Ever since we were in high school, my friend Zoe and I have had a very special birthday tradition.
A world traveler, she always finds some perfect article of clothing for me on her trips, be it a vintage purse at a flea market in Germany or a handmade alpaca wool poncho from Peru.
In return, I try to bake her something I’ve invented just for her. When I was a teenager, that meant butterscotch-chip snickerdoodles. Nowadays I get more elaborate, like the four-layer cake based on the Indian cheese dumpling dessert called ras malai.
This was her idea, sort of. After declaring ras malai to be her favorite sweet of all time, she asked if I could whip up a batch for her birthday party.