Saturday, 6 July 2013

Many Appy Returns of the Day!

Orange "red-velvet cake" by Amruta Nargundkar

Seeing me falling asleep in my chair while waiting for the clock to chime 12 last night, the b’day girl tells me, “Go to bed Mum, you’ve had a long day at work, it’s only another birthday!”

My little one has grown up, I smile as I doze off again...

Not that she has lost that happy exuberance with which she would prance up to tell even the paperboy “Uncle, uncle, today is my birthday!” - despite being teased mercilessly about it for years on non-birthdays, and all the more on birthdays!

It’s this unfazed, unabashed delight of hers that makes Apurva’s birthday so special for us. Like her older, adoring sister articulated so aptly, her absolute happiness and excitement about her own birthday is so catching, that everyone around her picks up the vibes and joins in!

My drooping head caught in mid-nod, I wake up with a start and join in with rest of the family singing the happybirthdaysong!

“Many Many Happy “Appy” Returns of the Day!!!! ” ….“Many happy, healthy, hearty returns of the day, my dearest child!”

Like Winnie the Pooh, this greeting is Appu’s favourite – and is true of her in more ways than one.

Not only does it mean that we wish she has many more birthdays and lives long; nor just that she has a blast and fantastic, rewarding “returns” of the day. It’s a transliteration of her wish to have as many birthday celebrations in a year as possible.   

Since she was little, Appu has always had more than one “birthday” in a year.

With the school year ending in March, all kids would go to the next grade three months before her birthday. Appu would want to take chocolates to school for all her friends “who may not be in her class next year”. (The new school year would start within the week, mind you, and most children would stay in the same class.)
The summer break came at the end of May after a very short school term. Appu would then celebrate again with all the kids in her class who were going to have their birthdays during the summer holidays.

And if school reopened before her birthday in July, we surely wouldn’t Grinch her the third birthday celebration in school in three months!

It goes without saying that there would be a couple of celebrations at home, one according to the Hindu lunar calendar (tithi) and the other on the actual birthday!

So you can imagine how crestfallen Appu was, when a birthday was swallowed into a black hole when we boarded a flight in Los Angeles on the 5th of July and landed in Singapore on the 7th!

However, being aware that she was going to be robbed of her day, we had celebrated her birthday along with thousands of Americans celebrating the 4th of July in Disneyland. And not to forget the big bash we had after reaching Melbourne.
The zest for celebrating her birthday is only matched by the zealous possessiveness about the birthday cake. This doesn’t apply to shop bought cake or a custom ordered ones. Only to the homemade, “made especially for her” kind of birthday cake. The rationale is that if the cake is baked for her, it is meant to be for her alone – to have it and to eat it too.

And it was no different this year, when her sister stayed up half the night to make beautiful paper decorations and baked her a red-velvet cake in her favourite orange colour.

Have a very happy, healthy, hearty birthday my dearest child!

Orange “ red-velvet” cake by Amruta Nargundkar


For the cake

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp fine salt
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
1cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons orange food coloring (or 4 tsps yellow and 2 tsps red food coloring)
1 tsp white distilled vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the cream cheese frosting

225gms cream cheese, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
½ cup butter
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp orange zest
A few drops of orange flavour

Mix the cream cheese, sugar, and butter in a large bowl with a hand-held electric mixer on low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to high, and mix until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Stop a couple of times and scrape the down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Reduce the speed of the mixer to low. Add the vanilla and orange zest and then raise the speed to high and mix briefly until fluffy. Store in the refrigerator until somewhat stiff, before using.


Preheat the oven to 170 C . Lightly oil and flour 2 (8-inch round) cake pans.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In another large bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla.

Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with a electric hand mix or a stand up mixer until well combined. You must get a smooth batter.

Divide the cake batter evenly among the prepared cake pans. Place the pans in the oven evenly spaced apart. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through the cooking, until the cake pulls away from the side of the pans, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. This should take about 30 minutes.

Remove the cakes from the oven unmould them on to wire racks and let cool completely. When cool, slice each cake into half, carefully with a serrated knife. This should give you four thin layers.

Reserve some crumbs for decoration.

Frosting the cake

Place one layer, rounded-side down, in the middle of a rotating cake stand. Using a palette knife or offset spatula spread some of the cream cheese frosting over the top of the cake. Carefully set another layer on top and repeat with all discs. Cover the top of the cake with the remaining frosting. 

Sprinkle the top with some orange crumbs.

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