I always feel for people who have their birthdays close to Christmas - or even on Christmas Day itself. My birthday falls at the end of April, and once when I was probably 8 or 9, it coincided with Easter Sunday, and all I got was chocolate eggs. Admittedly they were bigger than normal, but it always seemed to me like a bit of a cop out, like I'd lost out. Not that I'm harbouring any grudges some 34 years later or anything...
BUT I do feel that if a birthday and another special festival or holiday coincide, you should make a fuss of the birthday person for their birthday as well as doing whatever you do for the festival and not try to wrap the 2 up together. It's hard - and the Husband's birthday is still a few weeks off Christmas - but for example, there's no tree up here (won't be till next weekend at least) and the Christmas cards that have started to trickle in won't get put up on the mantlepiece for a week at least, so that the birthday cards can take centre stage.
If there was one thing less likely to be Christmassy to celebrate the Husband's birthday, it was a cook out on the beach in early December, but that's what we decided to do. The weather was kind enough, we had good friends to stay and Saturday lunchtime saw us heading off to Penbryn armed with a shelter, waterproofs, blankets, wood, various buckets, spades, boomerangs, sausages, bacon, marshmallows, a vat of soup and the wherewithal to make chocolate orange campfire cakes.
While the fire got going, we explored caves and because the tide was low enough, the beach beyond the one we were settled on, one of the adults got the kids playing minefield - kind of like human battleships - so simple, so much fun - running around in the fresh air on a huge expanse of empty beach.
Fire glowing, and with the light of the day disappearing, we settled in to cook sausages and cowboy meals, and to make these cakes which I'd seen on the internet and decided had to be tried. Part of me couldn't believe they'd work but they did - and some. Essentially you use hollowed out orange skins as the receptacle for cake batter. And yes, you could make your own, but for the purposes of making this up at the beach, I used a box of mix, and took the additional ingredients required - water, oil and eggs - pre-measured in a plastic container ready for mixing up. We did hollow out the oranges before heading beachwards too.
Wrapped in foil, and cooked in the embers of a fire, you get a brilliant moist cake delicately flavoured with orange, more or less depending on how fastidiously you hollow out your oranges.
We will definitely do these again. We whizzed up the orange flesh into juice for breakfast, but you could increase the orange-iness of the cakes by using some orange juice in the place of the water you need to mix up the packet of batter.
Chocolate Orange Campfire Cakes
Makes around 12
12 large, thick skinned oranges
2 packets of Betty Croker Chocolate Chunk Muffin Mix - or whatever takes your fancy
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 large eggs
Lots of strong tin foil
Slice the tops off the oranges about 1/4-1/3 down and scoop the flesh out of both pieces taking care not to split the skin. Trial and error showed us that it's better to have the stalk end as the bottom of the larger piece, because you get a little hole in the other end when you scoop out the flesh, but it's not fatal - just use more tin foil when you wrap the oranges.
Empty the muffin mix into a bowl and whisk together your wet ingredients - we needed 2 tbsp vegetable oil, 2 large eggs and 260 ml water - then stir the wet ingredients into the dry mix.
Spoon the batter into the larger parts of the oranges - don't fill more than about half the cavity you've got.
Top with the smaller piece of orange, double wrap in foil and chuck into the embers of the fire for 25 minutes. You can carry on cooking your sausages at the same time.
After 25 minutes, remove the foil wrapped packages carefully from the fire and unwrap to find a moist delicious chocolatey orangey cake. Probably best eaten al fresco, with a spoon, but fingers will do.