I suspect that you can tell a lot about a child by the birthday cake he chooses.
Big ... or enormous - because sometimes size ABSOLUTELY matters.
An old favourite or a surprise.
Flashy or blingy - we live in Dubai after all ...
Know the child and you'll know the right cake.
By the end of January, it's true to say that we have birthday cake fatigue. Correction - I have the fatigue ... I'm not sure children ever tire of cake. #1 teenage son celebrates his birthday on the 18th and then 4 days later it's the turn of #2 teenage son to have his big day - his 14th birthday.
And cake is a BIG deal for him. So what is his birthday cake of choice? Something delicious - that goes without saying. But never a classic. Never an old favourite. Always something new, something different. Maybe a bit novelty. Probably a little clever. Oh and big - definitely BIG. He likes a wild card cake and that fits with his personality - perfectly.
And thinking about this year's cake, made us both a little nostalgic about cakes of years gone by.
There's the cake that you make for your child's first birthday. And it takes you hours and you take loads of photos of it because he WILL remember it.
The fondant icing theme continued with a scary snake. The thing about fondant icing, though, is that nobody actually wants to eat it. Shame.
For birthday number 3, I guess somebody wanted to help with the decorating. And what a party hat too.
Not sure what happened to birthday number 4, but number 5 was all about embracing #2 teenage son's love of strawberries and cream. Especially the cream. The strawberries were merely the garnish in his 5 year old world.
6 and 7 must have passed without photos, but year 8 was the year of football. Don't look too closely at the detail of the pitch - it's not my area of strength. But I could maybe have a go at explaining the off side rule.
Birthday number 9 was my signature bake. You may have seen it before here.
And for his 10th birthday, he celebrated reaching double digits with an experimental 'different' chocolate cake. Don't remember much about it, so I guess it wasn't wildly successful. I suppose that's the risk of trying something new.
Year 11 was a blur, but the next year was #2 teenage son's personal favourite - an arctic roll. How very retro. I wasn't mad keen, especially as the production aftermath was akin to an explosion in an ice cream factory.
Birthday number 13 embraced all his favourite flavours - chocolate, pears, caramel, cream (of course) - with this chocolate meringue, topped with cream and pears and drizzled with caramel and melted chocolate. Not really a looker, but Gorgeous - with a capital G.
And for this year, inspired by #2 teenage son pointing out that we hadn't had these BEST EVER Chocolate Brownies for ages, I built on that and made these Salted Caramel and Chocolate Brownies ... with a pretzel crust. A salty pretzel base, a squidgy centre, a chocolate crust and then drizzled with melted chocolate and caramel. Lush.
I found the recipe on Bakers Royale - a great destination for occasion cakes and desserts but the instructions were a little confusing and had me jumping between multiple recipes, so I've simplified it for you + I tweaked it a little. And oh, it's good. Really good.
Birthday gifts this year were themed around embracing #2 teenage son's new found love of iPhone photography -
- a lifeproof phone case - essential when your'e on the clumsy spectrum and spend a lot of time near water
- a remote control - to prevent camera shake
- an inspiring book on Social Photography
- a mini tripod - to help with those clever arty shots.
So back to those brownies ....
Why do I think you might love these Salted Caramel and Chocolate Brownies too?
- They're a bit different - And the bonus is that I've already tried them out for you, so there's no risk of 'different' being code for really rather unpleasant.
- That salt thing in a brownie is delicious ... as well as being all the rage - It takes me back to the school playground and tipping a packet of Smarties into a bag of Ready Salted crisps. Or maybe that was just me.
- They look rather fancy - That'll be the chocolate and caramel drizzling, and it's really easy to do too.
- They make a great dessert - Think ice cream, cream, crème fraîche. Or all of the above.
- They keep well for a couple of days - Unlikely though.
So go on ... invent an occasion and get baking and don't forget to share if you bake these. You can use the hashtag #marmaladeandme so we can all see your masterpiece.
If you liked this, you might also enjoy this exclusive chocolaty subscriber recipe -Print