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Baking Cakes Dessert Great Memories

Happy Birt-a-day! Mom’s Tiramisu-Boston Cream Birthday Cake

July 4, 2014

I love the Fourth of July. Even its name shows it’s a holiday to be reckoned with. No holiday gets the number first, not even Christmas. I also LOVE fireworks. They’re all the excitement of lightning without the house burning down part. And mostly, I love the Fourth of July because it was my mom’s birthday.

Mom on July 4th 1970.

Mom on July 4th 1970.

My mom had a pretty serious accent, which you already know if you’ve been reading this blog. The Fourth of July was: Da Fort of July. So she seemed very Italian, which she was.

But she was born in the USA right before her mom whisked her and her two sisters off to Italy. Since they were all  within a few years of each other, this leads me to believe my grandmother couldn’t have been terribly happily married. What new mother says, “Hey, I think I’ll take off with my two infants and a toddler all the way to Italy for fun?” Frankly, it’s a little suspicious, but I’ve never gotten to the bottom of it, which is probably for the best since they reunited after 14 years and had six more kids. Love is funny that way.

Mom on her birthday, late 1970s.

Mom on her birthday, late 1970s.

Anyway my mom and her sisters were all proud US citizens raised in Italy, who came to the U.S. when my mom was about 14, and by then Mom’s accent was cemented. My mom was thrilled to be here. She loved this country with a rapture she saved for special things like: Jesus, her children, Bob Barker, lottery tickets, great fish dinners and  tropical fruit.

So, every Fourth of July Mom demanded we celebrate the two events. When I was little we celebrated with a picnic at Brady’s Run Park which always included her birthday cake — with obligatory firecracker emblem and tiny flag.

Another ritual on the Fourth of July was Mom’s photo. Her birthday photo had to be taken alongside the American flag. One of these days I’ll count them all, but since we haven’t gone through all my parent’s photos yet, I only have three to post.

After the picnic we went to Spotlight 88, the drive-in movie theatre, where we got to see fireworks followed by whatever movie was out.  My mom loved the movies and would have loved to have been a movie star, but would have slapped any actor who tried to kiss her, so in the interest of public safety, it’s best she became a mom.

She also demanded we buy her birthday gifts.  This was tricky.  If she loved what you bought, you knew it immediately.  If she didn’t, you also knew that.  One year I made her a dried flower arrangement in a glass brandy snifter.  She took one look at it, tried to hide her disgust, and said “Eeetsa pooty Frenzy, for dead a flowers.”

Putting off buying her a gift became a talent.  One year I forgot and apparently one or two of my siblings gifts didn’t arrive as scheduled either and she was very put out, until my friend Rick showed up.  He gave her a little package, which was impressive because she never even got his name right, even after knowing him for a year.  She opened it and loved the little salt and pepper shakers that went with her collection.  Then she uttered one of her classic lines: “Yunz damma kids should a be ashamed offa yourselves.  Yunz dind a getta me nading and dissa lilla stranger boy comes here anna geeves a me dissa nize a gift.”

Score: Lilla Stranger Boy – 1, Family – 0.

Allegra's cake sans age...she forbade me to include it. There are those dang dots again.  This is getting embarrassing.

Allegra’s cake sans age…she forbade me to include it. There are those dang dots again. This is getting embarrassing

She often made her own birthday cakes, which were delicious — vanilla cake with coffee, bananas and custard in the middle and coffee frosting on top. I’m sharing the recipe here, which I’ve perfected a bit and stand by 100 percent. But rum cakes from her favorite Italian bakery, Moio’s, in Monroeville, were her favorites.

Happy Early Birthday to Allegra who knows a good cake when she tastes one!

Happy Early Birthday to Allegra who knows a good cake when she tastes one!

My friend Allegra loves this cake so much, she requests it every birthday, see photo.  Note the highly technical birthday decorating I’m famous for (and mocked by my children for) — dots.

Oh well, Happy Birthday Ma, or as she would say, Happy Birt-a-day!

Mama Tunno’s Tiramisu/Boston Cream Birthday Cake

Yields12 Servings

 2 cups espresso, or strong coffee
 1 French Vanilla Cake
 3 bananas sliced 1/4 thick (wait until ready to assemble before cutting)
 2 cups vanilla cream
 3 cups Espresso Buttercream Frosting
Vanilla Cream
 2 cups whole milk
 ½ cup heavy whipping cream
 6 egg yolks
 2 tsp vanilla
 2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with just enough cold water to make it liquid
  cup sugar
Espresso Buttercream Frosting
 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
 2 ½ cups powdered sugar
 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
 1 ½ tsp espresso powder
 sea salt to taste

1

Over medium heat combine milk, whipping cream egg yolks, vanilla and sugar and cornstarch/water mixture. Cook, stirring with a whisk constantly, over medium heat until mixture thickens. Immediately cover with lid and place in refrigerator until cool.

The Cake
2

Mix the French Vanilla cake mix as directed and pour it into 2 greased, floured 8 or 9 inch round cake pans.. Bake as directed. When the cakes are done, remove them from their pans and place each cake on a plate. Cut the rounded top of one cake off, so you have a flat surface.

Building the Cake
3

Place the cake with the top cut off on your cake platter (it is the bottom layer) and drizzle it liberally with the cold coffee. Then pour enough of the cooled cream on top to completely cover it. Then place the sliced bananas on top of the cream, totally covering it.

