Birthday Cake Truffles Bliss

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Warning: If you are going to read this entry further you must admit to being one of those children who would soak the Lucky Charms in milk for fifteen minutes before eating breakfast so you could drink the white creamy juice down afterwards like a sweet bubble of sin. Or alternatively, be one of those children who wadded up pieces of Wonder bread and rolled it between your dirty palms to produce dense balls of doughy, snack goodness. If you have gotten this far without throwing up you will appreciate the rest of this story.

Last week the Cute Gardener and I did something we NEVER do … drove to Koreatown’s Line Hotel during rush hour traffic simply for the chance to stand in line and buy some of Christina Tosi’s baked goods. As co-owner of Momofuku Milk Bar in NYC along with celeb chef David Chang, she is renowned for desserts like Crack Pie that causes sugar addicts to relapse. We aren’t star fuckers, so Tosi in person signing her new book of savory recipes did nothing for us … it was simply the opportunity to buy compost cookies on the West Coast that baited us out of our normal hermit-tude. While she penned autographs five feet away with L.A.’s most famous POThead Roy Choi we stood in line for the baked goods, knowing where our priorities lay. We were of the lucky set that was able to order multiple menu items before the growing demand topped the orders off at three items per customer. Which is great, because I not only wanted my favorite cookies of Tosi’s which the CG picks up on his annual business trips to New York but also, I was craving a chance to taste the Birthday Cake Truffles.

With a load of sugar bombs in a brown paper bag, we left the mob of Tosi groupies and went for ramen downtown before heading home to our couch and ripping open the box of bizarre sprinkled truffles that would come to ironically steal my heart.

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As I share the beauty of the Birthday Cake Truffles, I am reminded of my saucy Aussie friend Charlotte who I’ve spent many an afternoon with during my life cooking food curiosities. On one occasion I was quite taken with a mythological, traditional food from her Australian upbringing called Fairy Bread, which she was making en masse for her daughter’s birthday party. This concoction was basically a sandwich of rainbow sprinkles on smeared butter on white bread. It sounded so utterly gross that I knew it had to be good. Birthday Cake Truffles are the grown up version of Fairy Bread.

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Through some online research, I learned that these truffles are basically the remnants of white frosted birthday cake that get all squished together at the end of the day. The squishy mess is then soaked in vanilla milk, rolled in melted white chocolate to create a shell coating and then dusted with sand (sugar and rainbow sprinkles). The box of 12 was 16 dollars and after eating one I was worried that we had bought too many. Biting into just one was like injecting liquid cane syrup directly into the veins. It was super sweet with a crumbly shell and a mushy middle that tasted like a supreme cake pop center when frigidly cold. But within days, the balls had mysteriously all rolled themselves down my throat.

That’s what Christina Tosi does best though—takes us on a stroll through the latchkey kitchens of our youth where we did the best we could with those convenience ingredients we had. All the leftover Golden Grahams cereal bits thrown into a batch of cookie dough for crunch and texture? Absolutely brilliant idea! Tang on toast? Of course! When you’re twelve that sounds divine. Mushed up cake with bleeding sprinkle color trails? Makes perfect sense. It is a good thing for me that her creations are normally the length of a continent away.

My Secret Lust For Spam

IMG_8832I have a confession to make. It took me forty years to experience the exquisite epicurean substance that is SPAM. I realize that in some sectors of the foodie world (aka the high falutin’ snobbery circles of haute cuisine) this might be an advantage. I realize that in other worlds (aka the ultra hip and trendy hot pot universes that Roy Choi dwells within) this might be sacrilege. I also realize that I am really not in either world, but that the main thing that has kept me from trying the famed, square lump of mystery meat has been a traumatic overdosing of other mystery meats in my lifetime.

Remember the Vienna sausage? There was actually a time in my single mother, female toddler raising life where those plump little mushy fingers reminiscent of baby hot dogs equaled dinner. And what about devilled ham? That strange pink concoction in a can that was slightly hammy and slightly smoky that made for a filling meal spread lavishly on wheat bread or as a white trash appetizer on enough saltine crackers to sate a young family. We all have our less than savory memories of times in our college years or early twenties where budgets for food were slim enough to justify these strange and unseemly purchases thus my reason for staying away from anything resembling meat in anything resembling a can, even tuna.

So imagine my surprise when I started dating the Cute Gardener whose food taste is nearly impeccable (nearly being the key word, just like mine) and opened his cupboards nosily one day to spy a slew of SPAM cans sitting in a neat and orderly row. Imagine my deeper surprise the first time he ever made me his version of fried rice (a hybrid of Asian and Hawaiian) incorporating yummy, crunchy bits of starchiness with fresh green peas and carrots, a buttery dash of soy and the tiniest bits of salty SPAM. I fell in love instantly with the odd culinary delight and have consistently begged him to make me something incorporating its magic ever since.

Recently I was delighted by an open-faced egg sandwich on slightly toasted sourdough with the slimmest slices of SPAM, slivers of purple string beans and the last remaining kernels of sweet corn for the summer from our garden. Realizing that I really like this product and wanting to have some justification for it in my non-boxed, bagged, canned or packaged manifesto-wielding food world, I researched what SPAM was made out of and discovered: pork shoulder meat (! one of my favorite things), ham, salt, water, modified potato starch as a binder, sugar, and sodium nitrate (basically a salt) as a preservative. I think I can continue eating the CG’s fabulous concoctions with this product guilt free and with my foodie integrity intact. In moderation of course, like all things pleasurable.