20 October 2009

Pretty in Pink: a birthday cake story

This little blog has become a place to store all our celebratory cake recipes it seems. And while there are so many other things I had wanted to tell you about (such as my favorite Japanese noodle soup place in Brussels or stuffed aubergines that I made a couple of weeks back and which were truly delicious), let’s do first things first and talk about this glorious birthday cake which I always make at the occasion of Mike’s birthday.
As mentioned, Mike grew up in Singapore and with that come all kinds of things: his love for sotong and chicken rice, his passion for fishing and diving, and his complete ignorance of seasonal produce. For him, seasons are more a theoretical concept, in practice all fruit have to be in season and at his disposal ALL THE TIME. Which means that he’ll be desperately looking for strawberries in January and once he finds them he’ll be upset because they taste of absolutely nothing.

When I first asked him, a couple of years ago, what type of birthday cake he would like to have he said: strawberry cake! I reminded him that strawberries are no longer in season in October which caused great puzzlement. But a fruit cake it had to be (berries he said, any kind of berries) and something that can be easily produced in Brussels in mid-October. To my help came two indispensable resources: my friend Markéta and frozen raspberries.

When I told Markéta about my struggle to find the perfect birthday cake recipe for Mike she shared with me the killer recipe by Nigella Lawson for a gorgeous spongy and chocolate-y cake which is begging to be filled with fruit and cream. Since the cake had been tried and tested by Marketa and she had given it her thumb of approval, chances were extremely high that I would give it mine too.

For the filling we debated the options and decided that frozen raspberries would do the trick. Unlike strawberries, frozen raspberries do not lose any of their wonderful color and flavor during the frosting and defrosting process and would therefore satisfy Mike’s desire for summer flavors. And the best bit was: I had everything in fridge and cupboards to get started. The cake base came together super quickly and easily. While it baked I warmed some raspberries with a bit of sugar and vanilla bean, whipped cream and roasted slivered almonds in a dry pan. When the cake had cooled, I cut it in half horizontally and filled it with my raspberry-cream mix and spread the remaining mixture on top and on the sides. I sprinkled the sides with the roasted almonds and looked at my beauty: it was gorgeous, mouth-watering - and PINK! I had made a bright pink cake for my husband…hmmm. Not exactly the most masculine looking cake-but I promise: that's the only flaw, otherwise this cake is pretty much perfect!

You can’t go wrong with chocolate, raspberries and cream I think. The fromage frais is a great partner for this menage a troisL it makes everything light and fresh and brings out the flavors of summer. The best thing about this cake (besides that it tastes divine) is that you can make it at any time of the year. With fresh raspberries when they are in season and frozen ones for the rest of the year.

After Mike had his first slice he put his fork down and said: Please, let’s remember this cake and make it every year for my birthday! And that’s what we do….

(Pink) Raspberry Chocolate Cake
This cake can be made in advance as it only gets better over the days. Its flavors develop as the sponge mellows and becomes juicier. I usually make it the night before the birthday so we can enjoy it first thing in the morning as well as after the birthday dinner( I will tell you about that another time…).
For the cake (adapted from Nigella Lawson)
3/3 cup (175 ml) milk
1 tablespoon(15g) butter
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract or 1 package of vanilla sugar
3 eggs
¾ cup (160g) sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

For the raspberry cream
1cup (100 g) (frozen) raspberries
Vanilla bean
Sugar to taste (depending on the sweetness of the fruit, I use about ½ cup)
(A splash of Crème de Casssis)
½ cup (200 g) heavy whipping cream
¾ cup (200 g) fromage frais, crème fraîche or sour cream

To assemble
100 g slivered almonds
A handful of fresh raspberries (if available)or dark chocolate shavings

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (325 degrees Fahrenheit). Grease or line a small springform.

Pour the milk into a small pan with the butter and heat until warm and the butter has melted. When hot, add the vanilla.
Whisk the eggs and sugar till thick, light and frothy (I use my hand-held mixer for that). Meanwhile, combine the flour, cocoa and baking soda. Still beating the eggs and sugar, pour in the hot buttery, vanilla'd milk and when incorporated, slowly fold in the flour-baking soda-cocoa mixture in three batches. I use a wooden spoon for that. Fill the cake mixture in the prepared pan and bake for 25-35 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer the cake to a wire rack and let cool completely.

While the is cake baking, roast the slivered almonds in a dry pan over medium heat until golden brown. Shake the pan frequently to avoid the almonds from burning. Set aside.
In another pot, warm the frozen raspberries with the vanilla bean cut in half lengthwise as well as the scraped out seeds of the vanilla bean and the sugar over low heat. The raspberries will defrost, release their juices and disintegrate in parts. That’s exactly what you want them to do. While the raspberries are warming through, whip the cream to soft peaks. Add the Crème de Cassis if using to the raspberries and mix in the the fromage frais or sour cream. Then, in three batches, carefully fold the raspberry mixture into the whipping cream while trying to keep the mixture as light and airy as possible. Cover the bowl with cling film and put in the fridge.

When the cake has cooled completely cut it into half horizontally. Place it on a large (serving) plate. If your cake’s surface is uneven (mine sort of exploded on one side this year) cut any bits that are higher than the rest of the cake. I was very happy about that, because it allowed me to devour these parts immediately. Put half of the raspberry mixture on one layer of the cake and spread out evenly. Put the second layer of the cake on top and press gently. Spread the remaining raspberry mixture evenly over top and side of the cakes. This is a bit tricky and you will have some of the cream dripping off from the sides of the cake. Using a knife helps (and not being a perfectionist like myself helps too).Once all mixture has been used, gently cover the sides of the cake with the slivered almonds to hide the two layers.

Right before serving decorate the cake with either the raspberries or the dark chocolate shavings. The cake keeps in the fridge for up to three days (but I’m quite sure it won’t last that long).

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Hi there

I came across your blog and thought you might like to take a peek at mine. I live in the French Alps and write about food and renovating our old watermill. Would you be interested in exchanging links?



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