It would seem remiss to pass up an opportunity to eat cake with so many family birthdays in January. Around here we don’t discriminate between those here and gone. We make birthday cakes for everyone. That delicious tradition began after we decoded some of our tangled odd-duck family history and it seemed wrong not to celebrate the colorful family ancestors – so here we are.
Happy birthday to my mom. She is forever 50 years old to us but had she remained among the breathing would turn a hearty 96 this past week. She was a big fan of cake though she didn’t bake them often. She would be surprised to know that the crumb coat is not the final layer on the cake and it is customary to actually cover the whole cake with icing. Happy birthday, mom.
Then there is the birthday of the famous Lemon Loving Mother in-Law. She of lemon fame has a big fat secret. She is a closet chocolate lover. I learned that top-dog secret one day during a rare shopping trip with her in San Francisco. We ducked into a bakery for coffee and I fully expected her to pick out the beautiful little lemon tart for her treat. When she choose what looked like an acre of brownie with chocolate fudge frosting piled high on top I was dumbstruck. She ate the whole thing with such gusto that I will never forget that day. I try to make sure she gets some chocolate now and again between lemon bites.
Our first grandchild who was born when we were 20 (kidding but only just) also has a birthday this week. If you have grandchildren you know they are the real reason you have children in the first place. Sort of like eating your vegetables to get a crack at dessert. Grandchildren are all sorts of charming and they actually are perfect. It turns out that he loves apple tarts. But he does request homemade half-moon (black and white) cookies regularly. This is homage to that, and more.
It is also the month of anniversaries for both our parents. The lemon loving in-laws will be celebrating the big 60 next year. And were my parents still breathing this would be their 73rd anniversary. Lest you think I am a crypt keeper, I was the far-away glimmer in someone’s eye born way-way later long after cars were invented.
And if I could find where I managed to store the family history chart on the computer (it is there but hidden somewhere) I know there would be a slew of odd duck ancestors who deserve a birthday cake this month.
I owe a big thanks to Angie of Bakerella for the inspiration. I could not settle on a cake until I was inspired by her post. This is a gluten-free chocolate cake with vanilla/almond flavored white butter cream frosting topped with chocolate ganache and more butter cream just because it seemed like a good idea. Think black and white cookie on steroids.
The cake was baked in the family heirloom heart-shaped cake pans that were used for every birthday since the dawn of time. They are well older than all of us combined and priceless and pure aluminum so they don’t get used that often anymore. Except for this cake. You can get your own aluminum pans here.
But hey, the calories and butter in the cake will get you long before the aluminum. Happy birthday with love and chocolate.
|Let Us Eat Black and White Cake, Gluten Free||
- 9 oz. GF flour (about 3 cups) (7 oz. superfine brown rice flour, 1 oz. superfine white rice flour, 1 oz. tapioca starch/flour)
- 13 oz. white sugar (almost 2 cups)
- 3 oz. unsweetened cocoa (I use Scharffen Berger)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon powdered instant espresso
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 200 grams (1 stick plus 6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon Godiva Liquor
- 2 tablespoons butter milk (or yogurt or sour cream)
- 5- 8 oz. hot water (scant cup to 1 cup)
- 172 grams or 1.5 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 450 grams (about 1 pound) powdered sugar, sifted
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ½ teaspoon almond flavoring
- 3-4 tablespoons cream
- 8 oz. or 1 cup heavy cream, heated to a simmer
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 16 oz. mixed bittersweet and semisweet chocolate chopped or chips
- Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour with unsweetened cocoa three 8″ or 9″ layer pans.
- In a large bowl weigh the flours and add in the sugar, cocoa, baking soda, salt, espresso and baking powder. Whisk to combine. Melt the butter in a microwave safe container and cool slightly. Whisk the eggs, vanilla into the melted butter. Add the Godiva liquor and butter milk. Pour into the dry ingredients and start to mix with a wooden spoon. Slowly pour in the hot water and keep stirring until it looks like batter. You want the batter to pour but be kind of thick. Stir for about another minute. Divide the batter among the three pans and using a spatula make sure the pans are level-filled. Bang them on the counter to remove any air bubbles. Bake 5 minutes at 350. Turn oven to 325 and bake about 13-15 minutes more or just until a toothpick comes out clean. Loosen the edge with a butter knife and let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes. Turn out onto a rack to cool completely before frosting.
- Whip the butter in a stand mixer until mushy. Add in the sifted powdered sugar and mix on low until it begins to look like coarse crumbs. Add in the flavorings and cream just until it becomes smooth. Once the dry stuff looks wet and it seems like frosting you will want to turn up the mixer to medium high and let it rip for about 3-4 minutes. The frosting will turn from butter yellow to white and almost double in size. You want very fluffy frosting. If it seems too stiff to spread properly, add in a little more cream and whip some more. Conversely if it is too gooey, add in a tiny bit more powdered sugar (sift it!) until it is just right.
- Heat the cream with the butter until they are scalding but not boiling. Set the chopped chocolate in a bowl and pour the scalded cream/butter over it. Let it sit without stirring for about two minutes. Then stir gently until it all comes together and becomes a nice chocolate glaze. As it cools it will turn to ganache and become thick. You will want to use it once it is temperate and slightly cool, but not too stiff.
- This is where you can do whatever makes you happy. I applied a nice buttercream crumb coat and added a thick layer of buttercream between the layers as I stacked them. A crumb coat allows you to trap the rogue bits that will get all over the frosting if you don’t glue them down first. Let that layer get slightly hard before adding the next step.
- Assuming you have a crumb coat on the sides and full butter cream goop in between layers you are ready to apply the chocolate mess. Pour the chocolate over the top from the center out and using a small offset spatula, lead it down the sides and spread it all over that nice hard crumb layer without disturbing it. Sloosh the chocolate ganache sideways over the whole cake with a spatula to smooth it out and cover the sides fully. Decorate any way you like. Let the cake set up – try not to refrigerate it before you serve it. In my experience, the chocolate will not keep that pretty shine once chilled. Enjoy!