Birthday Cake, for a Father I Still Love

Happy birthday daddy!

You’ve made it to another year – 55 and still alive.

It was my dad’s birthday yesterday and I made cake.

My dad and I have come a long way. I think understand him more than anyone else ever will.

You see, I love my dad, but I also resent him. I resent him on behalf of my mother, I resent him on behalf of my brother, most of all, I resent him on behalf of the man he could have been.

He is an absent husband, a barely existent father, a lazy, unmotivated breadwinner. Every night when he comes home from work, he changes out of his suit into his ill-fitted high waisted shorts and a polo, which he’s probably owned as long as I’ve lived, and goes out to sit at the table in our backyard patio. He brings three things: his cigarettes, a cup of straight Soju and a newspaper or book. In the darkness illuminated by his small lamp with no lampshade, bright lightbulb exposed, he reads, he smokes, he drinks, and he forgets about reality. He comes in at the end of the night and falls into a drunken slumber on the living room couch – glasses on, clothes unchanged – in front of the tv, which he almost always forgets to turn off. It’s become such a common occurrence in our household that this behavior doesn’t faze any of us, but when described with concrete words, the reality of it becomes clear, unbearably clear. And it’s painful.

But I still love him.

All the weird, questionable purchases in my house that we end up throwing away – fig newtons, random cans of sauces, already rotten plums – are my dad’s. My mom thinks he’s an idiot.

But I still love him.

The alcohol’s kind of fucked up his brain and the smoking has corroded his teeth. My younger brother doesn’t look up to him as a father figure as far as I can see.

His nonfunctioning marriage has left my mother silently depressed. She’s scared for her future once my brother leaves for college and she’ll be left alone with my dad and no one to communicate with.

But I still love him.

He told me a story one time about the woman he loved a long time ago. How he was too stupid and immature at the time to man up and propose. How she’d left him because he wouldn’t. Her father came to my dad to tell him that she still loved him, but my dad had too much pride to take her back. He still thought about her years later, already married to my mom and a father to me and my brother. They met up, not too long ago, and after, he was finally able to get over her. I had never imagined my father ever loving a woman, taking her out on dates and being in a real relationship. It made me realize how much more he could’ve had in his life. It made me hate him for failing my mother, his wife.

But I still love him.

Because he’s a good guy. A good guy who would rather pray to God and live a modest life rather than be rich and successful. A good guy who thinks he should’ve studied philosophy in college, not dentistry.

He’s a shadow of a man with unquittable bad habits and a good heart, the purest of the pure. He’s a man who is equally as pained as he is painful to be around. He is a man who hates himself but doesn’t try to change. He’s given up. I’ll never forgive him for it.

But I still love him.

Layered Vanilla Cake (with Blueberry Whipped Cream and Strawberries)

This cake is delicious. I mean, really freaking delicious. I cheated and used a cake mix, but hey, I was on a time limit. I used Trader Joe’s Vanilla Cake mix with Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Flavor and can I say, I’m glad I did. It produced the eggy scent and flavor of a most basic cake, the kind I love, and a fluffy, moist texture. I highly recommend it.

By the way, the leftovers for this cake – phenomenal. It’s the kind of thing that gets better as it sits in the fridge, the kind of thing you should pull out and indulge in for breakfast because it’s just that good.

Ingredients:

1 Package of Trader Joe’s Vanilla Cake Mix

6 Ounces of whipping cream (I just about 1/4 of my 16 ounce carton)

2 Tablespoons of white sugar, or you can do this to taste for the sweetness you want, remember you’re going to add jam

3-4 Tablespoons of blueberry jam, microwaved for 20 seconds and then cooled completely (look at whipped cream directions)

15 Sliced strawberries, you might need more or less depending on your strawberries’ size

Blueberries for topping if you’d like (I think it would a nice touch)

Directions for Whipped Cream:

Mix heavy cream and sugar into a large bowl and start whipping with a mixer or whisk until peaks form. If you want to alternate plain cream and blueberry in your layers, take half of the whipped cream and transfer into a different bowl. Gently fold in 2-3 tablespoons of jam into one bowl until just incorporated, you don’t want to deflate the whipped cream. Place both bowls of cream in fridge until the cake is ready to frost.

Directions for Cake:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. Make the Vanilla Cake mix batter according to the box’s directions. Or make your cake from scratch, your call.

3. Pour a thin 1/4 – 1/2 inch layer of batter into a 9-inch round non-stick pan. Repeat with a second pan, if you have one.

4. Bake the cake layer until it is just beginning to turn golden. When done, remove and let cool completely.

5. If your cake has puffed a little in the middle, just trim it off best you can until you have a even, flat surface.

6. Scrub off your pan and repeat the process. Again, if you have multiple pans, use them. You’re making four layers.

7. Once your first layer is cool, spread a thin layer of blueberry/plain whipped cream evenly across the surface.

8. Then line with sliced strawberries over the entire surface.

9. Top with your cooled off second cake layer and repeat the whipped cream/sliced strawberry process. Keep doing this until you have your final layer on top.

10. Spread whipped cream onto the final layer and line with sliced strawberries and whole strawberries in a design you like. I also took some almond toffee crisps and crumbled them on top in a ring just because I had them.

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