Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

My birthday so often falls on election day. Which I don't mind one bit (it was supposed to be on Halloween and I am anti-Halloween, so it's a darn good thing I was late). Although I wouldn't necessarily describe myself as extremely patriotic, I do love being an American, and my time spent abroad makes me realize how lucky I am to live in such a great country. I'm also not very political, and I try to keep my opinions and the candidates I vote for to myself. However, I feel very strongly about exercising my right to vote, and I can get emotional about it. So I'm proud to walk around on my birthday sporting the little sticker they give you after you cast your vote.

Since I've been around for a whole quarter century, it called for a special cake. And I'd love to tell you that so and so made me a beautiful cake, but I am not blessed with baking friends. Or rather, I AM blessed to have kitchen skills that intimidate my friends. It's a blessing and a curse. Most of the time I love it though! Since the schools host the voting, I had the day off, so I made a real celebration cake (read complicated and time consuming- but not difficult). This is a cake I make once a year during the holidays, since it's a real crowd pleaser with it's minty chocolately flavors! I've tried to lighten it up a bit (hah!) by using a chiffon cake instead of a butter based one. The chiffon cake is simple to make and stays light and fluffy when refrigerated - a necessary thing with a layer of mousse in the middle. (Shhh...don't tell anyone but sometimes I make this with boxed cake - and it's still darn good).

Triple-Chocolate & Peppermint Holiday Cake

Milk Chocolate Peppermint Mousse
7 oz. good quality milk chocolate (I like Green and Black's)
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1 tsp peppermint extract

Chop the chocolate and put it in a heat safe bowl. Heat the whipping cream and corn syrup to a simmer. Pour it over the chocolate, add extract and stir until mixture is smooth and chocolate has melted. Set aside at room temperature until the cake has cooled.

Marbled Peppermint Chiffon Layers

I strongly recommend you invest in a scale for precise measurements by weight - I cannot guarantee great results if you use measuring cups for this!

1 3/4 cup (185 g) sifted cake flour
1 cup (175 g) granulated sugar
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 large room temperature eggs, seperated
1/4 cup chocolate liquor
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp peppermint extract
2 large egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar
4 Tbsp good quality cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease and flour two 10" round cake pans.

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together into a small bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, liquor, water, oil and extracts. Whisk in flour mixture one third at a time until just blended (might still be a little lumpy).

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine egg whites (all 6) and cream of tartar. Whip on medium speed until soft peaks form. Add sugar gradually while whisking on low speed, then increase speed to medium and beat until firm peaks are achieved.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold one third of the egg whites into the cake batter. When mostly combined, add in the rest of the egg whites carefully (don't deflate your lovely bubbles!).

Scrape 1/3 of batter into each greased cake pan. Sift cocoa powder into remaining batter. Fold until blended. Empty half of the chocolate batter on top of the yellow batter in each pan. Use a butter knife to "cut" through the batter every 1/2 inch or so. Rotate pans 90 degrees and repeat. This step marbles the cake.

Bake cakes for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans for 20 minutes, then run a butter knife around the outside and unmold onto cooling racks.

White Chocolate Peppermint Buttercream

This is a French Style Buttercream. There are a few key factors here. Your syrup must be at exactly 238 degrees F. Too low and the buttercream will be runny. Too high and it will curdle. If your frosting separates after adding the butter (which it did to me this time), just chill it for 20 minutes then whip it again. It should come back together.

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs
1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, still slightly cold but softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
6 drops red food coloring
3 oz. good quality white chocolate, melted with a drizzle of cream, stirred and cooled

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil until it reaches 238 degrees on an instant read thermometer.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer (continue until syrup is ready)

Once the syrup is up to temp, keep the mixer on medium high speed and drizzle the syrup down the side of the bowl as slowly as you can. Once it is all encorporated, whisk for 5 minutes or until it cools.

Beat in one tablespoon of butter at a time, waiting until the last is fully incorporated to add the next. Once all butter is added, add extracts, white chocolate and food coloring and beat until it is smooth and shiny, about 4 minutes.

Peppermint Chocolate Glaze

4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 stick unsalted butter
2 tsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp peppermint extract

Combine all ingredients in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Stir until melted and blended. Cool slightly before using.

1. Whip the mousse filling on high in a stand mixer until it turns pale and becomes much lighter. Set aside.
2. Put a little buttercream on the middle of a cardboard cake round (or the removable bottom of a 9 inch tart shell)
3. Cut the 2 cakes into even, level layers (discard scraps). Lay the first layer down on the round. Spread the first layer with a small amount of buttercream.
3. Top the first layer with the 2nd. Top with all of the filling and smooth it out to the edges. Chill for 20 minutes.
4. Top with the 3rd layer and press down gently to level it out. Spread with buttercream and add last layer.
5. Use a serrated knife to trim off the sides so that they are even and round. Spread top and sides with a crumb coat of buttercream. Chill 20 minutes.
6. Go back over the crumb coat with the remaining buttercream and smooth it out. Chill 10 minutes.
7. Top with glaze and smooth slightly so it covers the top and runs down over the side. Sprinkle the edges with pieces of crushed candy cane (good) or crushed soft peppermint candies (better). Chill at least 20 minutes before serving.

P.S. Happy Birthday Laura Bush - what a bittersweet day for her!


Amber said...

I am singing happy birthday to you in my heart. Boy you make me feel old though. I hope your birthday was amazingly wonderful and that you are blessed beyond compare.
The cake is so pretty, pink, chocolate and peppermint and I love the cut marbled look.
I unlike you am very vocal politically and on pretty much everything else. The only things I can not stand is when people can not discuss their differences, when they feel the need to get angry and also when they are ignorant. But like you I get misty eyed whenever I am walking up to the polls. I just think of all those in the world who are not allowed to vote and the time when women and blacks were not allowed. It is just scandalous.
Happy birthday again and for your present, I hope my guy wins and that he does a great job.

ttfn300 said...

fit for a queen :)

A scientist in the kitchen said...

Happy birthday! That's a lovely cake!


Vicki said...

Happy Birthday! And tasty-looking cake, btw. :)

RecipeGirl said...

Happy birthday! Mine was a few days ago and I grew up having Halloween birthday parties :)

What a pretty cake... love the marbled insides and the icing too.

Heather said...

well happy birthday! what a beautiful cake! i love the colors with the peppermint. Glad you were able to have the day off and enjoy yourself!

Hiedi said...

Wow, what a treat! I'm excited to find your blog (a friend saw it and sent it my way). Looks like you have a lot of great foodie stuff here. I plan on trying this chocolate/peppermint cake soon. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Dana! That cake is very adventurous (db reminiscent?) and looks delicious!

Mike of Mike's Table said...

Happy birthday!

And that's a beauty of a cake. Peppermint and me can be hit and miss, but buttercream, well, that's another story entirely...

Anonymous said...

Hi, I was wondering if you would ever be interested in becoming a featured publisher with Foodbuzz.com? If so please conctact me at lizstambaugh@yahoo.com

Ingrid said...

Happy belated Birthday! Hope you had a wonderful one. Speaking of wonderful the photos of your cake are wonderful! So minty and yummy!

Thanks for sharing the recipe!

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