I can't actually believe that I've known these people as long as I have. These 'people', of course, meaning Nitya, Hannah, Noosh, Georgia, Matt, and Tommy. Elementary school friends. Fourth grade. All of us weren't particularly close back then, and I don't think any of us would have imagined that an odd-13 years later we would still be in touch, let alone driving down to visit one another for belated birthday parties, shopping trips, and coffee dates. It's amazing, really, when I think about it.
Much of my childhood was spent moving from place to place. I was born out of the country and my parents moved to the States when I was two. I grew up in the north; random cities in New York from apartments to townhouses while my parents scraped together enough money for a new life in a country very different from their own. It was a learning experience for them, certainly, though all my memories of frigid winters and breezy summers come primarily from photos and stories. There are the occasional genuine memories of course - I recall living next to an elderly couple whose home I would often visit to see their numerous pets and, on lazy days, plates of cookies and glasses of lemonade. I don't remember their names, but I do remember their kindness.
When I was about 7 years old, arm in a hot pink cast from a rather ungraceful fall off of a sofa, we moved to Virginia. Leaving yet another group of friends behind - I changed schools about 4 times while in the north as it was - I started the third grade rather alone. A few months went by, turning 8 years old and meeting new people, before we moved yet again to a different city. It was there that my parents decided to finally settle down for good, and it's there that they live to this day (after having moved to a different house this summer, but remaining in the same general location). I started spring of the third grade, yet again on my own, and found myself best friends with the entire third grade faculty. The following year I was transferred to the gifted program, and it's at that moment my life finally settled down. I finally met the people I would keep in my heart for the next 13 years.
Nitya was, essentially, my first true friend in elementary school. It was sometime at the beginning of fourth grade when we were all in the cafeteria for lunch, my younger sister's class heading back to their room - she was in the first grade at the time - and I caught her eye and gave a reassuring wave.
"Is that your sister?" Nitya asked me from across the table. I hadn't even realized she was paying any mind.
"Yes," or at least some derivative of an affirmative. I don't remember much of the details, but from there we got to talking about whatever it is that goes through the minds of two fourth grade girls, and before long we had developed a close friendship.
A close friendship which, having expanded to the Fab Four and others who I first met that year as the fourth grader who finally found her place, has survived over a decade. It is remarkable, truly.
Lemon-blueberry Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Sweetapolita.
Yields one 3-layer, 8-inch cake.
For the cake, you'll need:
- 2 cups plus 6 tbsp flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed and patted dry
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1 cup [2 sticks] butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs
- lemon curd, for layering
For the lemon cream cheese frosting, you'll need:
- 2 8-oz packages of cream cheese, softened
- 3/4 cup [1 1/2 sticks] butter, softened
- 2 tbsp lemon
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 4 cups confectioner's sugar
To prepare the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease and flour three 8-inch cake pans. In a small bowl, toss blueberries with one tablespoon of flour. In a medium-sized bowl, sift flour remaining flour, baking powder, and salt. In another small bowl, whisk buttermilk, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla. Set both bowls aside.
Cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 mins. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Gently fold in blueberries by hand. Divide batter among cake pans and bake for 25-30 mins, or until golden brown and set. Remove cakes from the pans and cool to room temperature.
To prepare the cream cheese frosting:
Cream butter and cream cheese on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 mins. Add lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla and mix. Lower speed and gently add in the sugar, and beat until light. Refrigerate until using.
To assemble the cake:
Place one layer on a serving plate. Frost the top of the layer with a generous amount of lemon curd. Spread a thin layer of the cream cheese frosting on top. Place second layer on top of the base and repeat. Place third layer on top and thinly frost the top and sides of the cake with a crumb coat. Refrigerate both the cake and the frosting for about 30 mins. Remove from the fridge and use remaining frosting to frost the top and sides. Garnish with a frosting border or lemon, if desired.
This weekend, 13 years later, my dear friend drove 4 hours up to the apartment - alongside the Blue Ridge Mountains, so she didn't mind too, too much - to spend the weekend with Noosh and I. Hannah drove down from her university as well, and so we had a wonderful weekend of Fab Four bonding, complete with diet Snapple and trashy magazines, visiting the downtown mall with Matt and Georgia and enjoying dessert with Tommy.
Since Nitya was in Italy for the semester, I was unable to surprise her with a 21st birthday cake as I did for Hannah and Farnoosh. So for her big visit this weekend, she and I worked together on her belated birthday cake. After a lazy afternoon in used bookshops - a rather successful visit if I do say so myself, thanks to a wonderful local book shop owner named Dave - it was a lovely treat to enjoy in the evening. So happy belated birthday, my darling Nitya. I can't believe I've celebrated so many birthdays with you, and hope to celebrate many more in future. Without you, fourth grade would have been an enormous bore.
Unfortunately, two days was not nearly enough for the four of us, but we made the most of the time we had with good food and more lovely memories to add to our repertoire.
After all, we have all the time in the world for more.