Greta's second birthday is next week- right in the middle of the week, which makes it awkward for people to come share some cake, bring her a present, and generally exclaim over how much she's grown since she took her first breath.
Therefore, we decided to hold it this Sunday. Which was made slightly awkward by the fact that it is Peter's brother's birthday.
Peter's brother, who is responsible for Greta turning up two weeks early (he had his birthday over three different evenings and three different parties, inviting us out to each one- with the result that in the early hours of the morning after the third dinner, I exploded), agreed to share his Special Day, on one condition.
He got his own cake. And it had to be chocolate. And have thirty-two candles. And have his name on it in pink frosting.
He thought he was being funny with the last one.
Well, he got what he wanted.
Giving it a second try, I turned once again to Baked: New Frontiers in Baking.
This time, however, the Flourless Chocolate Cake (copyright as above, slightly amended by me) was what grabbed my attention.
Thus, on Saturday afternoon, after spending the day in town and doing the supermarket shop, at 4 p.m. I girded my loins, and dug out the blender again.
- 300g black chocolate (i.e. three chocolate bars. I bought the Migros organic chocolate, as I like it's caramel-sugar taste)
- 140 g butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 7 large eggs, separated
- 3 vanilla pods, seeded (again, the recipe asked for pure vanilla extract, which I couldn't find)
- 1 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Butter and flour the sides and bottom of a 9-inch/24cm springform pan. Melt the chocolate and set aside to cool. In the bowl of the electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until pale, light, and thoroughly combined. Add the egg yolks, beating well after each addition (I did it in three batches). After they've all been incorporated, scrape down the bowl and beat again for a few seconds. Add the cooled chocolate, mix until thoroughly combined. Scrape down the bowl, add the vanilla, beat until just incorporated.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff peaks form (stiff, you got it?). Now here I again had the problem with the bowl of my blender being too small to add the egg whites to the chocolate mix, so I shoved my egg whites to the side of my very large bowl (having planned this one in advance), plopped in about a cup of the chocolate mix, then folded that into the egg whites, gently, with a spatula. I then added the rest of the chocolate mix, and continued, very slowly and gently so as not to knock the air out of the egg whites.
Pour the mix into the pan and don't bother smoothing the top, even if the book says to, because it will even out in a minute. Bake for 30-35 mns (I set the timer for 35), until the top of the cake seems set or firm to the touch. The book says "Be careful not to overbake this cake", so I took it out at 35 mns, although as the top was firm, it still seemed a bit jiggly to me. This caused a little bit of trauma until it was cut and I was sure it was indeed cooked through.
Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before removing from the mold.
However, I also had Greta's birthday cake to make. And Betty Bossi had come up trumps again, with a recipe for Fraisier au yogourt.
- 100g flour
- 60g sugar
- pinch of salt
- 55 g cold butter, in cubes
- 1 small beaten egg.
Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter, work by hand until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg, bring quickly to a soft dough, without working it.
Butter a 24-cm mold (I used a 20cm one), flour it. My recipe then said to roll out the dough- no way that this dough was going to be rolled out! So I just dropped it into the mold and smoothed it out with the backs of my fingers. Refrigerate for 30mns, says the recipe, but I didn't have time for this. Because we were going out for dinner at 6:30, and I was making two cakes at the same time!
Prick the base with a fork (erm... I did this, but I don't think it was necessary, mine was too soft!), bake for, according to the recipe, 15mns in the oven, preheated to 200C. I did mine an extra 5 minutes, because it looked undercooked. Leave to cool in the mold, then take out and leave to cool on a wire rack.
- 500g plain yoghurt
- 140g sugar (I used vanilla sugar, made from shoving de-seeded vanilla pods into the sugar and leaving them there)
- 3 vanilla pods, seeded
Mix the three together in a bowl. Leave to infuse.
At which point, with two cakes on the rack, we went out for dinner.
Which ran on much later than we'd thought it would- so I was back in the kitchen at midnight!
I unmolded the base for the fraisier, put it on a glass cake dish, then put the sides of the mold around it again.
Going back to the chocolate cake, I started the ganache.
