A couple of weeks ago my Dad celebrated his 70th birthday. Bare with me…I’ve had a glass of wine, and I’m about to get sappy.
My dad is one of the best people on the planet. Of course, as his favorite child (my words, not his), I may be biased. But I think a lot of other people, both inside and outside of the family, would agree with me. One of my Dad’s best traits is that he is a quiet and thoughtful listener. He and my mother raised five children, four of whom are…shall we say… “dominant” females? When you go through that, you learn when to keep your mouth shut and when to speak up.
Throughout my life, my Dad has been a part of every piano recital, every basketball game, every graduation ceremony. His face falls when he sees me in heartache over a guy. And even as a full-blown, salaried adult, he still won’t let me pay for dinner.
I’ve had some of my best conversations about my professional life with my Dad. He’s encouraged me in everything that I’ve done in my life. Even when I took out an almost-crippling student loan to go to college for the second time to learn to ice cakes and fry doughnuts, he just asked the appropriate parental questions (Are you sure this is really worth it?), accepted my responses as truth, and let me go on my way.
To this day, I’m not sure if my Dad believed that I was making a good decision by sinking all of that money into to pastry school. I just know that if he didn’t agree with my actions at the time, he didn’t vocalize it. I was 23, and he let me live my life without passing judgement.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to make my Dad proud. That’s why one of the first new recipes I worked on when I started my job in the test kitchen at Wilton was an Orange Sheet Cake. It’s one of Dad’s favorite sweet treats. When I was young, my mother bought sheets of orange cake slathered with orange cream cheese icing from Sara Lee. She would freeze the large cake, cutting off and thawing a section every now and then for an easy treat. My Dad loved that cake. We all did. It’s a great memory.
I’ve been trying to perfect the orange cake for years, and I may never stop tweaking it, but this version is very good and my Dad enjoyed it for his birthday. It has a dense, pound cake-like texture, and there is a lot of orange flavor from freshly grated orange zest and orange extract. It doesn’t take much to make the cake look luscious; let it sit at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes before serving, and the swirls of silky cream cheese icing will be all of the enticement you need to dig in, even if it is served on a disposable plate.
Dad, I love you, and I’m tackling homemade Ice Cream Cake Roll for #71!