My son Casey and his friend Ian had birthdays very close together. The year they turned 12, as the big days came up, Ian's mother was in the final stages of a tough pregnancy, so she announced she wasn't in condition to throw a party for him. "No problem," said my wife. "I'll make a birthday dinner for both you guys. You can have whatever you'd like.
You don't say that to 12-year-old boys. You just don't. They came up with turkey tetrazzini and a 7-layer chocolate cake. Myra balked at the entree, offered roast beef instead, but agreed to do the cake. The 7 layers turned out to be 14 inches high, each layer separated by chocolate buttercream, and the entire construction was iced with a bittersweet chocolate glaze. As you might imagine, it was a major hit.
Such a major hit that the other two chocolate freaks in the house - my daughter Erin and I - insisted that we get equal treatment. So when our next birthdays arrived, so did Myra's Bazooka Cake. Trying to slice the sucker was such an undertaking that our friend Carl Kehret, one of those guys who could make anything work, studied the situation, and the next time we saw him, he presented Myra with a uniquely-formed plastic panel to keep the layers together as they were being cut and served.
All this was 35 years ago. Though Casey's moved out of the area, and Erin's moved on to a chocolate souffle whose recipe she wheedled out of a French chef, for me the idea of a birthday dinner without that cake is inconceivable. Though the gatherings at the table are smaller than in years past, it's all right. The cake freezes beautifully, and is the best remedy in the world for a bad day, whenever one springs itself on us.
There's this joke about the psych prof who asked his class how often they have sex. "Who has sex every night?" "Three times a week?" "Once a week?" "Once a month?" "Every six months?" "Once a year?"
At that, a little man in the back row jumped up, waved his hand wildly, and said, "Me, that's me! I have sex once a year!"
"O-kay," said the professor. "But what's to get so excited about over having sex once a year?"
The little guy jumped up and down. "Tonight's the night! Tonight's the night!"
Well, tomorrow's my birthday! Tomorrow's my birthday!
P.S. If you can leave a little room in your gizzard, the cake goes down real slick with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.