Birthdays can carry different meanings to different people. As for kids, birthdays are undoubtedly the much cherished time of the year where special treatment and special present(s) await on that one special day. As for me, birthdays are forever special. Being born into a not-well-to do(but blessed with excessive happiness) family and raised in a kampung, a big birthday bash was very rare. It’s good enough if your family members remember your birth date.
However, one might get lucky at times. I did have birthday celebrations during my childhood years. One person whom I hold very dear to heart upon this matter was my late Mak Long. She was the one who was able to remember everybody’s birthday and she would try her very best to celebrate. Unfortunately, she was taken way too early from us. May peace be upon her.
Talking about birthday celebrations, there are certain types of food associated with the occassion. It can be a big family lunch or a simple treat at the ice-cream shop. Reflecting my younger years, the Malays commonly serve fried rice vermicelli(‘bihun’), curry puffs, sardines sandwiches, water-melon (or home-grown bananas), jelly, ‘air sirap’ and not to forget, a bakery-bought birthday cake with colourful buttercream icing for the celebrated persona. The highlight of the event would be the singing of the birthday song and the birthday person would proudly cut the heavily-guarded cake(a smeared cake wouldn’t be nice for the photography purposes) into sections to be served to the guests. Of course, those invited would be the kampung folks within your house perimetre. If the budget permits, you would be able to see Wall’s ice-cream (a much praised brand at that time), fried chicken wings, party packs and the whole living hall adorned with balloons and streamers.
The presents were also an interesting fact to be commented. Usually, the parents or close relatives would give the biggest(and could be the one and only) gift. Guests would bring wrapped items but do not expect to get Barbie dolls or Transformers action figures. Gifts came in the form of story books, stationery (‘magic pen’ was among the top chosen ones) and simple toys. The most common gift in my kampung was a packet of wafer, wrapped tightly and neatly ( I couldn’t really remember the brand). One should try his or her very best to ‘keep face’ .Of course you wouldn’t want to be seen arriving empty-handed and assumed as only coming for the food! However, the fun was all in the get together and the gifts did not really matter.
Mentioning the birthday cake, there is one that I hold dear to my heart(and tastebuds as well) for it does bring back those fond memories. My mum was the one usually assigned to bake cakes for birthdays then. Her choice would depend on the availability of ingredients at that time concerned. It would be a banana cake or orange cake. Mind you that we did not have any fancy electric oven. All the baking took place in a heavy pot called ‘a multi-purpose pot’ and we would wait patiently in the kitchen for the yummy taste of freshly baked cakes. The extra thing that made everything scrumptious was that motherly love. My childhood memories were sprung to life when my youngest uncle(whose birthday fell on the 8th of March) personally requested for the orange cake. I had fulfilled his wish by baking the cake last night and bringing it along as we celebrated my cousin’s wedding earlier this morning. It’s true what they say about sweet memories. They are keepsakes and always to be treasured.Indeed!
Here’s the recipe if you wish to try.
300g butter (at room temperature)
300g caster sugar
300g plain flour
1 tsp soda bicarbonate
grated rind and juice of 1 orange
Preheat your oven at 150C.
Grease and line a ring cake tin.
Sift the flour with the soda bicarbonate and keep aside.
In a mixer, beat the butter and sugar till pale and creamy.
Put in the eggs, one at a time and stir well.
Next, put in the orange rind and juice and mix well.
Fold in the flour and pour the mixture into the cake tin.
Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack and cut into slices.