And Recipe for the Raspberry Mascarpone Individual Cakes; her Family Famous Angel Food Cake will follow
Twas the hour before her party,
and all through the house,
everything was in order…
and ’twas as quiet as a mouse…
The candies were out, candles lit with great care,
The fairies and ladies had flowers in their hair.
The savouries and sweets were all lines on their trays
The coffee was ready, and the tea – there for days.
We snapped keepsake pictures of all of our pleasure
To share with out mother, later, and to treasure.
As she turned 80 on April 21. 2010
And we have to say it to believe it, over and over, again!
Our mother turned 80 April 21, 2010, and all who attended were blessed to be able to celebrate it with her. She has collected some very close and long friendships over her life, and many were able to attend. My sister, daughter, and I had just finalized the last of the finishing touches on every little plate in the garage (our set up area) and were taking photographs of the flowers when I heard the garage door open, and before I could even get to the door, there was mom – in all of her birthday glory, looking like the Fairy Godmother of Spring in colourful splendour.
Of course, she didn’t come in the front door. That hadn’t even crossed her mind on this special day. She has always been a back door kinda girl.
We didn’t miss a beat of our photo taking session. We whipped mom into position and started snapping before her eyes even adjusted to the inside light. And in true Helen form, she was silly, and funny, and bubbly and soaking in every minute of this “never dreamed she’d feel this young and be this old” birthday.
We had a few precious moments of family fun before guests were expected.
My sister, Judy, and I are hosting an afternoon tea to celebrate our mom, so let’s get some bubbly into this woman’s hands! Champagne, first!
Cheers to our dear mother, and may we be doing this for many, many more years to come. The guests began to arrive: granddaughter, Ragan.
And then more… some, friends for over 60 years.
Louise (mom’s first cousin), mom, Mary (friends since late teens), and Jean. Below, mom and Hazel are having a giggle over one of the many hilarious memories shared as life long neighbours in Red Deer, our first home town.
My lifelong friend, Marie, and Sheila, a dear family friend, enjoy a chat. Ninety one year old Kaye (sorry, Kaye – but I could not resist… you are just too perky for ninety one!) was too ill to come to the party, so she had her daughter drop a gift by (and was in the car to give a hug to mom). Again, amazing life long neighbours from Red Deer.
Helen and Mavis; Helen and Simone: mom never misses an opportunity for a hearty laugh.
Glasses filled and clinked amongst abundant hugs, energy and lovely floral spring perfumes fill the air as happy chatter, giggles and uproarious laughter ensue for the first portion of the “tea”! We had prepared nibbles set out on the island before opening the dining room for the tea sandwiches and goodies.
A bread basket prepared from my lessons learned at The Bertinet Kitchen Cookery School in Bath, and Sesame Sticks were inspired by A Sweet Spoonful. I thought a retro shrimp jellied salad recipe of mom’s would be a perfect addition. Everyone used to rave about it, and at the party, all asked for the recipe! The patéin the foreground on the long white platter is actually duck rillette made by moi from duck confit legs and inspired by my recent trip to London. Vanja was all over this. (All recipes and the preparation involved in this event, will be posted shortly, so subscribe by e-mail if you are interested in them.)
I asked mom what it felt like to be old when she turned 50. (I was much younger then, and didn’t know any better.) And her answer has never left me. She said that her body ages and changes, but inside of her head she is a perpetual 35 year old. I believe that still to be true today, and know she would not disagree. As her daughter, I, too, am young at heart. Certainly, a lesson learned from my mother: Enjoy your life. You only live it once!
The double French doors were opened and the gals were invited into the dining room, or , “tea room” for the fancier goodies.
See the angelfood cake on the back of the table? My mother baked it for her own 80th birthday! Isn’t that phenomenal? She is unstoppable!
Another side note: my grandma Maude crocheted my tablecloth in the Queen Anne’s Lace pattern. When my grandmother turned 80, mom backed 20 of these angelfood cakes. They were iced in a delicate pink. I love that she baked this for her own birthday (at my request). No one could do it better!
I have collected antique and vintage head vases for the last several years, usually through ebay. I decked them all out in beautifully flowered hats for mom’s 75th party, too. At that time, I had little gossipy tidbits about mom that each was saying in speech balloons on little stands beside each head. This time, they were just posed beautifully in honour of mom. A friend of mine gifted me with two modern hatted headvase-type candles that I added to the display, lit, and they were charmed us with a warm twinkle.