4

Then take the other cake, turn it upside down and liberally drizzle it with the coffee. Invert it and place it on top of the cream and banana mixture. Then ice the cake with the espresso buttercream icing.

Espresso Buttercream Frosting
5

Mix the espresso powder into the vanilla until dissolved and set aside.

6

Using a whisk attachment on your mixer whip the butter on medium high for five minutes, stopping once to scrape the sides of the bowl. Reduce the speed to low and add the powdered sugar a little at a time, waiting until it's mostly incorporated before adding more. Once all the powdered sugar has been added, scrape the sides of the bowl and increase the speed to medium high and whip until fluffy; about a minute or two. Add the espresso and vanilla mixture and continue to mix on medium speed until completely incorporated.  Add fine sea salt to taste.

Ingredients

 2 cups espresso, or strong coffee
 1 French Vanilla Cake
 3 bananas sliced 1/4 thick (wait until ready to assemble before cutting)
 2 cups vanilla cream
 3 cups Espresso Buttercream Frosting
Vanilla Cream
 2 cups whole milk
 ½ cup heavy whipping cream
 6 egg yolks
 2 tsp vanilla
 2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with just enough cold water to make it liquid
  cup sugar
Espresso Buttercream Frosting
 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
 2 ½ cups powdered sugar
 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
 1 ½ tsp espresso powder
 sea salt to taste

Directions

1

Over medium heat combine milk, whipping cream egg yolks, vanilla and sugar and cornstarch/water mixture. Cook, stirring with a whisk constantly, over medium heat until mixture thickens. Immediately cover with lid and place in refrigerator until cool.

The Cake
2

Mix the French Vanilla cake mix as directed and pour it into 2 greased, floured 8 or 9 inch round cake pans.. Bake as directed. When the cakes are done, remove them from their pans and place each cake on a plate. Cut the rounded top of one cake off, so you have a flat surface.

Building the Cake
3

Place the cake with the top cut off on your cake platter (it is the bottom layer) and drizzle it liberally with the cold coffee. Then pour enough of the cooled cream on top to completely cover it. Then place the sliced bananas on top of the cream, totally covering it.

4

Then take the other cake, turn it upside down and liberally drizzle it with the coffee. Invert it and place it on top of the cream and banana mixture. Then ice the cake with the espresso buttercream icing.

Espresso Buttercream Frosting
5

Mix the espresso powder into the vanilla until dissolved and set aside.

6

Using a whisk attachment on your mixer whip the butter on medium high for five minutes, stopping once to scrape the sides of the bowl. Reduce the speed to low and add the powdered sugar a little at a time, waiting until it's mostly incorporated before adding more. Once all the powdered sugar has been added, scrape the sides of the bowl and increase the speed to medium high and whip until fluffy; about a minute or two. Add the espresso and vanilla mixture and continue to mix on medium speed until completely incorporated.  Add fine sea salt to taste.

Mama Tunno’s Birthday Cake
  • Reply
    When the World Gets Ugly, Bake Cupcakes – At Fran's Table
    April 1, 2019 at 11:18 pm

    […] Allegra, who just had a birthday, is vegan.  Before she went to the dark side, she LOVED my Mom’s birthday cake with bananas, vanilla pudding, coffee and coffee icing. Needless to say it’s not on the Vegan […]

  • Reply
    When the World Gets Ugly, Bake Cupcakes | At Fran's Table
    July 10, 2016 at 5:56 am

    […] Allegra, who just had a birthday, is vegan.  Before she went to the dark side, she LOVED my Mom’s birthday cake with bananas, vanilla pudding, coffee and coffee icing. Needless to say it’s not on the Vegan […]

  • Reply
    JoAnn Jones
    July 7, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    Happy Birthday, Aunt Mary, sorry for being late. How perfect the 4th was your Big Day !!! Love all your blogs, Fran ! JoAnn

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      July 7, 2014 at 9:07 pm

      I love you for reading them Joann! Thanks!

  • Reply
    Don Ray
    July 5, 2014 at 7:20 am

    I can’t wait for each new blog post. They get better every time. Thanks for sending these our way.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      July 7, 2014 at 7:02 am

      As my mom would say, Tang a you Don. You are one of my absolute best supporters.

  • Reply
    Patty Tunno
    July 5, 2014 at 5:21 am

    Happy Birthday Grandma! Our Fourth of July family get togethers were the best!
    Great memories celebrating the birth of our nation and her birthday.
    Yum to the cake recipe!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      July 7, 2014 at 7:01 am

      Thanks Patty, I agree, the get togethers were amazing, as was the food. We’re lucky we have the great memories.

  • Reply
    Mary
    July 5, 2014 at 2:04 am

    Yep, a VERY Happy Birthday, Ma. Now if Frannie would get this book about you published, THAT would be G R E A T!! Pull some strings “up there,” Ma. 😉

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      July 7, 2014 at 6:57 am

      Thanks Mary. I am working on it!

  • Reply
    Nicol Zanzarella
    July 4, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    We should bake one in honor of your Mom and “eat” a toast to her! 🙂 I say ‘we’ because I would like to be your bakers apprentice. Happy 4th to you, your family and to your mom.

  • Reply
    Colleen Rudnicki
    July 4, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    Happy birthday, Aunt Mary!

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