Pity party. Lately, it's Big Occasion city. February is full of them, and it's my turn to take the advice I've doled out to so many others. The milestones we pass, even if they're passed up, guarantee deeper meaning as we face into them next year.

Tomorrow, it's my birthday. Let me be clear. Birthdays are not just a number for me, they are the annual moment for acknowledgment. They are important. Historically, they've been launched like small businesses, with a plan and a committee (on which I preside). This year, I'm a committee of one, and there will not be much of a firework display. I'd be sad about it if it weren't my decision, but in the middle of the night as I lay awake and worry, this is the clearest, most appropriate gift to myself. No birthday celebration.

We'll light the fire in our beautiful colonial fireplace. Music. The kids, the dogs. The next day, dinner with family. In order for it to feel alright to me I'll preside over the kitchen. Others might rather relinquish, in the name of being pampered. Not me. It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to...

My Birthday Cake:

1/2lb bittersweet baking chocolate
1/2 c unsalted butter (1 stick, cut up)
3 tbsp bourbon (Maker's Mark)
1 orange, zested
4 eggs
2/3 granulated sugar
Couple tbsp shaved chocolate for garnish

Spiced Cream:
3/4 chilled heavy cream
2 tbsp confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cardamom
1/8 tsp ground cloves

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter/flour 9" baking pan, line bottom with parchment paper.
Melt chocolate and butter in a microwave, watch carefully, usually takes a couple minutes. Stir it to continue melting and not burn. Mix in bourbon and orange zest; set aside.
Beat eggs and sugar with electric mixer until pale yellow ribbons form, 6 minutes or so. Fold mixture into chocolate a little at a time. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.
With clean beaters, beat cold cream until frothy. Add confectioner's sugar and spices. Continue beating until soft peaks form (when peaks are droopy you're good.) Chill in fridge.
Serve cake on a plate covered with dollops of cream and shaved chocolate.

* Inspired by a cake served at the Spotted Pig, 314 W 14th St, New York.

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