I WAS in Boracay, just about to go down from my room to have a late breakfast when I received an urgent text message from my sister back in Manila. "It's Mama's 80th birthday pala!" she said. I was like "huh?" Wasn't she just 70-something last year?!
We have never been sure how old our mom really is because she has never come clean about her age. For the longest time, I remembered her saying she was just 45. Then she was 50 for about five years, then 60, so on and so forth. You get the drift.
Then I recall there was this bit about her finding her birth certificate in Manila City Hall's archives, courtesy of an uncle who worked there, and discovering she was a year older than she had always thought. So I still couldn't believe our mom was turning 80...especially if you consider the fact that she really doesn't look it.
Anyway, I texted my sister back, asking what we're supposed to do and she said we should hold a small dinner party for our mom, with just a few of her closest friends and our immediate family. We would have about 25 people tops. Okay, I said, "bahala ka na," and told my Ate I'd just fork over my small contribution for the expenses when I see her. (I had by then already bought Mama a gift which made a slight dent in my budget for the month, so I was totally unprepared for this party.)
The event was hurriedly put together...we had the same menu as we had last Christmas...spaghetti, roast turkey, lengua con setas, and lots of leche flan. Frankly, I thought the menu was a tad boring, but like I said, my sister and I really didn't have much time to plan the party.
(Mama blowing out the sparklers on her cake. Photo by Boo-boo)
Maybe I should just buy a special cake to give the menu some zing. Now if you read dear Ms. Jessica Z's blog, you may have probably come across a photo of a yellow cake covered in flowerettes just recently. The minute I saw that cake, I hyperventilated and texted Jessica because I wanted to have one immediately. It was just so gorgeous and her description of it just made my mouth salivate: "layers of crisp walnut meringue interspersed with thick mounds of delicately sour lemon curd, beneath a veil of chantilly cream and lemon roses." Say it with me people...Mmmm.
Ms. Z sent me the number of her friend, Carlo Estagle (aka "the dessert diva"), and I contacted him a couple of times so we could have coffee and a cake tasting with Jessica and Francine. Unfortunately, our skeds just never came together. Fortunately, Mama's birthday presented a good opportunity for me to finally order the Torta Limone (yes, the one on Jessica's blog), and I was really excited to see it and finally have a taste of it.
After everyone ate dinner, my niece Mitch and I, scrambled to get the cake out of the ref and stick eight sparklers/candles on it. Shet. We were both panicked because the effing candles wouldn't "sparkle" and they started to drip on the cake. But we managed to pull ourselves together, and we brought out the cake as everyone started singing the Happy birthday song. Mama was a bit surprised (she had been making parining the whole evening that she didn't have any cake with her dinner) and I saw her holding back her tears. The stupid malfunctioning sparklers notwithstanding, everyone marveled at how beyoootiful the cake was, as Mama blew out her candles.
I hurriedly cut the cake and passed out small portions to everyone while I smiled and cursed under my breath thinking that yes, I should've ordered a larger size from Carlo. But shet man, it's expensive kasi and I was already on a tight budget. But then I spooned a slice into my mouth and I swear, the breath almost left my body. The sweet taste of the icing first hits the tongue, then I bit into the toasty crunch of the crust and the walnuts. Then the lemony taste of the cream filling gently wraps around the palate. As all the flavors played around my mouth, I felt totally divine. Heck, I thought, the price I paid for that cake was well worth it!
Everyone at the party, especially Mama, loved the Torta Limone and asked who made it. (I played coy at first, then said I made it, before finally admitting who was the genius behind it. Yes Carlo, these women will bug you soon enough.) The cake was gone in an instant, small and delicious as it was. The next day, we ordered another one from Carlo, this time, my mom paid for it. She's always been the cake hag in the family so she knows a good one when she tastes it. Btw, the cake is actually white, and not yellow as I initially thought.
The heavenly Torta Limone aside, Mama had a splendid party and obviously felt happy to see all her closest gal pals around. My sister and I practically patted ourselves on our backs for having put this party together despite the short notice. If we had more time, we probably would have tweaked the menu a bit, invited more of Mama's friends, held it at a different venue...sigh. But it felt really good to see our mom looking still so fabulous at 80, and having a great time on her birthday. She's a nut but we love her just the same.