There were several varieties of rolled and ribboned sandwiches prepared:
- Shrimp Salad (served at Maude’s 80th, too)
- Imperial Cheese and Dill Pickle
- Egg Salad
- Pear, Gorgonzola, and Toasted Walnut
And several open faced sandwiches and savory bites:
- Mushroom Paté(from Borough Market)
- Oak Smoked Tomato with Yogurt Cheese (Tomatoes from Borough Market)
- Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes filled with Kalamata Olives, Garlic and Basil
- Smoked Salmon wrapped around Homemade Boursin and a Caperberry, garnished with Dill
- Cucumber on Rye and Watercress on Rye
Left to right, below: jellied shrimp salad rounds on cucumber, olive stuffed cherry tomato, mushroom patéon rye
Second row: oak roasted tomato and yogurt cheese on rye, smoked salmon and boursin wrapped caperberry, homemade 24 hour dill pickles
The sweets were numerous:
- shortbread sandwiches in yellow and pink: coconut and almond, respectively
- a shortbread tassie dome filled with crÃ¨me fraiche
- miniature berry tarts and lemon curd tarts topped with sugared violets
- ginger tassies filled with crÃ¨me fraiche, topped with orange zest and a candied kumquat
- pistachio marzipan and almond marzipan stuffed shortbread boats
- chocolate ganache cranberry round
- candied orange pieces
- white and dark chocolate Bailey’s truffle filled hearts
- mini-macaron kisses sandwiched with Marzipan from Mary’s in Brussels
Time to indulge! And after the nibbles in the kitchen, that were heartily enjoyed, I was a bit worried that the “real” delectables would not be enjoyed. Wrong! After the gals breezed through, we replated everything, and some things twice. That made me feel so good!
It was a rite of passage for me, too. I was now my mother, hosting her 80th, as she had done years ago for her own mother. I have known, and loved, most of these faces all of my life. What a wonderful gift to grow old with dear friends.
And then it was time for the birthday cake. Our traditional family birthday cake is mom’s famous angelfood cake, as I have said, but, I did promise her that I was making her a special cake.
So, we repositioned her, and out came her cake. It took awhile to get her sitting and ready for us to sing to her again! She was just having too much fun!
She might have been surprised when we brought it out, had she not come through the garage and already seen all of the surprises. (double grin to you, mom!) But, she has a way of expressing her appreciation!
My mother is hilarious, as you can see. She is a woman who understands the power of expression and one who believes in relishing life and finds her joy in serving her family and friends.
And here is the cake I promised you, mom. For her 75th, I made individual chocolate mousse cranberry cakes with a miniature rose topping each. I wanted more of a celebration of Spring in this cake to celebrate the Spring of my mother’s life.
I love the Spider Mum on the top. It is like fireworks beaming out of the cake. And raspberries? She and I share many memories of raspberry picking throughout our lives, and this is definitely a favourite of hers.
Then the cards. And gifts. More laughs and hugs and giggles and hilarity.
Hilarity? Did I say she is undaunted? A gift of chocolates was opened and started to fall on the floor. As she went to pick them up, more fell as she was vibrating with laughter. She couldn’t retrieve them without getting down on the floor. Did I say she was a back door kinda gal? She gets a kick out of doing the unexpected.
On a more serious note, nothing does daunt my mom. If a job needs to be done, she does it. Even now. Tenacious does not begin to describe the quality of character my mother has demonstrated over the years when faced with hard work or challenge. Backing down, saying “no”, or not doing something has never been an option. Even at 80.
My dad and Don (Mary’s husband from Kelowna) arrived, as planned, when the cake was brought out and were enjoying some snacks in our conversation room at the front of the house. Wondering, no doubt, what in the world was going on in the next room.
Louise gave mom a bottle of gin. Hilarious. Yet, everyone knows that mom loves her double (triple) stiff drink at cocktail hour before dinner every night. She just doesn’t have it every night… but, on any special occasion, this is her party in a glass.
No one drank one drop of tea. The bottles of sparkly were poured and then a few cups of coffee enjoyed. My, oh my, how times have changed. Ladies in their eighties do know how to have fun! More chat and then farewells. Mom had her little thank you gifts at the door, though the first few to leave missed them.
What a beautiful day. It was sad that some very dear friends missed this time with us, but that happens. They, and my daughter, Lauren, and Judy’s son, Denver, were all missed on this day. The next day, the ladies and some treats were carted over to mom’s by mom and dad! My sister stopped by and took a few “day after” photos. I don’t think either of us have ever seen mom not looking lovely when we have just “popped by”.
Dad turned 80 in September. Now they are both “the same age”, and still growing together. They will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary November 6, 2010, and that will be a party! I cannot even imagine. I am not sure I will have the energy for it, but I know that my mom will! I love you, mom!
