Leo that I am, I love birthdays. Not just my own, but friends and family…pretty much any excuse for a party. I especially enjoy making everyone’s favorite cake–for my own birthday I usually make “THE BEST CARROT CAKE RECIPE IN THE WORLD!!”
But because I’ve only been in Italy a few months, I kind of figured that the day would pass without much fanfare. I was pretty certain that without my daily reminders that my birthday was coming, my friends in New York wouldn’t be thinking of me. Sure enough, with the exception of Cheryl (who still retains best friend status) not one phone call or email. But since I’d already prepared for that, I was more concerned about making a fun day for myself here. After all it’s not every year that you get to celebrate your big day in Tuscany. What I hadn’t counted on were that my new friends here would want to celebrate with me.
Wednesday was Bonnie’s daughter Natalie’s sixth birthday and because mine was only a few days away, Bonnie invited me to dinner with the family and they celebrated my birthday along with Natalie’s. It was super sweet. I made chocolate cupcakes for Natalie and got her a “grown up” purse. Every girl needs her first Italian handbag. Bonnie bought me a beautiful leather journal, and Zack gave me an Italian birthday card that neither of us could translate completely. We had a really fun night.
My gift to myself was a haircut and then two days ago, my neighbor Marinella brought by a gift for me of a deliciously scented citrus bubble bath. Then today she gave me some of her homemade marmalata that she’d made with susini. Carla stopped by yesterday with a huge bag of tomatoes and cucumbers from her garden. And today, I’m getting together with Angela for a birthday glass of prosecco at the bar. I am a little overwhelmed by everyone’s kindness.
As for my normal baking tradition of “THE BEST CARROT CAKE RECIPE IN THE WORLD,” I had pretty much given up on the idea. It has a decadent cream cheese frosting, and…well, you’re not likely to find Philadelphia cream cheese in Italy, right? Much to my surprise, it was the easiest of all the non “Italian” ingredients to find. It’s in even the smallest grocery store. Coconut and buttermilk were the challenges. Buttermilk it turns out is not available here, so I improvised with lemon juice in milk to make the acidity. And after asking the manager at the supermarket if they had shredded coconut and he told me they didn’t, I’d decided to buy a whole one and try to make the flakes myself. But as I was making one last pass around the store, on the very bottom shelf in the section with the nuts, I found it. Flaked and perfect. I resisted the urge to show it to the manager, since I’m a grown up with 39 years now!!!
This morning I set about making the carrot cake in cupcake form so that I can share with everyone and they came out surprisingly well. The cream cheese frosting was a tad lumpy as my hand mixer began smoking before I’d even creamed the butter–it’s the second one I’ve gone through! I do MISS my Kitchenaid!!!
I brought cupcakes around to the girls in town and to Marinella and everyone seemed to like them. I wanted them to taste them before trying to explain the ingredients, which include the tropical ingredients pineapple and coconut as well as the carrots and walnuts. I just told them it is a famous cake in America and everyone seemed satisfied with that. Caterina seemed to particularly enjoy the cake and gave me a significant “birthday” discount on my cheese purchase.
The afternoon was a blur of prosecco. First Angela made me some concoction with Campari and prosecco, then I lost count of the glasses I consumed. (I’m told that the Italian word which corresponds with tipsy is allegra and when you are three sheets to the wind, you are ubriaca. I was somewhere in the middle, but I forget the word for that!) It was over 90 degrees, the Italian sun was shining brightly and I enjoyed being the center of attention. Many glasses were bought for me and many toasts were made. Cinder too had a blast and at last count, she’d consumed a discarded ice cream cone, half a tuna sandwich, and a whole tray of bar snacks that fell on the ground– they have little round chips here that taste like Doritoes and Cinder is a fan!
The day ended with dinner at my place and the carrot cake cupcakes. Angela came over to supervise as I was a little worse for wine. All in all a terrific first birthday in Italia. AUGURI!!!!