after the sugar has been dissolved. When it is within the range of 230F to 235F, begin whipping the egg whites. When they get to soft peaks, begin adding the remaining 1/4 c sugar and continue whipping to medium peaks, being careful not to overbeat. When the syrup is the correct temperature, slowly pour it into the eggs with the mixer on high. After fully incorporated, beat the frosting 7-10 minutes until the outside of the bowl is room temp (I usually go a little longer than this; often times the bowl is not room temp when I begin adding butter. If the mix seems to soupy, put it in the fridge for a few moments or try briefly chilling some of the butter in the freezer before adding). Begin adding the butter, tablespoon by tablespoon, beating until fully incorporated. The frosting will deflate a little, but it’s ok. Keep whipping until the frosting comes together, add the vanilla and continue whipping until it’s light and fluffy.
I screwed up and ended up mangling half of one of my layers when I sliced it. Don’t do that 😀
Slice each chiffon layer in half horizontally. Spread one with a thin layer of lemon cream, then a layer of buttercream. You could simply combine the two, but I didn’t want to mix up more than I would need. This way I can freeze the leftover buttercream for my next baking adventure. Top with another layer of cake, and spread, again, with a thin layer of lemon cream followed by a layer of buttercream. Continue until all of the layers are filled, and top with the last piece, flat side up. Crumb coat with the lemon cream, then frost with buttercream. Decorate as desired.