Tag Archives: birthday cake

Gilding with Strawberries and Chocolate

16 candles

Somebody in our house turned sixteen this past week.

You might think summer is the ideal time to have a birthday, but in many ways it’s not – at least not while you’re a kid or teenager. Summer birthdays can be a pain. The thermometer usually reads in the 90s which means icing and ice cream tend to melt. School’s out so many of your friends are away at camp. Even if your school is really thoughtful and tries to celebrate folks who have summer birthdays with a half birthday it doesn’t always work out. Not if your real birthday is after graduation and your half birthday is during Christmas vacation. So someone in our house hasn’t had a friend birthday party in a while, but he has always had a family birthday party.

the birthday hat

In our house the family birthday means four things. One is you get to choose the dinner menu. Two you must wear the hat. Three you will get a cake, and four we will sing you the song. The exception to these birthday rules is our dog Oliver. He gets a partially cooked hamburger instead of a cake and doesn’t have to wear the hat since his head is so small. Of course that means he has a Pavlovian reaction anytime we sing the song since he now associates it with hamburger. What can I say? He’s smart, but not smart enough to know that not every birthday is his birthday.

strawberry chocolate cake

So for Russell’s birthday this year I got up early to bake the world’s best chocolate cake. I just wasn’t sure how to decorate it and the birthday boy had given me free range in the icing department. Fortunately his godfather Rick Ellis called mid-morning to talk to the birthday boy. After wishing him a happy birthday he asked what kind of cake Russell was having. My son’s response was, “I don’t know. I think it’s something chocolate-you should talk to my Mom.” For those of you new to this blog I should mention Rick is an amazing food stylist, a fantabulous cook, and always has inspired recipe ideas.

chocolate cake chilling

Developing a recipe or food concept with Rick is like playing food ping-pong. We talked about what was in my fridge (strawberries, heavy cream, and a jar of raspberry jam) and cupboards (lots of chocolate, several different kinds of cocoa, and some honey), what Russell liked (pretty much anything), and then Rick pondered. For all of 30 seconds. Since strawberries tend to weep (let their juices out) when they have been cut Rick suggested a layer of raspberry jam on top of the bottom layer of cake with the cut strawberries nestled into the jam. Thus solving the weeping problem. If raspberries had been in season we could have used them, plus if I’d had an open jar of strawberry jam it would have worked too. Once the fruit component was in place Rick wanted me to add the second layer of cake and frost the entire outside with chocolate buttercream. To gild the proverbial lily, just before serving the cake I drizzled chocolate ganache over the the chilled cake. Brilliant, over the top summer birthday cake. Perfect for a sixteen-year-old.

Chocolate ganache frosting

Here’s what you’ll need to make an Over the Top Chocolate Cake.

  • 1 baked and cooled Chocolate Cake, click here for the recipe
  • 1 – 1  1/2 pints strawberries, tops removed and cut in half
  • raspberry jam
  • chocolate buttercream (I made mine from a half batch of this recipe substituting some Valrhona cocoa for part of the powdered sugar)
  • chocolate ganache

Place cake on a cake plate, spreading jam on top of first layer. Add strawberries (the amount will vary depending on if you make an 8″, 9″ or 10″ cake). Top with second layer and frost outside with chocolate buttercream. Refrigerate. Just before serving pour cooled chocolate ganache over the top, letting it run over the sides and puddle along the bottom. Add candles and sing the song.

Chocolate Ganache

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

4 1/2 ounces heavy cream

2-3 heaping teaspoons honey

1 1/2 teaspoons butter

Bring the heavy cream to a boil and add the honey. Pour over chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted. Add the butter and let cool till pourable being careful it’s not too hot that it melts the chocolate buttercream.

lighting the cake

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Cake Not Cake

My daughter is stronger than I–she can live without refined sugar. So for her birthday party last night I was wracking my brain as to what sort of “cake” I could make for her and her friends, that didn’t have sugar. I stumbled upon a “cake” made of watermelon slices on pinterest (my guilty internet pleasure). It looks like the original idea came from here, though I can’t say for certain.

"watermelon cake"

Isabelle's watermelon cake

Given that I was making this cake in the middle of January there weren’t lots of choices for watermelons. I made this out of four personal size watermelons. I think it would be better if you could make it out of a really long summer watermelon, that way the slices would fit together better. Even though my slices were a little uneven it all got gobbled up.

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The Best Chocolate Cake Ever

After graduating from college one of my first  jobs was as the baker at Leaf n’ Bean Cafe in Brooklyn Heights. I brought with me a rather slim batch of recipes. Prior cooking jobs had always handed me house recipes to use. No muss, no fuss just bake and serve. This was the first time I had been asked to supply my own recipes. The cafe was open for breakfast and lunch plus weekend brunches so the baked goods were pretty straight forward–muffins, cakes, pies, the occasional mousse, and bar cookies fit the bill. The glitch came around chocolate. The owners John and Allan wanted something chocolate on the menu every day, which makes sense since chocolate sells. The problem was that while I ate a lot of chocolate I didn’t have many chocolate recipes in my repertoire back then (my, how things have changed). My rescue came in the form of  Continue reading

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