Garden Inspirations & A Secret Birthday Cake

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We’re nearing the  end of June and the garden is still in bloom. The bearded irises have come and gone, and the peonies and David Austin roses are giving way to the blueberry patches, hydrangea blossoms, and abundant red kale.  My parents have personally assassinated every Japanese beetle trying to gorge themselves on our roses, and our darling dog, Jackson, is head groundskeeper to the cicada invasion that residents have dubbed ‘swarmaggedon’.  They’re back after 17 years (how exactly do they know when it’s time?) to mate, feed, and drive us all to madness with their noisy ballads. In case you’re not familiar with this particular nuisance, just imagine ten thousand mini lawnmowers vibrating in the minor key of ‘irritation’.

Despite the cicada soundtrack, I got a chance to show off our beautiful garden retreat at my birthday party a few weeks ago.  We enjoyed a spread of homemade treats: caramelized onion & gruyère quiche, watermelon & feta salad, vanilla bean scones with clotted cream & jam, and a mimosa bar with peach, orange, and grapefruit juices. It was a nice excuse to have all of my friends in town and to go mildly insane with cooking and baking, as of course, I wanted to do everything from scratch!

My best friend Falynn and I also happen to share the same birthday. Since it was also her wedding anniversary and her husband’s birthday within several days, I wanted to bake up a little extra special treat for the occasion. My original idea was to surprise them both when they got home from work with a cake waiting on their doorstep .  However, with the heat and the cicada madness, I realized that I would have to spoil the secret to her husband Dan,  to avoid a melted and/or cicada swarmed cake.

Luckily, I still managed to surprise Falynn and we all got to enjoy a slice of devil’s food cake with peanut butter swiss meringue buttercream and dark chocolate ganache. Aka- an extravagant cake version of a Reese’s peanut butter cup.  Sweet, salty, and rich in chocolate, it was definitely a decadent little treat, but completely worth the calories.  All in all, it was a happy birthday to us.

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