Twenty-eight candles on my birthday cake today.
Twenty-eight years of breathing the delicately balanced atmosphere of this planet.
Twenty-eight years of wondering why about everything.
I am the type of person who grows hideously introspective at any given opportunity. My birthdays have always been especially bad. I’m sure I’ve told you before that I wasn’t the little kid who got excited the night before her birthday. I was the little kid who curled into a sobbing ball on her mother’s lap because to me getting older was too scary to contemplate. I liked my life, I didn’t long to ‘turn 18 because then I can do anything I want’, I just wanted to stay exactly as I was with my Mum and Dad and little baby sister. Getting older meant change. Change meant leaving. Leaving meant saying goodbye. I couldn’t see the adventures ahead, only the darkness. I’ve always been on the melancholic side.
As I got older, these bouts of sobbing transformed into a month or so of depressive self-examination and doubt. I was sure I was lacking. Sure I was lagging well behind everyone else my age. “But look at what they’ve achieved and they are my age – I haven’t done anything!”
Every year I have wasted the opportunity to celebrate the small moments, tiny adventures, little wins, of the past year in the face of crippling comparisons with my birth-year mates – most of whom I don’t even know. “I’m not working in my dream job, I’m not married, I’m not a parent, I’m not published….” – The list goes on and on.
This year I’m choosing differently. This year I’m making the promise to myself that I am going to celebrate the small moments, tiny adventures, and little wins of the past year rather than lamenting that I’m still in the same job, same place, same routine as last year. Because as much as that is true, I have so many more blessings to count with every year that passes. Every new candle on my birthday cake brings a shower of new opportunities for gratitude. And gratitude isn’t something we ever master, but something we need to continually practice because our frames keep shifting, our circles keep widening and the reasons for our gratitude change.
This year I’m going to be grateful for what twenty-seven brought me, taught me, and how it changed me. Twenty-seven brought hard lessons that showed me I am going to have to work on keeping a healthy headspace for the rest of my life. Twenty-seven brought the gifts and challenges of living with a lifelong partner and acknowledging that as much as your souls are mated, you are still quite separate people. Twenty-seven brought nights of deep, indulgent, satisfying comfort in our little cottage by the sea. Twenty-seven brought tears and arguments about our different ideas of adventure. Twenty-seven brought the realisation in the end that he is my greatest adventure. Twenty-seven brought a calmer, more cherished relationship with my parents – the physical space mirrored a mental space that just filled itself in with more affection and greater respect. Twenty-seven brought new friends from all over the world. Twenty-seven brought precious moments with my sister and the realisation that she is wiser than I can ever hope to be. Twenty-seven brought the understanding of my own strength, and that I have the energy to hustle and the wisdom to rest if only I listen to what I really need. Twenty-seven was yesterday and the last year.
This year I’m choosing to blow those candles out with gratitude rather than fear, and with a tingle of anticipation at what twenty-eight is going to hold.
Twenty-eight is our own home, a castle to call our own.
Twenty-eight is an overseas adventure with my dear heart.
Twenty-eight is a million other tiny miracles to celebrate.
Twenty-eight is today.
Makes one two-layer 8-inch round cake | Serves 10-12 | Gluten Free
- 100 grams brown rice flour
- 80 grams sorghum flour
- 50 grams potato flour (potato starch)
- 50 grams almond meal
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 125 grams (1/2 cup) butter, softened
- 225 grams (1 1/4 cups) caster sugar
- Zest and juice of 1 orange (about 1 tablespoon zest and 2 tablespoons juice)
- 3 large eggs at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup plain Greek/natural yoghurt
- 1/4 cup milk
- 150 grams butter, softened
- 3 cups icing sugar (ensure this is gluten free)
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2-3 tablespoons pouring cream (or milk)
- Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and grease two 8-inch round cake tins with extra butter. Line the bottoms with circles of baking paper. Set aside until required.
- In a medium bowl whisk together brown rice flour, sorghum flour, potato flour, almond meal, baking powder, and salt until well mixed.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl) place caster sugar and orange zest. Use fingers to rub zest into sugar. This releases the oils in the zest and increases the orange flavour in the cake.
- Place softened butter into mixing bowl, and use stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or hand held mixer, to cream butter and orange-sugar on a medium-high speed until it reaches a light and creamy consistency, about 1-2 minutes.
- Add eggs one at a time and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as required.
- Beat in vanilla extract.
- In a small bowl whisk together orange juice, yoghurt and milk.
- Turn mixer speed to low and beat in a flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the wet ingredient mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as required. After the last addition, beat until smooth.
- Divide mixture equally between the two prepared tins. Level tops and then bake for 30-40 minutes. Switch the position of the pans every ten minutes. Cakes are done when the tops are slightly golden and they bounce back when lightly pressed. Check the cakes at 30 minutes, and then decide if they need the extra ten minutes.
- Remove cakes from the oven. Cool in tins for 10 minutes. Then remove and allow to cool completely before frosting.
- To make frosting. Beat butter until light and fluffy. It should be pearly and nearly white. Then add the remaining ingredients and beat until completely smooth and fluffy, about three minutes.
- To assemble cake. Place one layer on a plate or serving dish and frost with a third of the frosting. Place second layer on top and cover top and sides with remaining frosting. Use a large flat-bladed knife or a frosting palette knife to make this easy.
- Decorate with sprinkles or as desired. Store in fridge, covered for up to three days. Sit at room temperature for thirty minutes before serving.