|Posted on April 16, 2010 at 12:28 PM|
A homemade birthday cake.
This month, my father celebrated the year of Beiju 米寿, his 88th birthday. He is actually turning 87 years old but if you practice the traditional Chinese way, an extra year is added to your age for the time you spent in your mother's womb. So if you ask him his age, he will always say, it depends. Beiju is a particularly festive occasion in a person's life cycle. Beiju is written with the Chinese character "rice", which symbolizes nutrition, wealth and other wholesome things. My father asked to keep the celebration small and simple. We did what we usually do on weekends, gather as many children and grandchildren as possible, and have lunch together.
When it comes to birthday cakes, we always baked them ourselves. My sister Fuyuko, the pastry chef, has been in charge for quite some time. Who else can make it better? This year, her nine year old son, Hayato, was in the kitchen helping his mother clean the strawberries. Like his parents, Hayato has all the qualities to make a chef: good focus, coordination, patience and an excellent appetite. The shortcake recipe comes from our grandmother, Hatsuko Ishikawa. She passed away at the age of 102. She was baking birthday cakes for her family until she was into her mid-nineties. If strawberries were out of season, she used canned peaches. She always let Fuyuko and I help her decorate the cake. What's great about this cake is its lightness. For 100 grams each of sugar and flour, the recipe calls for 5 eggs. The egg whites are beaten to a peak and folded into the batter at the very end. I can make it with almost my eyes closed. It is airy like angel food cake, only it's more yellow. We made 2 cakes to serve 10 people.
My birthday was just a few days ago, so we decided to celebrate mine, too. One cake for my father and another one for me. But when it came to blowing the candles, my father didn't wait for me. He blew out all the candles at once, including those on my cake. Oh well, at least we know his lungs are working very well and I still got to squeeze in a quick wish.
Hayato helps his mother clean the strawberries.
Fuyuko puts the gold leaf on top of the cake.
Strawberry Shortcake Recipe
1 round cake (8 inches)
2 pints fresh strawberries
100 grams all-purpose flour
100 grams white sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
5 eggs, separated. Egg whites whipped.
2 cups whipped heavy cream (with 4-5 tablespoons of sugar)
Slice the strawberries. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Grease and flour one 8 inch round cake pan.
In a medium bowl combine the cake flour and the sugar. With an electric beater, mix the ingredients. Add one egg yolk at a time. Stir until just combined. Add the melted butter.
Whip the egg whites until peak forms. Combine the whipped egg whites with the batter. Do not mash the egg whites. Leave the batter fluffy as possible.
Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 425 degrees F (220 degrees C) for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool partially in pan on wire rack.
Slice partially cooled cake in half, making two layers. Place half of the strawberries on one layer and top with the other layer. Top with remaining strawberries and cover with the whipped cream.