happy birthday julia

JULIA CHILD would be 100 today. I know, this isn’t the only food blog pointing out this out. But come on, people. Just because something is this celebrated doesn’t mean that it’s not cool to cover it. It would be like a law blog failing to cover Sandra Day O’Connor’s 100th birthday. How could you?

My generation wasn’t revolutionized by Julia Child’s work. By the time we came of cooking age, the (first) world believed that gourmet cooking was accessible to everyone. Cookbooks abound, food has multiple channels devoted to its craft full-time, and food blogs are popping up everywhere. Cooking is a friendly, social, approachable activity. And so, before Julie Powell and Hollywood and the media reminded us of her importance and her impact, we didn’t fully know what we owed her.  But, perhaps, the best legacy a person can leave is to so transform a field that those who come after don’t realize how far it has come, because the changes you make become normal and the revolution becomes invisible.

Confession time. I grew up watching a lot of cooking shows with my mother. Julia Child’s “The French Chef” was one of them; however, my single-digit self favored “The Frugal Gourmet.” (Why? I have no idea. The six-year-old heart wants what the six-year-old heart wants.) She was so far off my radar that, while I like everyone else picked up a copy of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” when “Julie & Julia” came out, I didn’t actually cook anything from it. Until this week, I had never cooked a single Julia Child recipe.

Not only that, but I had never baked a cake.

So yes, this post is a doozie.  First Julia Child recipe, first cake.  I chose the butter spongecake (biscuit au berre) complete with buttercream frosting (creme au berre).  And, while I didn’t drop the cake on the floor or make some other drastic yet comical mistake a la the great Julia Child, I learned a very important lesson.

You may be thinking, wow that frosting looks easy.  Its recipe involves only four ingredients and one short paragraph of description: what could go wrong? Soft creamy buttercream frosting, my friend, becomes a solid very, very easily. And then you are left with creamy-looking buttercream frosting that is frozen in place: beautiful and untouchable until it warms back up.  A word of warning: when cooling buttercream frosting, keep a very close eye on it.

Beyond that, the butter spongecake and the buttercream frosting was delicious.  Very simple tasting in a good way, replete with lots of butter (as all good desserts should be).  M. isn’t big on desserts, but he ate this right up.  The cake can also be served with just a dusting of sifted powdered sugar, but I recommend the buttercream frosting.  Unfrozen, that is.

Happy birthday, Julia, and bon appetit.