Sunday, December 21, 2008
Baby Jesus Birthday Cake
From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...It began as an effort to introduce our children to people from places and economic backgrounds different than their own. To that end, our chosen place of worship was a mission parish that was home to a community of Haitian and Korean immigrants and disparate white folk like ourselves. The congregation was small, so those of us who could were asked to teach and serve in ways we never imagined. That's how I - an Assembler programmer at the time - came to write the Christmas pageant. There was a moment in "my" pageant when the church went dark and the tape recorded cry of a newborn could be heard; then borrowed flood lights, focused only on the manger, came on and washed it a sea of light as a deep, sonorous voice boomed, "This is my beloved son." It was also at that precise moment that our tiny Mary stood up, grabbed her crotch and ran down the aisle squealing, "I gotta pee". Hollywood never called and I went back to writing Assembler programs, but my children have memories they won't let me forget. The focus of another Christmas memory is a Three Kings Cake that we called the Baby Jesus Birthday Cake. This began when my children were really small and I wanted to make Christmas a less secular affair. On Christmas Eve we'd have a birthday party with a cake that contained a magical clove (meant to represent the gifts of the Magi) that would bring good luck to the person who found it. Today's recipe is the one I first used to make the cake. I must, however, admit that there were many years when the birthday cake came from a mix into which I'd stuck a clove. Time, all those years ago, was my enemy and it often trumped intent, but in one form or another we always had the cake. That would include the year I forgot the clove and had to work it into the bottom of the cake with a skewer in order to save the day. Despite all those false starts and hurdles, I've been blessed to see the tradition of the cake continued in the Christmas celebrations of my adult children. My grandsons now search for that illusive clove on Christmas Eve. Oh, and for the record, I never ask if the cake is homemade, but I always ask who got the clove. I like to "hang" with lucky people.
Baby Jesus Birthday Cake...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite
8 egg whites, room temperature
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar, divided use
2 cups butter
8 egg yolks
3 tablespoons fresh orange zest
1/4 cup orange juice
1 whole clove
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and lightly flour 10 inch tube or bundt pan. Sift flour with baking powder and salt; set aside.
2) With electric mixer at high speed, beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually beat in 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, beating after each addition. Continue beating until soft peaks form when beater is slowly raised. Turn into medium bowl.
3) In same bowl, at high speed, cream butter with remaining 1 cup sugar. Add egg yolks and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, Add orange juice and zest and beat until smooth. Divide flour mixture into thirds; using low speed blend in flour 1/3 at a time, just until combined, about 1 minute.
4) At low speed, beat in egg white mixture, half at a time, just until blended.
5) Turn into prepared pan. Press clove into batter. Bake 60 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.
6) Let cool in pan on wire rack 15 minutes. Loosen around edge of pan with spatula. Turn cake out of pan. Cool completely on wire rack.
7) Transfer to a cake plate. Sprinkle confectioners' sugar lightly over top. Slice thinly with sharp, thin-bladed knife. Yield: 12 to 16 slices.