Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Birthday Season

In my family, most of our birthdays fall around this time of year so this creates lots of baking opportunities.  In my little immediate family, in fact, all of our birthdays fall between July 4th and September 4th.  This summer I have baked lots of chocolate by request.    Here are my three creations.
First, my husband's birthday - he is a Yankee Doodle Boy born on the 4th of July.  He likes to give me a challenge where his chosen desserts are concerned.  For him I have learned to make things like REAL creme brulee (it's surprisingly easy).  This year, he found a link to THIS recipe and told me this was what he wanted for his birthday this year.  A chocolate crepe cake...okay... He probably enjoyed the subtle irony of a French dessert on our American Independence Day.  The other challenge involved in this dessert was that we were out of town so I didn't get to make this in my own kitchen.  Thankfully my sister-in-law was more than happy to loan me hers.  I brought my crepe pan along (it looks something like THIS) and I have to say that chocolate crepes are a huge pain.  They are much more fragile than an ordinary crepe.  I had huge issues getting the consistency of the batter right and then more problems getting the crepes to not stick to the nonstick crepe pan.  They tore mercilessly.  Since this was a cake, it needed to look at least sort of nice.  In the end, I made as many crepes as I could and then my sister-in-law and I inspected them all and trimmed as many crepes as we had layers of ganache for.  How did it turn out?  It got rave reviews.  Everyone thought it was a really interesting take on cake.  I was the only one who wasn't thrilled by it.  I just thought it was a little odd texturally.  Here is the final product (keep in mind it was in the 90s and we were eating this outside):

As we were sitting around eating this, we were talking about other variations.  I think a worthy experiment would be regular crepes with alternating layers of lemon curd and some kind of raspberry filling.  This dessert definitely does have many possibilities and like I mentioned, I was the only one who wasn't thrilled by it so chances are it was pretty good.
Second, I had the opportunity to make my mom's birthday cake this year.  Her favorite cake in the whole world is German Chocolate.  I had never made a German Chocolate cake so I had to do a bunch of research to find a recipe that looked tempting.  In the process, I learned that German Chocolate cake is not actually a German dessert.  It was created in the 1950s by a guy with the last name of German who worked for the Baker's Chocolate company.  Interesting, no?  Anyway, THIS recipe was phenomenal (although I doubled the chocolate in the cake which I recommend doing).  I don't really love German Chocolate cake typically, but this one I definitely enjoyed...for three days.  I didn't know that the coconut/nut layer is actually created with a pretty standard custard.  If I had it to do over again, I would have doubled the coconut/custard layer or at least half-again'd it.  It just didn't quite feel like there was enough.
And here is the final product (I don't have a photo of the cut cake, but it was 4 layers):

Third, for the five-year-old set.  My son decided this year he wanted a (let me get this right) demolition/excavation/construction party.  We had it at the beach with about 15 kids and a lot of sand trucks.  For his cupcakes, he wanted chocolate/chocolate.  I wanted to keep with the theme, so I created some "dirt" (Oreo cookie crumbs, well, actually they were a gluten free cookie equivalent) and then stuck some very cheap construction truck toys on top (found on Amazon HERE).  They were simple but cute.  They did the trick.

I have to say I'm a little tired of baking at the moment.  We'll see if I actually bake myself something since my birthday is next.  I asked my almost three-year-old what kind of cake he wanted and he gave his standard dessert-related-answer: an emphatic and simple "MINT."  I am thinking he'll be getting a cake ala Baskin Robbins...

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