Birthdays are a tricky thing for us. David’s birthdays were forbidden by his “church” and although they were deliberately remembered by his mother, kept very low-key; I still feel traumatised by the time my 13th birthday was forgotten by a dorm-mother and have every since tried to “skip” or ignore my birthday so I don’t have any expectations and are hence-forth disappointed.

Add to this our dedication to preventing our children from expecting presents (and asking visitors, “What did you bring me?”). We hold a family philosophy of sharing that means the girls don’t have personal possessions.

So we’re not really sure what to do with the girls’ birthdays and are developing our ideas as they get older.

At this point we’ve decided to make a cake, decorate it with candles and have a little party with family. No presents. No big party (mainly because I would go overboard, I’m certain).

Aisha, 3yo, January 2009
Since Aisha is so advanced in every other way (ahem), we decided to bring her fourth birthday forward two weeks and celebrate it while Dad was visiting.

Aisha, 3yo, January 2009
I made a double-layered German's chocolate cake with coconut and walnut icing and decorated it with a girl's necklace and a four.

Aisha, 3yo, January 2009
By the time they're four, a child knows how to blow out the candles.

Victor, January 2009
We all wore party hats to create a festive mood.

David + Brioni, 2yo, January 2009
We took a walk after dinner to give the girls a chance to run off the sugar high.

David + Calista, 9 months old, January 2009
This was the first time for Calista to ride Daddy's shoulders. She loved it!

Sunset, January 2009
As befits a special day, the sunset was extra-glorious.

In Berea Dorm, Aunt Aileen used to make the best German’s chocolate cakes for the kids’ birthdays. I was so pleased to find the recipe and used it for Aisha’s cake this year. Highly recommended. I’m putting it here for future reference and also to share it with you.

German’s Chocolate Cake

4 oz Bakers German’s Sweet Chocolate (substitute 120g bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate PLUS 2 Tbsp white sugar)
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 egg yolks, unbeaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
4 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Melt chocolate in 1/2 cup boiling water. Cool. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each. Add vanilla and chocolate, mix until blended. Sift flour with soda and salt. Add sifted dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk to chocolate mixture, beating after each addition until batter is smooth. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Pour batter into 3 – 9 inch pans, lined on bottoms with paper. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes at 350F (190C). Cool. Frost top and between layers with following…

Coconut-Pecan Filling and Frosting

1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1/4 pound (115g) butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups (about) Bakers Angel Flake Coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

Combine milk, sugar, egg yolks, butter and vanilla in saucepan. cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens, about 12 minutes. Add coconut and pecans. Beat until cool and of spreading consistency.