Tag Archives: Birthday Cakes

Caramel Honeycomb Birthday Cake

make a wishRegular readers of this blog know that I bake my own birthday cake every year. My girlfriend Paula learned this the hard way. I am still apologizing to her for my rudeness!

My birthday cakes are usually multi-recipe, all day baking extravaganzas. It’s my birthday present to myself. I get exactly what I want and I get to spend time alone, baking in my kitchen, my happy place3 slices of cakeThis year’s cake was inspired by a trip to Charleston South Carolina we took with our friends The Grizzlies. One of the highlights of our weekend was a cooking class with Chef Vinson Petrillo at The Zero George Hotel, a charming 16 room boutique hotel. Chef Vinson is a recent transplant to the Charleston area. Originally from New Jersey, he honed his craft in New York. When I asked him what brought him to Charleston, he replied simply, “My wife wanted kids.” Chef PetrilloThey are now the proud and very busy parents of two little ones, aged 1 and 2. As I observed Chef Vincent during our 3-hour class it became obvious to me that he must be an excellent dad. He handled all our questions and comments with great patience and equanimity!

For the first course, he cooked butternut squash by the sous vide technique. He followed that up by sauteeing it in brown butter and finally topped it with torched marshmallow. Sort of a glorified sweet potato casserole but so much better.

For the main course, he prepared sauteed snapper. Watching him cook and plate the food was just a joy. His passion for and knowledge of the ingredients were obvious.

The dessert course was a Chocolate Cremeux, essentially a chocolate pudding, topped with big shards of honeycomb. My iPhone photo does not do it justice.chocolate cremeaux with honeycombIf you’ve ever had a Crunchie chocolate bar or sponge toffee, you know what Honeycomb is. Essentially, you make caramel and add baking soda at the end to produce a bubbly toffee confection. This honeycomb topping was the inspiration for my birthday cake.honeycombBefore he began cooking, Chef Vinson emphasized the importance of “mise en place”. Read through the recipe, measure and chop all your ingredients and set out all pans and tools you need before you start cooking. Nowhere is this more important than in the preparation of honeycomb.

You will need a candy thermometer and a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat sheet. The process goes quickly, so don’t walk away from the stove. Chef Patrillo left his honeycomb unadorned, but I dipped the corners of mine in bittersweet chocolate and sprinkled them with a bit of flaky sea salt because that’s the way we roll around here!

 

For the cake, I turned to Brian Hart Hoffman’s book “Bake From Scratch.” I thought his classic golden cake with buttermilk would be a perfect base for honeycomb.cake ingredientsadding eggsbatter in cake pansI filled and covered the cake with a salted caramel buttercream.piping icingWith a cup of tea or a glass of milk, this indulgent cake is the perfect way to celebrate a birthday.with a cup of teawith a glass of milk

Click here to print the recipe for Caramel Honeycomb Birthday Cake.

a slice taken out of the cake

 

Banana Fudge Chocolate Cake

Cake with unlit candlesWe’re not into big, full-on birthday celebrations in our house. We’re just not the partying kind of family. 4/5 of us fall squarely into introvert territory. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as I have recently learned from a wonderful book called The Introvert Advantage.

So while we do celebrate our birthdays without much fanfare, the one thing I do insist on is a homemade birthday cake. Even if I do have to bake my own cake. Everyone in our family has their favourites. My oldest son and husband always request Almond Berry Shortbread Cake, my youngest son will accept anything with chocolate, see here, here, here, and here.

My daughter usually requests Carrot Cake with Lemon Curd Filling. However, this year when I asked her what kind of cake she wanted for her August birthday, she told me I could surprise her and make anything I wanted. She knows I love to bake new things so I’ll have fresh material for the blog. What a great daughter.

Anything I want? I was a little overwhelmed with such wide parameters. Sometimes less choice is a good thing. I turned to one of my favourite baking books for inspiration. Bobbette and Belle is filled with classic baked goods with a unique twist.

