Here are my tips for having THE best 32nd birthday:
Celebrate at least four times throughout your birthday week and feel no shame about it. Sure it’s only your 32nd birthday, not 30th or 40th but still, if you want to celebrate you celebrate.
Have the sort of friends that surprise you with an evening of Karaoke because they know you love the feeling of a mic in your hands and the chance to sing until your throat is numb and you sound like a frog. Make sure that the long list of songs include Katie Perry, Dave Matthew’s Band, Garth Brooks, Madonna and Will Smith. Also, it’s definitely not a bad idea to end the night with SexyBack because watching the words, “let me see what you’re twerking with” come out of your friend’s mouths is enough to make you realize how much you love your friends.
Park yourself at the back corner table of your favorite neighborhood bar, in our case that’s Essex, and tell your friends you’ll be there all night. Also, tell them to bring a copy of their favorite book because you’re never too old for a book exchange. Don’t forget to take a moment during the evening to see half the bar filled with people you love, drinking the Ashley’s Sazerac (yes, I go there often enough to have a drink named after me, my mom is so proud), eating great food and a large pile of books running down the center of the pushed-together tables.
On your actual birthday I recommend a quiet day with the family. If possible, ride a ferry to an island just outside of the city. Eat a pile of fried potatoes with avocado at a diner then spend the afternoon in the park so the kids can run through trees, smell the early blossoms of spring and find the perfect walking stick. In the evening curl up on the couch with your husband then fall asleep at 9:30 pm while watching Seinfeld.
Finally, make yourself this cake. Or you could ask someone else to make it for you. It’s the sort of cake for those of us who don’t really like cake because there’s no cake in it. In its place there are deeply toasted oats and walnuts, a butterscotch that begins with browned butter and a very tart rhubarb cap. The long list of ingredients may seem daunting but I assure you that it comes together between the time the kids have been fed dinner and when you said you’d be at Essex (which is roughly 1 1/2 hours). It’s the sort of cake that heralds in Spring even though you may be a touch early, but it’s your birthday and if you say it’s Spring, it’s Spring. Of course you could make your own ice cream (mascarpone or creme fraiche ice cream would be nice) but it’s your birthday and store-bought is perfectly acceptable.
A couple things that I wanted to say before you get to the recipe. First of all Gabe and I just did an interview on Rain Coast Creative Salon. In it we talk about our schedules, how we manage two creative careers and three kids and the things we’ve figured out along the way. It’s sparked in me a future post, I think, because I feel so passionately about us living out who we were created to be and not who we are told to be or think we ought to be. There’s more there and I’m hoping to write through it enough to share more with you all here.
The other thing is like pinch-me-exciting. I love the computer screen but I REALLY love the printed page so you can imagine how thrilling it was to see my recipes on the pages of this month’s Food & Wine. I created four quick and easy pasta recipes for them and in turn they made my face into a cartoon. So I have a cocktail named after me and I’ve been cartoon-ized. My work here is done. Not really, but it’s pretty cool. Pick up the April issue if you don’t have it already.
Roasted Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream Cake
Serves 10 – 12
Brown Butter Butterscotch
1 stick/ 4 ounces unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Toasted Walnuts and Oats
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
1 scant cup walnut halves, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Roasted Strawberries and Rhubarb
1 pound strawberries, sliced
3 stalks rhubarb or 2 cups/300 g sliced
1/2 cup sugar
Whipped Soured Cream
1 1/2 cups cream
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 – 1/2 gallon (1.75 quarts) containers vanilla ice cream
For the browned butter butterscotch: Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Continue to let the butter boil until it smells nutty and when you carefully swirl the pan you can see speckled milk solids on the bottom of the pan turning golden. Add the sugar and cream then boil over for 5 minutes, until slightly thickened. Remove the pan from the heat then stir in vanilla and salt.
Let cool or refrigerate until ready to use.
Store leftover butterscotch, covered, in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
For the toasted walnuts and oats: Preheat your oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Combine butter, sugar, oats, walnuts, salt and cinnamon in a bowl. Stir well to combine.
Pour the oat mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and roast for 20 to 25 minutes or until toasted and fragrant. Stir halfway through the baking time.
For the roasted strawberries and rhubarb: While the toasted walnuts and oats are roasted prepare the fruit. Toss the strawberries, rhubarb and sugar together then lay in an even layer on a parchment lined sheet tray. Roast in a 400°F oven for 30 to 40 minutes until soft and the juices bubble and is slightly thickened.
For the whipped soured cream: Prepare the whipped cream while the roasted fruit and the oats cool. Combine the cream, sour cream, sugar, and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer fitter with the whisk attachment. Whip until soft peaks form.
Refrigerate until ready to use.
To assemble the cake:
Add half of the cooled, toasted walnuts and oats to the bottom of a 9 or 10-inch spring-form pan.
On top of the oats add one 1/2 gallon of vanilla ice cream. This works best if the ice cream is a bit soft.
On top of that layer add the rest of the toasted oats and 1/2 cup or so of the brown butter butterscotch. More is perfectly acceptable, just save some for serving.
Stick the ice cream cake in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Remove from the freezer then top with the other 1/2 gallon of ice cream.
Just before serving pipe on the whipped cream (or just plop in on) around the edges then put the cooled roasted fruit in the center.
Serve the slices with more butterscotch and whipped cream.
You can assemble the cake entirely ahead but then the fruit and cream will be frozen so I like to wait until the last moment but have everything made ahead and ready for assembly.