Advice to my 25-Year-Old Self

I’m 35 years old today*.

Yeesh, that sounds old. I’m usually not affected by birthdays or adding another year, not even when the big 3-0 hit. But this year feels different. 35 seems significant. It’s a new box to check on surveys when you’re asked for you age…18-24, 25-34, 35-(the end).

Yesterday I could say that I was in my early-30s, but today there’s no getting around it. I’m firmly planted in my mid-30s.

I’ve been reflective over the past week. I got the urge to look back to where my life was 10 years ago, in 2004, when I turned 25. I was living alone in an apartment in the Andersonville neighborhood, just one month away from finishing my pastry degree at CHIC (now Le Cordon Bleu Chicago), dating a total d-bag, and going out most nights of the week.

If my 35-year-old self could give advice to my 25-year-old self, this is what it would be:

1. Good job busting through the pastry degree while working full-time, but there’s no time to pat yourself on the back. Keep working hard. Getting that degree is the best decision you’ve ever made, and it’s going to enable you to work towards a fun and fulfilling career with loads of opportunities that you can’t even imagine yet. Keep working hard. It pays off. You get to be a part of a small group of people who really love their profession, and that is very special.

2. About that douche bag...He broke up with you on your birthday. On the actual day of your birth. Who does that? He’s not worth your heartache. It’s going to take you a little longer to find the right guy, but it happens. And on that note…

3. Be open to dating blonde guys. Yes, seriously. Let go of the notion you’ve had since childhood that blondes only look good with other blondes. So what if Barbie and Ken were both blonde, and you’re not? It’s a weird and irrational thought.  There’s a tall towhead coming your your way that you don’t want to pass on.

4. Speaking of hair, for the love of all holy things, DO NOT EVER cut your hair into a pixie cut with blonde highlights again. That one “friend” who told you it looked great? She turned out to be a bitch, and you looked ridiculous. For a long time, ridiculous. Keep growing that shit out. It looks better long.

5. A Short Poem About Sunscreen:
Slather it on,
Every Day,
Just little dab,
Keeps wrinkles at bay.
Embrace the paste (of your skin)!

5. You enjoy living alone. You enjoy silence once in a while. You’re doing it right now, but it’s going to be a long time until you can afford it again. The next time you do it, you’ll have a huge sense of pride because you’ve bought your very own space in the city that you love. Tom Hanks’ place will have nothing on this money pit, so start saving.

6. You’re going out. A lot. You’re staying out late, dancing until you’re sweaty, and probably spending too much cash. Keep doing that for as long as you can, because this time doesn’t last forever. Friends are getting married. They’re getting really involved with their careers. Soon they’re going to start families. Slowly, as time goes by, you just don’t see each other as much. Reality is a beast. Take full advantage of this time now. Say yes to every invitation. Enjoy the people in your life. They’re amazing.

7. The migraines are coming! The migraines are coming! There’s not a whole lot you can do about this, but enjoy your 25-year-old so-called “hangovers” while they last. You won’t know real day-after pain until you hit 30 and are forced to swear off the booze for a bit until you can get those headaches in check.

8. Get a personal trainer. You don’t know it yet, but you love it. It feels good to work out really hard. The soreness that comes the day after a session actually feels great. Plus, you can eat a ton and not gain weight which is a total bonus, as your burgeoning cake career is going to involve copious amounts of buttercream frosting.

25Beth
Me at 25.
Beth35
Me at 35. Wrinkle-free, thanks to the magic of candlelight. Pie beats cake!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Written on my actual birthday, but held for digestion for a few weeks before posting.

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Graffiti Cake

Graffiti Birthday Cake

I made this cake for a friend over the weekend. If you had to guess,how old do you think Bethany is? What birthday was she celebrating?

Would you guess…

39 4 Eva?

If you were guessing solely on this cake design, I bet you would aim a lot lower. And if you saw Bethany in person, you’d guess even lower than that. I’m pretty sure she still gets carded when she buys lottery tickets. Lucky lady!

Bethany, also known as “Queen B”  is a phenomenal DJ, part of the Orchard Lounge collective. We met 12 years ago and bonded over a mutual love music. A couple of years later, she talked me into break dancing lessons. Yes, they teach that. Or at least, they used to teach it before anything and everything could be learned via YouTube. I was pretty terrible at it, but Bethany could windmill with the best of ’em. She probably still can.

Fondant Modeled Bee

City-gritty AND ultra-feminine is tough to pull off. but it’s like Bethany invented it. This street art-inspired, buttercream-iced cake is an homage to her unique style and the way she lives her life, in full color and with a little bit of sparkle.

Gold Luster Dust and Edible Gold Star Accents

 

 

 

 

Summer Strawberry Birthday Cake

DJCake1I am so competitive. Sometimes, it’s an admirable quality, pushing me to try a little harder or work a little longer . But a lot of times, it’s just plain dumb.