I decided on baking the Banana Chocolate Fudge Cake since my daughter loves chocolate very much. I seem to recall that her first word was chocolate. If you plan to bake this cake, and you really should, plan on baking it over 2 days to allow yourself time to enjoy the process. There are 4 component parts to the recipe.Cake and presentThere are 3 layers of dense super-moist banana cake. Note that you will require 7 ripe bananas to make this! Most banana cake recipes call for 3 ripe bananas, so we are veering into deep banana territory here.Cake with slice removed 2The 3 layers are sandwiched with a deep dark chocolate fudge frosting. Then, the whole thing is covered in a silky light chocolate buttercream. Finally, the cake is topped with a chocolate glaze that drips ever so artfully down the sides of the cake.

I made the fudge frosting and buttercream on day one and the cake layers and glaze on day two. Here’s a video showing how the whole thing was assembled.

This cake was met with rave review from everyone who got to try it.Cake with slice removed

A very happy birthday indeed!!

slice with lit candle

Click here to print recipe for Banana Chocolate Fudge Cake.

slice laying on its side

The Ultimate Gluten Free Chocolate Cake

petal cake with candles 1I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS CAKE!! Sorry for the shouting, but I can’t contain my elation. As Joy would say, this cake is “Bonkers Awesome.” My search for a blog-worthy gluten free chocolate cake has been going on for quite a while now. My youngest son follows a gluten-free and casein-free diet. For special occasions he goes off the wagon, but he doesn’t feel all that great when he does. This week is his birthday and I wanted him to celebrate without feeling sick.sliced cake with glass of milkThe problem with most gluten-free cakes is that they have a dry and crumbly texture. They often fall apart when you bite into them. The main reason for this is that gluten is a protein that provides structure and strength to baked goods so they don’t crumble and fall apart. Gluten also forms air pockets in the batter which leads to light and fluffy baked goods.

The good folks over at America’s Test Kitchen have figured out how to get around these problems and created a stellar GF chocolate cake. I made the cake twice. The first one was served to my son’s co-workers at his office. No one could believe this was a GF cake. Unfortunately, I could not photograph the inside of that cake, because it would be kind of rude to serve a previously sliced up cake. I made the second cake to have at home with friends and family. To them I served a cake that had been hacked up and photographed, because that’s what you do with family.3 slicesThe cake batter comes together very quickly and does not require a mixer. I used Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Baking Flour Mix. In gluten free baking, it is important to use a blend of different gluten free flours, not just one kind. Using both melted bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder provide the perfect chocolate flavour. Baking soda and baking powder give the needed lift and xanthan gum supplies strength and structure. Xanthan gum is a common ingredient in gluten free baking. Without gluten you need something to act as the binding agent for the flour. It keeps things moist and helps to hold the cake together without crumbling.

Vegetable oil, instead of butter is the perfect fat of choice as it keeps the cake incredibly moist. I substituted coconut milk for whole milk, as I wanted my version to be dairy free. Almond or rice milk would work too.

To keep the cake super moist, I brushed the cooled cake layers with a coffee flavoured simple syrup. For the frosting, I decided to make a mocha flavoured Swiss buttercream. I substituted unsalted margarine for butter, because I wanted to keep it dairy free. While the taste and texture of margarine will never beat that of butter, in this application, with the addition of chocolate and coffee to create a mocha frosting, the results were very delicious.Ingredients for Swiss Meringue ButtercreamA Swiss buttercream is a bit more complicated than an American buttercream. In an American buttercream you simply beat powdered sugar and butter, and any flavouring you like. With a Swiss buttercream, egg whites and granulated sugar are whisked and heated to 160°F and then whipped into a meringue. Softened butter (and any flavouring) is then added to the meringue. Swiss meringue is smoother, lighter and less sweet than American buttercream. Yes, it’s more work, but I think it’s worth it. You will need a stand mixer and a candy or instant read thermometer.cooking meringuewhites and sugar whipped to stiff peaksmocha buttercreamI decided to decorate the cake with a petal frosting technique. It looks quite impressive but is actually quite simple to execute. You will need a 1/2 inch round piping tip, some disposable piping bags and a small spoon or off-set spatula. First, pipe a vertical row of dots. Next, spread the buttercream dots with a small spatula or spoon. This creates the look of petals. Repeat, one vertical row at a time, until you go all the way around the cake.petal cake 1I have demonstrated the technique in this video.

