“I’m thirty-seven–I’m not old!”


Yes, I really have been waiting years to be able to use that quote.

It feels weird to say that I’m pushing 40 now. But as of today, I am officially in my “late” thirties.

I know I’m an oddball, but I think back to when my mom was this age, and she seemed to be so much more mature and wiser than I feel. And that would’ve been coming from my perspective as a 15-year-old brat.

Maybe it’s because I had the bambino so much later in life. My mom was 22 when I was born. For all I know, my mom didn’t have it as together as I thought she did!

Enough of my waxing philosophical. I waffled about bringing something to work for my birthday. In our department anyway, we bring our own stuff if we choose to celebrate.

I usually bring enough other treats during the rest of the year that I sometimes don’t bother with bringing anything on my birthday. This year, I chose not to bring anything. I did make Pumpkin Cupcakes with Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting, just for the heck of it (that and Jay mentioned that we didn’t really have anything around the house to snack on):

And I’m glad I did. But I’m also on this meringue buttercream kick these days, so for my greedy little self, I opted for something different. Because je suis fran├žais, I settled on chocolate cake with French buttercream.

I’ve become a fan of the Swiss Meringue Buttercream as of late. It’s SO silky and smooth, and works GREAT for cupcake decoration. I haven’t tried an Italian Meringue Buttercream yet, but that’s basically the same as the Swiss, but with a slightly different cooking procedure.

French buttercream involves egg yolks, rather than egg whites. Much richer, thanks to all the fat in the yolks and butter, but looked so so creamy and delicious. I happened to find a recipe on Fifteen Spatulas for Almond-Flavored French Buttercream, and since I like chocolate and almonds together, I thought this would be perfect!

And it was…For the most part. The cake was good. A really good chocolate cake.

The buttercream? Not exactly.

My plan was to separate each of the two layers, so I’d have four, and then I’d just decorate the top somewhat simply.

The buttercream had other ideas. I even used a candy thermometer but alas and alack, something didn’t combine the way it should’ve. I don’t know if the butter was too cold or what, but I beat the hell out of that frosting, and it remained semi-curdled:

The frosting tasted good, but I can tell it’s not how it’s supposed to be. This also makes me think I won’t be trying an Italian Meringue Buttercream any time soon!

At least I have the pumpkin cupcakes. My mom told me that years ago, she tried making her own birthday cake, and it was a complete disaster. Her grandmother told her you’re not supposed to make your own birthday cake, so I guess I’ll have to keep that in mind for next year!

Yield: 8-12

Chocolate Cake

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes


  • 1 cup cocoa, plus more for dusting
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 2 Tbsp. instant coffee powder
  • 1 cup milk, room temperature
  • 2 3/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-by-2-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper. Butter the parchment, and dust with cocoa powder.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk cocoa. Combine the instant coffee and boiling water. Whisk it and milk into the cocoa and let cool. Sift together cake flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Using a hand mixer, mix the butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Pour in the cooled cocoa mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon until fully incorporated.
  4. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture with the wooden spoon, until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pans (I measured about 3 & 3/4 C in each pan). Bake for 20 minutes, rotate the pans, and bake for an additional 15 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the center.
  5. Remove the cakes from the oven, and allow to cool in pans for 15 minutes on a cooling rack. Remove cakes from pans, and invert onto a wire rack. Let cool completely, about 1 hour. Frost as desired.

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