Something weird is happening to this blog. It’s getting all healthy all of a sudden and it’s really freaking me out. What happened to the good old days when chocolate chip pancakes were king and kale pesto was but an afterthought, if a thought at all? Things have changed, I tell ya, and while I feel great eating all this healthy stuff, something’s gotta give.
Enter, Allison and Elizabeth, my two aunts who turned 30 just a couple of days ago. In celebration of them, the women of the Mintz clan banded together for a weekend of mani/pedis, red wine, chocolate cake, and silly string. While I missed the mani/pedi because I was stuffing my face with Sriracha frog legs, there was never a dull moment all weekend long.
Allison and Elizabeth, by the way, are no ordinary 30-year-olds. Born three months premature, they’ve struggled with significant learning disabilities their entire lives. 30 years into the game, Allison is finishing up law school and Elizabeth is taking over Portlandia. Both have achieved such impressive milestones in their three decades on this earth, including, but not limited to, Allie’s two-year stint in Mongolia with the Peace Corps and Elizabeth’s transformation into a walking encyclopedia of holistic medicine. In other words, there was no way any of us would pass up the chance to celebrate their big 3-0.
Allie, chocoholic that she is, requested – no, demanded – that I procure a chocolate birthday cake. I was happy to do so, until I arrived at Whole Foods, recipe in hand, and realized that my list included nothing but junk. A few deep breaths later and I remembered my motto, that good food = quality ingredients. If I were going to bake a chocolate-on-chocolate cake, it was going to be made of the good stuff.
Back at the house, I got to work measuring, pouring, melting, and mixing, all without the slightest idea what I was doing. Thanks to a couple trusty food blogs, I managed to narrowly avoid total failure.
I hate to say it, but I’ve turned into one of those grandmas who is just as satisfied taking a lick of the batter as they are with cleaning the bowl. But let me tell you, this batter is outrageous. We seriously considered just sticking a couple candles in the mixing bowl, grabbing a handful of spoons, and calling it a night.
But alas, the twins’ mom, my Nana Abby, had recently retrieved this well-loved heart-shaped cake pan from her mother’s house and we had to put it to good use.
While the cake layers were cooling, we roasted salmon and veggies and the twins got decked out in B-Day swag.
I made this Smitten Kitchen frosting that had me majorly questioning my morals (I’m convinced that Chocolate Ganache is just a fancy word for chocolate butter), and everyone wanted a taste.
The cake came together beautifully, with no layer casualties – as has been my experience in the past – and the frosting spread on without taking any crumbs with it – another serious feat.
Between dinner and dessert, there may or may not have been a silly string war, if for no other reason than to work up an appetite for some birthday cake.
It was majorly delicious, and is still being picked at from its throne in the fridge. That is, if Grandpa Arthur hasn’t gotten to it yet…
Cake (adapted from Dana Treat’s recipe)
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
¼ cup Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa
½ cup hot water
1 ¾ cups sugar
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into pieces
Chocolate Ganache Frosting (Smitten Kitchen’s recipe)
1 pound semisweet chocolate (I used 4 bars of Ghirardelli)
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
½ stick unsalted butter
For the cake:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 9-inch pans.
2. Boil 1 inch of water in a small saucepan. Combine cocoa, chocolate, and hot water in another saucepan and place over the other. Or, use a double boiler. Stir with a heatproof spatula until combined. Then add ½ cup of sugar and stir until glossy. Set pot aside to cool.
3. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and sea salt.
4. In a small bowl, combine buttermilk and vanilla.
5. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to whip eggs and egg yolks until combined. Add remaining 1 ¼ cups sugar and whip on high until fluffy.
6. Add cooled chocolate mixture to eggs and mix on medium until combined.
7. Add butter, one piece at a time, mixing until combined before adding the next piece.
8. Add flour and buttermilk in three additions, alternating between the two. Mix until everything is combined. Batter should be light and fluffy.
9. Divide the batter between two greased pans and bake for 30-35 minutes. Let cool on a cooling rack slightly before removing from pan to avoid breaking the cakes. Let cool completely before assembling cake.
For the ganache frosting:
1. Finely chop chocolate.
2. In a small saucepan, bring cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil, whisking until sugar is dissolved.
3. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted.
4. Cut butter into pieces and add to frosting.
5. Fill a mixing bowl with ice and water and place saucepan in the ice bath. Whisk constantly over the ice bath until liquid thickens into desired frosting consistency. This took about 7 minutes of whisking.
6. Cover and set aside until frosting has reached room temperature and cakes have cooled.
Assemble the cake:
1. Place one layer of the cake on the serving dish. Use a rubber spatula to cover the top of the layer with frosting. Use only 1/3 of the frosting for this step.
2. Gently place the second layer on top. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake, making sure to fill in any gaps between the layers.
3. Decorate with berries, sprinkles, candles, silly string…okay, hold the silly string.