In the spirit of the upcoming holiday, here’s a post by Erika Mooney about her family tradition of baking a cake for July 4th. I love the idea of passing family holiday traditions to our children and having them make those traditions their own as her daughter, Daisy has done below. Erika is an amazing chef and has worked at some pretty awe inspiring establishments like Mario Batali’s Babbo. She might be as close as I will ever get to one of my favorite chefs! 🙂 She has promised me a recipe in the upcoming months and I am going to hold her to that promise. For now, what I like best about this post is that Erika, despite being an amazing chef, doesn’t really fancy baking. That’s the two of us, sister!
I am not a Baker by Erika Mooney
I am not a baker, plain and simple. This usually comes as a surprise to those who know about my culinary background – for a 10 year portion of my life I was a professional chef. I graduated from a prestigious culinary school and worked in the kitchens of some amazingly talented (and thanks to the Food Network, amazingly famous) chefs. I can whip up a paella or a soufflé at a moment’s notice but the thought of baking sends a quiver down my spine. All of the exacting measuring, temperamental dough and temperature controlling are all my worst nightmares! I usually turn the heat up as high as it will go and throw stuff together until it tastes good, with one exception…my 4th of July cake.
The cake consists of a Pillsbury red, white and blue fun-fetti cake mix, some cream-cheese frosting (yes, I make that myself) with strawberries and blueberries placed on the cake to look like the American Flag. My mother always made it and even though I helped with the stirring, berry placing and batter licking, it was always her cake. Until the year I turned 7, I was visiting my Grandma Grace and her husband Max in St. Petersburg Florida for the long weekend. Max was a war vet and needless to say the 4th of July involved the bbq at the VFW. I implored Grandma Grace to allow me to make and bring this cake with us. The reaction at the VFW was amazing! Applause, praise and I seem to remember a standing ovation (this could have been added in later years, but let’s go with it). Never had a cake of this magnitude graced the tables of the VFW and it’s members simply could not believe that the talents of a 7 year old had created such a masterpiece.
As you can imagine this cake has been the centerpiece of every 4th of July since. Who would pass a chance to relive the glory? My daughter Daisy volunteered to make our cake this year. At the ripe old age of 5, she has seen this cake and feels she can raise it to the next level, just as I had done to my mother (funny how that seems to happen). So this past weekend she undertook the task. Instead of the fun-fetti mix, she insisted on vanilla cake, the cream-cheese frosting could stay but it needed to be sweeter than I usually make it. The rectangular cake was turned into a round one and strawberries were replaced by raspberries. Even though I helped with the stirring, berry placing and batter licking, it was her cake, from start to finish. The end result was spectacular; there was applause, praise and a standing ovation. And it is now it is her cake to make!