For instance, this past weekend I was riding in the car with my boyfriend and his parents. We were on our way home from an early birthday celebration for DJ. He and I are having another small celebration to commemorate the actual day, so as we were riding along, I asked him what kind of a cake he would prefer. Because, you know, I make cakes. Professionally. And it’s his birthday, so of course I would be making him a cake. Makes sense, right? Are you with me?

OK.

Without enthusiasm or humor, he requested an ice cream cake.

AN ICE CREAM CAKE.

I won Cupcake Wars, for Christ’s sake. And he wants to squander that kind of talent on an ice cream cake? Ouch, man!

Now, I love ice cream as much as the next guy. Probably more, actually. I’ve often fantasized about opening an ice cream business. I even put together half of a business plan for an ice cream truck before I realized that here in the Chicago,  I’d have only four solid months of sunshine and sales and eight long months of frigid destitution. Not my best get-rich-quick scheme, but you get the idea. I love ice cream.

But I’m great at cake. And this is the first year that we’ll celebrate his birthday together. I want to make him a damn cake! A real cake! CAKE cake. With ice cream alongside, if he wants.

DJ proceeded to say that he prefers ice cream cakes to regular cakes because regular cakes are all the same to him. They’re usually not bad, but they never “wow” him. And that’s fair, except that I’ve seen him happily horse down several pieces of cake now, some made by me.

DJ is a humor writer. His indifference to cakes is akin to me thinking that that all fart jokes are the same, and not only the same, but mediocre, to boot. (Just kidding though, baby. Your fart jokes are classic.)

So my nutty, competitive mind kicks into the spin cycle, and all I can think is, “I’ll show you! I’ll make you the best g*ddamn cake you’ve ever tasted or will ever taste again! And then I will never make you a cake ever again for doubting me!

Birthdays are for birthday cakes, so DJ is getting a true birthday cake this year, with simple flavors that I think he’ll enjoy. It’s not overly sweet, with a little nuttiness from ground almonds and almond extract. Fresh strawberries and whipped cream will glue it all together and keep it light and summery. It’s finished with a sprinkling of crushed almond tuile cookies for a bit of crunch. Maybe it won’t be the best cake he’s ever had, but even if it’s not, it will be a great memory of the first time we spent his birthday together.

This weekend, he gets his ice cream cake.  You better believe that it will be the best damn ice cream cake to ever come out of a freezer!

DJCake4

Summer Birthday Cake

Almond Chiffon · Whipped Cream · Strawberries · Almond Cookie Crunch

For the cake:
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Cut rounds of parchment paper and place in the bottom of two 6 inch round pans. Do not spray the pans.

In a large bowl, whip the egg whites and cream of tarter with an electric mixer on high speed until foamy. With the mixer running, slowly add 1/4 cup of the sugar, and continue whipping until it is glossy and holds stiff peaks.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, almond flour, remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, baking powder, and salt, discarding any large pieces of almond flour that won’t make it through the sifter.

In small bowl, whisk together the milk, egg yolks, vanilla, and almond extract. Stir the mixture into the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into the yolk mixture to loosen. Fold in the remaining egg whites gently, until the mixture is well combined and there are no pockets of whipped egg whites left. Divide evenly into prepared pans.

Bake for 22-25 minutes or the tops of the cakes spring back to the touch. Cool the cakes for 10 minutes on cooling rack. Run a knife around the sides to loosen the edges of the cake and invert onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before filling.

For the cookie crunch:
4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small chunks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sliced almonds
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl using a fork or a pastry blender, mix all of the ingredients together until the butter is in pea-sized chunks and the mixture is very crumbly. Spread into an even layer on the parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Bake for 5-7 minutes, or until the cookie looks lacy and the edges are very brown. Cool completely. Crumble into small pieces.

For the stabilized whipped cream:
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
4 teaspoons water
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 pint fresh strawberries, cut into small pieces + additional whole strawberries for garnish

In a small saucepan, stir together the gelatin and water until the gelatin is evenly moistened. Let it sit until thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Cook over very low heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally, to melt the mixture and dissolve the gelatin. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, whip the heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar to soft peaks. With the mixer running, slowly pour in the cooled gelatin. Continue whipping until the cream forms stiff peaks. Remove ¼ of the whipped cream and set aside. Fold the cut strawberries into the remaining whipped cream.

To assemble the cake, cut each layer horizontally into two. Fill each layer with 1/3 of the strawberry whipped cream. Run your spatula gently around the sides of the cake to clean up any whipped cream that crept out from inside the cake, and to very lightly coat the sides. the last cake with the plain whipped cream. Sprinkle the top generously with the almond cookie crunch and garnish with additional whole strawberries and a light sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar.