Living Well

By: Liz Scott

Liz Scott is a personal chef and caterer specializing in nutritional and dietary needs for recovery from illness and disease, including alcohol and drug dependence. She is a graduate of New York University and the French Culinary Institute in New York and holds an MA degree from Villa Schifanoia in Florence, Italy. Her personal battle with alcoholism and her dedication to the recovery community have led to new creative levels in her professional culinary career.

Celebrating Sobriety Birthdays

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Jul 29, 2011
Today is my friend’s birthday—her natal birthday to be precise. She also has a sobriety birthday and has successfully put together quite a string of them—nearly double my recovery age of what feels like, next to her, a very young 13.

With all the twittering and blogging this past week about the tragic death of Amy Winehouse and the discussions of so many others —known and unknown —who suffered the same fate as a result (either directly or indirectly) of substance dependence, I can always find inspiration in the hundreds of thousands of people who continue to rack up sobriety birthdays and live happy and healthy lives each day. today I’d like to talk about the importance of recognizing those milestones of sobriety that come around each year by including a blurb I wrote in my book Sober Celebrations on the subject, as well as a recipe for an amazing little orange and chocolate birthday cake I am sure you will love.
Most everyone can tell you the exact day they got clean and sober. Marking these important days with sober parties, the giving out of year “chips,” or simply a well-deserved “congratulations” recognizing the tremendous effort it took to get there is one of the great joys of recovery.  

Whether it be the 1st or the 30th, these annual “birthdays,” also called “anniversaries,” should be acknowledged and celebrated with pride. So if you or someone you know has a sobriety birthday coming up, plan to mark it with at least a little pomp and circumstance!  

Here are a few ideas for celebrating in style:
  • Start the day off right by inviting a few close friends over for breakfast or brunch. Serve up omelets, pancakes, French toast, or anything else that suits your fancy. Or leave the cooking to someone else and have everyone meet at your favorite diner for a delicious morning meal and pots of coffee. 
  • Plan a get-together for play at a bowling alley, golf course or baseball field then invite everyone back for cake and some sparkling fruit drinks to toast the honoree.
  • Take the family out to dinner, go off your diet and order everything from appetizers to desserts. Tell the wait staff there’s a birthday to celebrate and they’ll be sure to light a candle and even sing a round of “Happy Birthday.”
  • Don’t spend the day alone—attend a meeting, call up a friend for coffee or plan to visit a sober residence where you can offer hope and congratulations to others. Be grateful for the support you’ve received along the way and give yourself the pat on the back you deserve.
This week’s recipe:

Petit Orange Chocolate Birthday Gateau

Chocolate and orange are a classic combination in baking— their flavors complement each other deliciously. Usually the orange element is in the form of liqueur, whether Cointreau or Grand Marnier, but here we’ll be going directly to the source for an intense orange experience. Orange juice concentrate and zest will provide the flavor for the cake, while orange oil will enhance our deep chocolate ganache coating. Citrus oils, like orange and lemon, are wonderful to use as they do not contain any alcohol as do extracts, but are similarly concentrated. One or two drops are usually all that is needed.  
You can prepare the cake part ahead and even freeze it, well wrapped in plastic, if you like. The filling and ganache can also be prepared ahead and the entire gateau assembled the night before so it has a chance to set in the refrigerator. Let it sit, however, at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving to soften up the chocolate a bit. Use a sharp knife dipped in hot water to make perfect slices. If you would like to decorate the finished cake, some supermarkets and all baking supply stores carry small candied flowers and leaves that you could use in the corners or on the edges. Edible flowers would also be a nice touch.  Just don’t forget to write “Happy Birthday!”

For the cake:
1 ¼ sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
3 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 teaspoon non-alcohol vanilla extract
2 ½ cups plain cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk

For the filling:
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
¼ cup heavy cream
1 large egg white

For the ganache:
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 drops orange oil

Candied or edible flowers to garnish (optional)

1. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9- by 13-inch baking pan, knocking out the excess flour. Line with a rectangular piece of waxed or parchment paper cut to fit the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

2.  In a medium-size mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together using an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the orange juice concentrate, grated orange peel, and vanilla.

3. In another medium-size mixing bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. On medium-low speed, beat half the flour mixture into the egg mixture, then half the milk, then the remaining flour, followed by the remaining milk, to combine.  Try not to overbeat.  Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake on the center rack of the oven until the top is lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely in the baking pan on a rack. Turn out the cake onto a cutting board, peel off the paper, and carefully invert right side up. At this point you may freeze the cake up to 2 weeks ahead by cutting it into equal square halves and tightly wrapping each piece with plastic wrap, then foil.

4. Make the filling: In the top of a double boiler, melt the chocolate. Transfer to a small mixing bowl and allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. In another small bowl using an electric mixer, whip the cream to soft peaks. Wash the beaters, dry well, and in a third bowl, beat the egg white until stiff. All at once, add the egg white and whipped cream to the melted chocolate and vigorously whisk until completely blended, about 1 minute. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours until somewhat set.

5. Make the ganache: In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream just to a boil. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate and orange oil and whisk until the chocolate is melted. Transfer to a small bowl and chill, uncovered, until just cool and spreadable, about 30 minutes. If the ganache becomes too cold to spread, simply leave it out until it has softened a bit, then stir.

6. To assemble the gateau: Using a serrated bread knife, even out the top of the cake to make it flat by cutting off slivers. Cut about 1 inch off of each edge of the cake, then cut into 2 equal size square-shaped pieces. Transfer 1 piece to a cake plate. Spread the filling evenly over the cake layer and top with the remaining layer. Using half the ganache, coat the sides and top of the gateau with a thin layer, then chill for 20 minutes. Spread the remaining ganache evenly over the top and sides and decorate with the flowers, if using. Keep chilled until 30 minutes before serving.

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