- 300 g black chocolate
- 1/2 cup creme fraiche epaisse
- 1/4 cup liquid sugar (the recipe asked for light corn syrup, which is unavailable in Switzerland)
(optional, and I didn't have any- 1 tbs coffee-flavoured liqueur such as Kahlua)
I started by making a mistake, putting the bowl of chocolate into the microwave to melt, then hauling it out fast after 20 seconds. Do not melt the chocolate!
In a small saucepan, combine the cream and liquid sugar/corn syrup, and bring just to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour the cream mixture over the chocolate. Let stand for two minutes (whilst doing things with strawberries for the other recipe), then stir the mixture together slowly until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Whisk for another few minutes to cool the ganache slightly. (Add the liqueur and whisk again.)
To glaze the cake, the book says to put the cake on the wire rack, and glaze there, then put on a plate. As I had to use three spatulas and Peter to get my cake off the base of the tin without it breaking up, I put it straight on my cake plate. No way I was going to mess around with such a fragile thing.
Pour 3/4 cup over the cake, and smooth out to the edges. Place the cake in the freezer for five minutes to set the ganache. Remove from the freezer, and then the book says to slowly pour the glaze over the cake, "it should run down the sides and cover the cake completely". My ganache was much too thick for this, so I took my spatula and glazed the sides carefully, then put the last two tablespoons of ganache on top, smoothed them out, covered the cake, and put it on the balcony for the night, as there was definitely not room for "chill the glazed cake for two hours" in my fridge!
During all of this, I had continued the Fraisier.
900g (says the recipe, I used about 600-700 g, I think) strawberries. Slice in half enough strawberries to go around the edges of the cake, points pointing upwards, and cut side on the outside. Then fill the inside with whole strawberries.
This is when it got noisy, especially for a Swiss apartment at gone half-past-midnight!
- 2 sheets of instant gelatine
- 1 dl warm water
- 2 1/2 dl cream, whipped into chantilly.
At this point, Peter turned up, told me I was making too much noise, and asked me to whip the cream quietly. Do you know how much muscle control it takes to whip cream as quietly as possible? Well, it's a good thing that I carry Greta around so much, and have consequently impressive biceps. I did my best, but was still a bit noisy for a few minutes.
Soften the gelatine in the water, add to the yoghurt and vanilla mixture with the whisk (I've never dealt with gelatine before, and I didn't get it quite soft enough, unfortunately- there were some bits of it in the finished cake, as I found out the next day! Also, as this was a first time, I spent the next 15 hours or so worrying about it setting properly.). Add the chantilly cream, gently. Leave to sit for ten minutes. Pour over the strawberries, smooth the top, and leave for at least three hours, covered, in the fridge.
Or, in my case, go to bed, it being 1 a.m.!
The next day I brought the chocolate cake in off the balcony a couple of hours beforehand, and, with a tube of hot-pink icing with sparkles, wrote the above on it. And managed to fit two candles, one in the shape of a 3, the other in a 2, into the cake without anything catastrophic happening. I was still worried about the inside/middle not being cooked, but it seemed OK...
I was very worried about unmolding the Fraisier, and did it very slowly and carefully, convinced that the whole thing was going to collapse- but it didn't, hurray! I was so proud of myself that I did a little dance.
Unlike her cake last year, Greta actually ate a few mouthfuls of her slice- in between busily running around and showing off her amazing cuteness skills.
As for the chocolate cake, my brother-in-law was very happy. And impressed, as was everybody else. He took the remains of the chocolate cake home, and the Fraisier is in the fridge for us.
The chocolate cake went down extremely well. Even Peter, who isn't a big fan of sweet things or of chocolate cake, loved it. It was definitely a keeper recipe. The inside was soft, gooey, chocolatey, and definitely not undercooked.
The Fraisier is also a recipe I'll hang on to, as it makes a nice, simple cake, perfect for strawberry season. I had expected the base to stay crispy, but it had soaked up quite a bit of moisture, and was all soft, without, however, being soaked to the point of collapse. Maybe next time, a little pre-soak in some strawberry liqueur?