Birthdays are, above all, an excellent excuse to prepare a fancy dessert. As long as I've been old enough to wield sharp kitchen implements and use the stove, I've insisted on preparing my own birthday cake. This year I made this oh-so-tempting Almond Raspberry Layer Cake recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I love almond pastries and dark chocolate, so I thought this would be the perfect combination. I had a blast putting the cake together (it had so many steps! Crumb coat! Homemade buttercream frosting! Decorative icing piped through an actual pastry bag!). In the end it was quite a confection, and I think my family quite enjoyed it. My only failing was that I prepared the cake layers a day early, and stored them wrapped in plastic in the microwave overnight--and I probably should have frozen them instead. The cake turned out just a tad on the dry side, despite the fact that I brushed each layer with simple syrup before adding the raspberry jam filling. Oh well, live and learn.