At our church, we share our kitchen with a group of people who are providing training, community, and support for refugees, people who have had the roughest of times. The thing is this: the refugees are absolutely the most courageous people I’ve ever met. Some of them, most of them, get to our community with so very little. One of the things they have very little of is English, coming from Africa and central and southern Asia.
They have charmed the socks off our church family. We have had the most exotic of desserts and have come to love the innocence, the ability to work, their stories, and the huge smiles of the refugees that come to spend a few weeks with us. Safety and stability are not over-rated.
And then there is Pascal, a gorgeous young man, who was born along side of a road in Africa. The road was long and rough, and his mom just didn’t make it to the hospital. Pascal has the most stunning smile, and the sunniest of personalities. Coming from a land of such deprivation and danger, birthday parties were non-existent for him—or anybody else. Never happened.
So our Chef Brent created a birthday party for him on the occasion of his 21st birthday.
Pascal got a party hat, a huge chocolate cake, candles, and the whole church sang,
“Happy Birthday, Pascal.” He cried, we cried. It was such a tender moment. This is what he said to us, “You feel like love to me.” That staggered me.
Pascal wants to be a pastor and to help the people of the world do a little better, that the lonely would be loved, the hungry would be fed, and that the ill would be healed. He’ll do that. Some people just have a core of light and love about them; Pascal is one of those.
Here’s a birthday cake recipe. Not as yummy as Brent’s chocolate cake. But it is good enough, and sweet enough, and lovely enough to encompass our new family that now encircles the earth.
First, let the dairy and eggs warm to room temperature. The butter should be soft. Heat
the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch pans. Put parchment paper on the bottom of the two pans.
Sift together: 3 cups of cake flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and ½ teaspoon salt.
Begin by beating 2 sticks of unsalted butter until it is soft. Add 1 ¾ cup of sugar. Beat those together until they are light and fluffy. Next beat in 4 large eggs and ½ cup chopped and macerated fresh strawberries, 1 tablespoon pure Mexican vanilla or as close as you can come.
Add about a third of the flour to the butter and sugar mixture, then add ¾ cup buttermilk, and beat those together. Add another third of the flour, and another ¾ cup buttermilk, and beat those together. Scrape down the side and bottom of the bowl. And add the last third of the flour mixture. By hand, check to make sure everything is incorporated.
Pour the batter into the 2 pans, tap the pans against the counter to get out the air bubbles.
Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the pans about half way through. After baking, let
the cakes cool for at least 30 minutes. Take them out of the pans, and let them cool a bit
more on racks. Remove the parchment paper. It’s important to make sure the cakes are completely cooled. Otherwise, the frosting will fall off the cake.
For the frosting, whip 2 cups of old-fashioned, thick, heavy cream, adding 4 tablespoons powdered sugar. Or a little more to taste. When the whipped cream is stiff and holds its shape, add 2 cups of sliced strawberries.
Put the first layer flat side down on a plate. Frost just the top, and carefully place the second layer on top of the first, leaving the flattened bottom of the cake as the top layer. Move it around a bit, to settle it. Frost the flat top of the 2nd layer. Top the cake with candles, flowers, big fat strawberries, or any other decoration that pleases you.
Celebrate the extraordinary young people who were spring babies and who are part of our family now, no matter where they come from or whose family they grew up in.