Sunday, July 25, 2010

tastebud adventure

I am a strong believer in the birthday week. Or even month, if you are so lucky. That way, you don't have to stress about one big celebration. You can spread it out. Have the family birthday cake, the friend dinner, the work happy hour.

Josh's weekly "family dinner" turned into a dual birthday celebration a few days after his birthday proper. Josh and his friend Elise each got to choose a favorite entrée. Josh chose jambalaya, which was thick with shrimp, sausage, and chicken - and spicy, almost to the point of too spicy, but not quite. Kind of a daring tastebud adventure. Elise chose timpano (cheesy baked pasta with sausage). Paired with lots of seasonal salads and crisp, cool wine, we were full and happy. Even the hot weather and mosquitoes couldn't tame our jolly spirits.

After the large meal, we had two desserts. Sure, we were already full. But our friend Kira handled the desserts, and since she is a trained pastry chef, we found the room. Josh chose donuts, Elise chose a chocolate cake with an inner boiled frosting, chocolate frosting, and raspberry sauce. Now I can't wait till the next birthday.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Two birthdays, one cake

Abbi's birthday was at the end of June, quickly followed by Josh's at the beginning of July. I love trying new cake recipes, but when it comes to birthday cake, I usually play it safe. If you like chocolate cake, you can bet that this is the cake I will make you. Maybe with a twist. I have made this chocolate cake with the original cream cheese frosting, with orange glaze, with dulce de leche... I pretty much have it memorized, but I like to pull out the faded and stained recipe card, in my high school handwriting, just to remember all the birthdays before.

Abbi wanted chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting. This recipe is fast and cupcakes bake so quickly that I was out the door with baked cupcakes within an hour. I frosted them at the party just in time for the candle. I did a basic buttercream with a tablespoon of cream cheese added, and cocoa to taste.

Josh was out of town when I started planning his birthday. I baked the layers before I picked him up at the airport. I asked, "Do you want chocolate cake?" He said, "I want whatever you made."
I asked what kind of frosting and he chose raspberry - specifically the black raspberries at the store. Like all dark berries, the juice can stain anything, but it also makes a great food coloring. Reduced juice went into the buttercream, with a dash of chambord. The raspberry filling in the middle was sweet/tart and jam consistency. Vanilla ice cream helped balance the richness of the cake.

And Happy Birthday, blog. What a fun year of food!

Midwestern Chocolate Cake

2 cups flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking soda

Mix dry ingredients together until well blended. Then add 1 cup buttermilk, 2/3 cup vegetable oil, 1 cup hot strong coffee (decaf okay of course), 1 egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Stir to mix completely. Pour into greased cake pan(s). With a large sheet pan, it will bake 30-35 minutes at 350. If using smaller pans, check sooner. You will smell the chocolate when it is getting close.