Thursday, 19 July 2012

Happy Birthday! Cakes Part I

Since our children were born, Larry and I have taken turns making their birthday cakes.  At first, we chose ideas which caught our eyes in cookbooks or that were a big thing in their lives, such as John Deere tractors for Gregory.  As the years passed, the kids started to offer their input and sometimes helped out with the birthday treats.  Cutesy cakes became interest-focused: animal themes like fish, horses, and pets for Miriam, football for Gregory.

Gregory’s very favorite cake to this day is the Extreme Chocolate Cake from Company’s Coming.  From 2007 to 2012, he has requested “his cake” numerous times for either his friend or family birthday parties, to share at school with his classmates, for holiday potlucks, and for bake sales.  We have also made it for church lunches, teacher gifts (Miss T!), and retirements, sometimes our own idea and sometimes by request!

Alas, I share this link with mixed feelings as I wonder if the cake will seem as impressive once you discover how easy the recipe is to make…  I do hope that you will try to make it and then you may bask in the oohs and ahhs as I have over the years.
***WARNING: The only thing lite/light about this cake is that you will probably have one on in your kitchen while you prepare this!  That being said, I do use sugar-free Jell-O pudding mix and low-fat sour cream every time.

Here are a few suggestions for optimal results:

1)   If you have a Kitchen Aid mixer or the like, it’s just as easy to make two as one!  Dump in double the ingredients and you’ll have one for now and one (un-ganached) to freeze.

2)   Leave your eggs out for an hour or take the chill off by setting them in warm water for a bit.

3)   Spray your pan fairly generously and sift cocoa in your pan/s; it’s kind of a pain but it is very disheartening to lift off the pan to find a chunk of cake stuck in it. :-(

4)   With or without chocolate chips, it’s still delicious!

5)   At about 50 minutes, start toothpick-testing the cake; sometimes it’s done by then.

6)   Follow cooling directions as per the recipe.  When it’s time to take the cake out of the pan, use a soup spoon to push down as deep as the spoon’s handle into each of the inside and outside ridges to help it come out as neatly as possible.  Use a serrated knife to trim off any unsightly bumps which would prevent your cake from sitting on its plate properly when unmolded.  The cake baker is authorized and obliged to eat said bumps.

7)   I am aware of two ways to make the lovely, shimmering chocolate ganache:
     a.  As per the recipe, heat the cream until boiling in a pot or in the microwave, add the
         chopped chocolate, stir slowly until it is melted fully into the cream.  Sometimes it seems
         like it won’t blend, but it will.  Just keep stirring, stirring, stirring, just keep stirring, Dory!
     b.   Chop the chocolate and put into a heat-proof bowl/cup, heat the cream separately as
          above, pour the boiling cream into the chocolate, let it sit a minute or two, then stir it
          until uniformly beautiful.  Homer say, “Mouth….watering…ahgullalla.”  Let it sit a bit to
          cool or the ganache will run down the sides too quickly and pool on the plate
          instead of the majority of it settling on the cake.  If the ganache has gotten too thick,
          gently heat it up a little before giving it another go!

8)   Cut with a clean, thin knife like a filleting knife.  Dip it in hot water and wipe it dry if the blade starts to get sticky.  Sometimes I pop the cake into the fridge for 15 minutes before serving to firm it up the ganache a bit before slicing.

Well, my Helpful Hints got a bit longer than I’d planned; the teacher-hat took over.  :-) 
Thanks for coming back to my Island and have a chocolaty day!


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