Birthdays have always been a big deal in my family —thanks to DotMom. She always went all out to make sure we felt special on our day, and even when her kids became adults, always insisted that each of us needed a cake on our natal day.
When we were younger, there were lavish themed birthday parties. One year, I had a puppet party, and all the guests went home with hand-crafted puppets.
On the day I turned 13, I returned home from visiting older sister Margaret in the Twin Cities to find all my closest friends gathered around the dining room table —SURPRISE!
But probably the most memorable birthday came a few years before that, when all the guests were encouraged to come as their favorite nursery rhyme character. With my birthday falling the day before Valentine’s Day, I was given no choice in my character. I was the Queen of Hearts, of course, and the invitations featured a picture of me on the front, pulling a pan of “tarts” (heart-shaped cookies) out of the oven. My costume was a frilly white dress that Margaret had worn as a flower girl, decorated with pinned-on hearts, and there was a crown festooned with tissue paper on top of my head.
It was quite the ensemble. I’m sure I was mortified by the picture during my teens, but have gotten over it with the passage of time.
And that passage of time is what brings me to my upcoming birthday. After years of embracing my birthday, this year is one I’d just as soon forget.
It’s a big one.
THE big one.
How in the heck did I get to the half-century mark?
Oh, there are days when I certainly feel my age, and the mirror is certainly starting to show it —the tiny lines in the corners of my eyes, the need to color my hair with more frequency, the hairs that sprout up in places they shouldn’t.
It just doesn’t seem like five decades have come and gone so swiftly.
Yes, I am in denial, so I’m hoping this milestone will pass by with little fanfare. I don’t want any surprise party, black streamers decorating my desk or gag gifts pertaining to advancing age. Hubby Bryan and I are planning a long weekend getaway a bit after the actual day, and that’s all the celebration I really need. (I’d really hoped to spend it in some exotic tropical venue, but conflicting schedules and other factors nixed that plan.)
Well, maybe I need a cake —just because DotMom would insist that I have one (but no black frosting!). On Monday’s food page, you can check out the cupcakes that I baked —FROM SCRATCH!— in advance that will be part of my birthday treat offering to my co-workers —a Daily Globe tradition.
In the meantime, here is another recipe that was under consideration for my birthday treat, but got edged out by the cupcakes. They might be just the thing if you are looking to treat your sweetheart to something sweet on Valentine’s Day.
From the folks at Nestle, this recipe was a finalist in the company’s 2000 Share The Very Best Recipe Contest.
Layers of Love Chocolate Brownies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.
In a small bowl, combine ¾ cup all-purpose flour, ¾ cup baking cocoa and ¼ teaspoon salt.
In large mixer bowl, beat ½ cup butter, cut into pieces, with ½ cup granulated sugar and ½ cup packed brown sugar. Add 2 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract; mix well. Gradually beat in flour mixture.
Reserve ¾ cup batter. Spread remaining batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle ¾ cup white morsels and 1 cup chopped pecans over batter. Drizzle ½ cup caramel ice cream topping over top.
Beat 1 egg and reserved batter in same large bowl until light in color. Stir in ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels. Spread evenly over caramel topping.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until center is set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.