Yesterday I celebrated my first birthday in the southern hemisphere. It’s amusing to think that my entire life I’ve had a fall birthday, but this year, it was in spring!
A few days ago, I decided that for my birthday I’d like to have a nice American-style birthday cake. Probably because on some level I seem to love to make things as difficult as possible and American-style birthday cakes aren’t that easy to come by around these parts. But last week at the grocery store the Birthday Cake gods were apparently looking out for me because I happened across a Betty Crocker cake mix, imported straight from the U.S.
I picked up some raspberry jelly for the filling. My greatest obstacle in the Great Birthday Cake Challenge of 2011 was frosting. I’m really quite satisfied with a nice, simple buttercream frosting: easy to make, delicious to eat. Naturally, however, there’s no powdered icing sugar here. (Not to mention no fresh milk either.)
I read online that icing sugar sold at the grocery store in the U.S. and Canada is a combination of very fine sugar and corn starch. After some hunting a few weeks ago, I’d found corn starch and finely powdered sugar, but the experimental frosting I’d whipped up with it for a batch of brownies was not at all the correct consistency or flavour. I decided to avoid the potential for disaster there.
It dawned on me. Several years ago I visited my friend Carina and her family in Brasil. They had heard how much I enjoyed brigadeiro, a tiny fudge-like Brasilian candy that is most often made for birthday parties. (Carina had first showed me how to make this treat when she visited my family back in 2003.) So they baked a cake with a to-die-for bridageiro frosting. The fudge-like frosting is rich, creamy, buttery, and basically delicious. The best part? All of the ingredients are available here in Chile. (And in the U.S.: recipe below.)
The cake ended up having some global influences – just like me I suppose – but that only made it better. I wonder what Betty Crocker would think?
In the afternoon, we celebrated by checking out the museum in Antofagasta. (It takes some creativity to come up with a unique recreational activity in this town, and yes, I am a nerd for thinking that visiting a museum is a great thing to do on my birthday!). The museum is small, but well organized. It’s relatively new, but located on the almost ghost-town-like site of an old metal smelter. Its modern, clean and well-designed exhibits provided some political and anthropological history of the area, a brief geology lesson, and a background on the famous mines in the region.
We then went across the street from the museum to the new Casino Enjoy, a casino/hotel/restaurant/bar. We sat on a terrace overlooking the Pacific and enjoyed a late afternoon apératif. A geology conference was taking place in the hotel, so I found it quite novel to hear so many American voices around us.
We finished off the day with a visit to a Chinese restaurant. Because, when in Rome… well, nevermind.
I really appreciated receiving all of the emails, tweets, Facebook messages and other assorted wishes from family and friends throughout the day. It makes me feel not-so-very far away after all to hear from everyone!
Recipe for Brasilian brigadeiro frosting (or candies):
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 can table cream aka. crema de leche (usually available in the Latin American section of a grocery store, it’s in a small tin, about 157 g)
- about 1 T unsalted butter, room temperature
- about 2-4 T of cocoa powder (depending on how chocolatey you want it to taste!)
- sprinkles (jimmies) for decoration
Put the condensed milk, cream, butter and cocoa in a small saucepan. Heat on medium-high, stirring continuously with a spatula. The mixture needs to get very hot and boil for a little while. (It needs to get hotter than fudge, if you are experienced with making that.) Stir almost constantly so the mixture does not burn on the bottom. When the mixture gets so hot it begins to easily pull away from the bottom of the pan with the spatula, take it off the stove and pour over the cake to frost before it cools.
If you are making brigadeiro candies, pour into a greased heat-proof pan (I usually use a glass baking dish) and let cool for about an hour or so. Using a small spoon and buttered fingers, make a small ball of the mixture – about the size of a chocolate truffle – and drop into a bowl of sprinkles. Lightly coat with sprinkles, then place on a plate or drop into small paper candy cups.