sliced cake with milk pitcher

Click here to print recipe for The Ultimate Gluten Free Chocolate Cake.

slice with milk

 

Hummingbird Cake

One SliceI made this cake to celebrate my father’s 90th birthday. Sadly, he will have to enjoy this cake vicariously, from his perch in heaven, as he died in 1999. Some may find this a bit macabre, but those who knew my dad understand that enjoying life vicariously, through others, was ingrained in his being. He got great pleasure and joy from other people’s good fortune.one slice 2Hummingbird cake is a classic Southern dessert, with Jamaican roots. The glorious trifecta of banana, pineapple and pecans meld into a moist dense cake that, once filled and frosted with a cream cheese frosting, could drive a sane person just a tad crazy. I added some unsweetened coconut to the batter because, well, coconut! All you coconut haters can leave it out. You won’t hurt my feelings. I used coconut flakes, but for a less chunky texture, you could use shredded coconut.

This cake recipe is adapted from Bobbette and Belle’s recipe for Hummingbird cupcakes.  ready to bakeNo one is quite sure how this cake got it’s moniker. Some theorize that because the cake is so sweet, loaded with sugar and fruit, that it would naturally attract hummingbirds. Others posit that the cake is so delicious, it makes people hum with happiness, like a bird.cakes coolingassembling cake 1assembling cake 2To decorate the cake I used a #8 Wilton tip to pipe a string of “pearls” around the top and bottom of the cake. I tied some gold ribbon around wooden skewers to create little flags and staggered the heights in the cake.cake and milk

Click here to print recipe for Hummingbird Cake.

Two slices

Ultimate Chocolate Birthday Cake

topsy turvy 3When I watched Ina Garten and Tyler Florence collaborate on this birthday cake for Tyler’s 7-year-old son Hunter, two things occurred to me. The first being, what an odd and unlikely duo! How did Ina and Tyler even come together on this project in the first place? My second thought was, what a cool idea for a birthday cake. For some reason, I only associate stacked cakes with weddings. This off kilter, cake was perfect to help celebrate my youngest son’s birthday. He turned 23 at the end of April.1 slice cI didn’t use Ina’s recipe because I have a favourite go-to recipe. It was created by Noreen Gilletz, slightly adapted by me, and comes together in the food processor in a few short minutes. It is the moistest chocolate cake I have ever tried. Deep, dark  intense chocolate flavour with a fudgy dense texture. Half a cup of strong coffee enhances the chocolate flavour.cake mise en placeinto food processorready to bakeThe deep dark chocolate buttercream is the genius creation of Nila over at www.thetoughcookie.comchocolate buttercreamI had some leftover salted caramel buttercream from making macarons so I sandwiched the layers with it, and frosted the top and sides with the chocolate buttercream. If you don’t feel like preparing two kinds of buttercream, it is still fantastic with just chocolate buttercream.salted caramel buttercream between layersYou will need two round 8-inch, two round 6-inch and two round 4-inch cake pans, as well as some cardboard cake circles.ready to frosticing cake 2ready to stacktopsy turvy 1 625If the thought of building this Topsy Turvy cake makes you nervous, just make a double layer 9-inch traditional cake. It’s still very special and quite beautiful.Let's party 13 slices 2

Click here to print recipe for Topsy Turvy Chocolate Birthday Cake.

Click here to print recipe for Perfect Chcolate Birthday Cake.

Click here to print recipe for Salted Caramel Buttercream 2.

2 slices 625 sq