Helen’s 80th Individual Raspberry Cream Birthday Cakes
Makes eight 3 – inch cakes (I made 24, so tripled the recipe)
Recipe from Helene of Tartlette.
For the sponge cake layers
- 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
- 1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner’s (icing) sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour
pinch of salt
Prepare the cake layers:
- Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).
- Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (80g) of the confectioner’s (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don’t have a mixer).
- In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner’s (icing)sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks.
- Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible.
- Combine the flour and salt.
- Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.
- Pour the batter into the prepared half sheet pan and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly brown.
Egg whites being beaten while cake flour is sifted
Egg yolk mixture beaten and whites folded into mixture
Spreading batter onto pan
Egg white mixture and egg yolk mixture
Folding and spreading
I layered plastic wrap between individual cakes before freezing.
I wrapped the individual cakes really well, and froze them until two days before the party. Vanja cut the acetate for me, and taped it together the night before I needed it. I took the cakes from the deep freeze and put one into the bottom of each acetate round, and placed raspberries around the edges. Now I was ready to make the Mascarpone Honey Mousse.
For the mascarpone mousse:
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/2 tablespoon powdered gelatin
- 1/2 cup (125ml) honey
- 3 oz (90gr) mascarpone, at room temperature
- 1 cup (250ml) heavy cream
Mascarpone and heavy cream whipped
Mascarpone, honey and egg yolk mixture to the left, egg whites being added to the right, and folded in below
I covered the berries with the cream and then another layer of the cake.
At this point, I tasted the cream with the berry, and the flavour of the raspberry seemed to overpower the cream tremendously. The cream was so delicious. It carried a very pronounced honey flavour accompanied by the delicate sweet buttery mascarpone. I decided I would have to use less berries on the next layer. This was later found to not be necessary. When the cakes were eaten, the berries did not overpower the cream. The flavour of the mouse held its own, and it would have looked better, more symmetrical, had I continued with the same pattern of berries. (Note to self for next 80th birthday celebration.) So, the first layer had 5 or 6 berries, depending upon their size, and the second layer had three. You can see this in the bottom photo where I adjusted them.
Prepare the mousse:
- Whisk the egg yolks to break them up in the bowl of stand mixer (or with hand held beaters).
- Sprinkle the gelatin over 2 Tb of cold water in a small cup and let it bloom.
- In a heavy saucepan set over medium high heat, bring the honey to a boil and cook until it reaches 240F. Remove the pan from the stove and pour it carefully into a cup with a spout (easier to pour) .
- Dissolve the gelatin in the microwave for 10 seconds, or in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water.
- While still whipping the yolks, slowly pour in the hot honey, being careful to temper them and not cook them.
- Pour the gelatin over the egg/honey and whip together for a few seconds and add the mascarpone, one tablespoon at a time. Whip until cooled to room temperature and has tripled in volume
- In another bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks or if you are using a stand mixer, pour the mousse into a large bowl and clean the mixer bowl thoroughly, or use another mixer bowl if you have one.
- Gently fold the whipped cream into the mousse trying to deflate the whole thing as little as possible. Use immediately.
I made the butter cream before I took these out of the deep freeze.
For the buttercream:
- 1 cup (200gr) sugar
- 4 large egg whites
- 3 sticks (340gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
This is the beautiful marshmallow consistency you need before you take it off of the stove top. It then gets beaten until stiff, as in the photos above, with the whisk. The paddle is put on the mixer for adding the butter, piece, by piece.
This is the consistency of the finished mousse.
Prepare the buttercream (can be made a week to a month ahead):
- Place the sugar and egg whites in a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.
- The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like marshmallow cream (temperature should be about 235-238F or 113-114C).
- Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat the meringue on medium speed until it cools and forms a thick shiny meringue, about 5 minutes.
- Switch to the paddle attachment and add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, beating until smooth.
- Once all the butter is in, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-8 minutes. Proceed per recipe or store for up to a week in the fridge or 3 months (well wrapped in the freezer).
Assemble the cakes:
- Prepare acetate molds to match the size of your cutter, and place them on a baking sheet.
- Cut the cake rounds and place each round at the bottom of each mold
- Place a layer of raspberries on the outside; fill with mousse to the top of the raspberries
- Top with one round of cake; more raspberries and mousse and a final round of cake
- Place in the refrigerator and set overnight
- When the mousse is set, cover with the butter cream and refrigerate
These cakes were not easy to ice. I had, and needed, a rotary stand. I am a perfectionist, and wanted the icing perfect. I did manage to get it perfect, for the most part… but it took hours to ice 24 of these cakes. Hours.
But, was it worth it? Absolutely!