Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chocolate Strawberry Birthday Cake

I was on birthday cake duty last Friday, when three friends hosted a spectacular joint birthday party. There were no allergies, but chocolate had to be involved. I briefly toyed with the idea of making three cakes, each one with a different spin on chocolate cake (chocolate sponge with fresh fruit and whipped cream for a modern look, chocolate cake with malt buttercream for the five-year-old in everyone, and a hefty chocolate and stout pound cake for the "too cool for birthday cake" crowd). Alas, all the recent moving and tango classes left me with very little free time, so I settled for one cake - a towering concoction with four layers of tender chocolate buttermilk cake and strawberry-filled chantilly cream in between.

Speaking of moving, the cake matches my new furniture quite well, don't you think?

I got the cake recipe from an old article in America's Test Kitchen for the old fashioned chocolate cake. I improvised a little by adding two teaspoons of espresso powder - it just adds that depth to chocolate desserts without tasting like coffee (for all the coffee connoisseurs out there, yes I know espresso powder doesn't taste like "real coffee", but I like the taste anyway!) I was really pleased with the way the cakes turned out; I was afraid they would be too tender to be sliced and handled, but these were very sturdy after a quick chill in the fridge.

Assembly was (dare I say it?) a piece of cake. I had four disks of cake and a giant bowl of barely sweetened, berry studded whipped cream. Just layer and repeat. I had to really press down the cake layers so I didn't get bubbles in the whipped cream. By the way, I apologize for the ugly parchment paper crown, I really need to find some acetate strips in Seattle.

After an hour of chilling, the cake can come out of the ring for decoration.

Hm, I have a set of concentric cookie cutters. Excellent.  

The sides get covered in whipped cream...

And some pipping goes on top... Voila!

Here's a cross-section of the cake, you can see the layers quite clearly. I daresay the birthday boy and girls approved : )

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