It’s our son, James’, 21st birthday and, well..we are so happy! We had a great day, I spent a bit of time with our koumbaros, the best man at our wedding, who is also James’ nouno, godfather. In our house James’ godmother and godfather are known as AmyNouna and ArthurNouno. In a Christian Orthodox wedding the best man is always the godfather of the first child. It’s just how it is. ArthurNouno came with his son and James’ close friend and brother, Gary, and we all had a lovely visit. Anyway, all four boys, Arti, Gary, Jimmy and James, went to the Marlins game. I chose to stay home. I began baking James’ birthday cake for tomorrow, Little White Cakes. They’re made at home, incredibly easy and are awfully close to that delicious treat called the “Petit Four”. I mixed and measured remembering the first time I ever tasted petit fours. I was six and Cynthia, my older sister, was eight. We being sent to Puerto Rico to our grandparents for the summer with my Tio Enrique, my mother’s brother, because Mama had just had my baby brother, Tommy, and Mama needed some easy time. Tio Enrique had been doing his fraternity work I mean undergraduate work at Baldwin Wallace in Berea, Ohio. Why my parents thought my uncle was an appropriate guardian I’ll never know. To me, he was the most handsome man on the planet. At six years old I was head over heels in love with him. He had this slow sexy smile that made me melt when I saw it. He was just a dream. And he was bad boy… had women eating out of his hand. Right up my alley. Mama and Daddy put us on a Pan American flight with him and we were off. I sat quietly next to Cynthia, she got the window seat, and eventually we were served our meal. This was back in the days of silverware and linen tablecloths. My kind of travel. Tio Enrique had pretty much forgotten about his nieces, his charges, his precious cargo. I could see him up front with the first class stewardesses…they were all having drinks and laughing…every so often one would lean provocatively forward and my uncle would murmur something in glamor girl’s ear. I could see his hand on the small of one of the their backs. It was all very sophisticated and intimate. Our dinner was served and when we finished there was a small petit four for dessert. I ate all of mine. It was so good. Light and sweet. I wanted more. Common sense told me not to bother Tio Enrique for he could not care less what we did. As I looked at him he was tossed his handsome head back and laughed at something one of the cupcakes had said. So, ever so gingerly, I squeezed past my dinner tray and landed in the aisle. I looked to see who had eaten their petit four and who hadn’t. Solemnly and politely I asked the gentleman behind me if he wasn’t eating his petit four may I have it? With a big smile he said of course! I discreetly ate it and moved on. “Excuse me, Ma’am? Are you going to eat your petit four?” “Why, no! Would you like it?” “Yes, please.” I continued working both sides of the aisle, rounding the rear of the plane and again ridding both sides of the aisles of their pastries. Every so often I would looked at my uncle who never even saw me, so occupied was he with the conquests at hand. I ate all the petit fours that were given to me. I returned to my seat and there was Cynthia where I had left her, quietly reading her book. She didn’t question where I had been nor what I had been doing. By then it was evening, we could see city lights as we left the water and approached the island. After a smooth landing we gathered our things and made our way down the cool, metal stairs across the tarmac which was still warm from the day’s heat. The entire family was there… our grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins. Everyone was kissing and hugging, my grandparents ecstatic to have another of their boys home. I remember the airport lit up, night-time was setting in. We walked down a side-walk, en masse, and I recall a short little hedge of ixora. I specifically remember because that’s where I turned my head and, in front of my INCREDIBLY smothering and overprotective family, projectile vomited. I barfed up each of those exquisite little petit fours all over that perfectly manicured ixora hedge. I hadn’t felt sick but after that I felt all the better. My family was horrified. “Aye, Dios mio, pero esta nena esta enferma!” ” Oh, my God, this girl is sick!” No I’m not. I AM NOT! I’m fine. Just had a few sweets, that’s all. There was to be a huge party back at my grandparents beautiful home….oh, God. I looked at Cynthia. Could she be any happier? Just skipping along, refusing to look at me, “Oh, no, missy. I ain’t savin’ yo ass. Nope. You’re on your own. I have a party waiting on me.” Her look said it all. Meanwhile, my aunts and uncles were all discussing “my condition” and making plans as to who was going to the party and who would be going to the doctor with me. Granted, the doctor was my grandfather’s cousin who lived down the street but still…. she didn’t really know me and I didn’t care about her. We pulled onto our street where Cynthia and her entourage disappeared into my grandparent ‘s house and off the rest of us went on to Doctora Polo’s house. Darn. I was furious. There was nothing wrong with me. I puked, now I feel fine. The doctor welcomed us all in and they began chattering away, everyone speaking on top of the other. God. Only my cousins know what I’m talking about. She took me into her office and all them followed. I was told to undress. EXCUSE ME? I may be six but I am not baring my little bird-like chest to anyone. Some of my uncles were there! I had to strip down to my panties. I was livid. I hated them all. Especially when Dra. Polo said, “She’s fine! No te preocupes! Ella esta de lo mas bien!” I quickly dressed and off we went down the street back to my grandparent’s house. I was so humiliated. We walked into the party and there was Cynthia holding court and I remember thinking, “I don’t know what I’m going to do to her, but I’m gonna do SOMETHING and when I do, boy, is she gonna be sorry!!” I was angry at all my relatives except Tio Enrique. The one who let me eat all those pastries. He didn’t even make it back to my grandparent’s or the doctor’s. Must have been dancing the night away with one of those glamor girls at a club in the Old City. So, Gentle Reader, please find Little White Cakes. They are truly paradise. And you will want to eat them all!
People, this is one of the most exquisite recipes of the Ages. It hails from my New Orlean’s born friend, Harriet. These perfect Little White Cakes melt in your mouth. I know they spawn from a box mix but they are brilliant and wildly popular in our family. I don’t use much of the icing…I simply drizzle a little over each layer of cakes on the platter and continue stacking. Then I tuck deep, red garnet strawberries in random pockets and corners and it’s just gorgeous. Harriet’s recipe calls for cutting off and discarding the edges of the cakes but I just can’t do it. I just can’t. I’ll eat them. Don’t tell me to give them to James or Jimmy, I’m here to tell you I’ll eat them. And it’s more than my girlish figure can stand. So, it’s your choice. But fair warning, those nasty, old dried edges? They ain’t nasty and they ain’t dried. They will melt in your mouth. Birthday perfection.
Little White Cakes
Pillsbury Moist Supreme White Cake Mix Pudding in the Mix
Ignore box directions. Instead:
Preheat oven to 325°.
Melt 1 stick of butter. Add to this 1 cup of water, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, and 2 eggs. Beat for 2 minutes. Underbake. If you use a 9X13 pan, bake no more than 25 minutes. Till your thumbprint stays depressed. Cool. Put tinfoil over pan and invert. Cut off all edges 1/4″. OPTIONAL! then cut into small squares. I do this diagonally. Separate squares. Frost. Discard those old dry edges you cut off and any imperfect ones. Perfect Little White Cakes remain. For you. For me. If you don’t eat them all you can freeze them.
Melt 1/4 cup butter. Stir in 4 cups powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/4 cup evaporated milk. Thin if necessary with a little more evaporated milk. Pour over cake as icing or pour into a sturdy baggie, cut off the corner and drizzle all over the squares by gently squeezing the icing out.