Friday, July 10, 2009

Let Them Eat Birthday Cake

Camille's 3rd birthday is coming up on July 17th. It's also Roman's first birthday on July 15th. (Nearly 2 years to the date, only surpassed by my friend Emily from whom I just received word that her son was born on the exact same date, as her daughter 2 years earlier. Bam!)

No matter. I need to make them a birthday cake. I asked Camille what kind of cake she wanted. She tells me, unsurprisingly, "chocolat" (yes, en Francais). Then I ask her what color frosting she wants, knowing that she doesn't even really know what frosting is, but to not expose her ignorance, she safely answers, "how"

The thing is, they don't really do birthday cakes in France. Not as we know them- double layered, colored with butter cream frosting, icing that says "Happy Birthday", lots of candles. Naturally, you can find a whole variety of delicious cakes here (I'd say heaven looks a little like a French patisserie), but the most traditional kid-birthday thing they do is akin to a yellow cake rolled up with confiture: génoise à la confiture. That's fine, I suppose, but I'm keen for my peeps to have something they can really stick there hands into. Yet baking American recipes in France, while not impossible, can be a drag. First is the issue of translating measurements, next comes finding the right size cake pans, third is finding an oven if you are like us and are using a microwave/convection. Finally is finding the oh-so-right ingredients. Baking powder gets tricky, as does confectioners sugar. They exist, I know, but can be hard to find, or may necessitate a trip to an "American products" store. A Canadian friend of mine, who lives in French Switzerland assures me otherwise, but for now I need a sure thing. That is to say, I need a box cake mix. The horror.

So I take the 3 line metro from Louise Michel to Arts et Metiers, one of my favorite metro stops. I transfer to the 11 line and take it to Hotel de Ville and make the splendid walk down rue Rivoli to rue St. Paul where there is an American goods shopped called, aptly, Thanksgiving:

Its a lovely-looking shop, filled with over-priced but comforting American products like Cheerios, Philadelphia cream cheese, Borden's evaporated milk, and Ben & Jerry's (which, if I'm honest, you can readily find all over Paris now). 22+ euros later, I have me a box-cake mix, some food coloring, muffin tin liners (just in case I opt for cupcakes) and two 8" foil pans. I better not screw this thing up. I can't even afford a beta test.

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