Aka, someone wanted a Hobbit Hole cake for their daughter’s 11th birthday, and I had way, way too much fun with it.

Bilbo! Frodo! the Ring!

The top layer (aka Hobbit Hole) was Vanilla butter cake filled with a layer of Apricot preserves and frosting.  The bottom layer was chocolate with strawberry filling (local strawberries, frozen and saved from last summer).  The frosting was ‘buttercreme’ (not real), because it holds up at room temp even when it’s hot, and kids don’t care.  And it’s sweet.  The door, paving stones, and chimney stones are made from white chocolate (colored), and everything else except Frodo and Bilbo are frosting.

Yes, those are Elvish runes. It says "Happy Birthday Fiona. Eleven years."

Yes, I added an inscription in Elvish.  Because I could.

Wouldn’t you?

The cake will fit in.  It’s for a birthday party that’s Hobbit-themed (the party favors are copies of the book even).  The kid is a geek.  The parents are geeks.  They were thrilled when I dropped it off.  🙂

And, so you all can see how long it’s been since I actually made flowers, a flower closeup (don’t take my Wilton license away!):

Nobody tell my old cake decorating teacher, okay? I'll lose that "A".

Yummy birthday cake

A little while ago, I made a birthday cake for someone to have at their “Free Cake Day” party (not wanting to have a Birthday Party, or really celebrate their birthday in general – I know!  How odd.)

I’d recently acquired Rose Beranbaum’s newest cake book (Heavenly Cakes), and wanted to make something from that . I settled on Woody’s Lemon Luxury Layer Cake (page 43), because the lemon flavor seemed bright and cheery, and I hadn’t really done anything interesting with white chocolate in a while.  Plus, I wanted to try out my new transfer sheets.

The cake is a lemon butter cake, baked in two 9″ layers that are split and filled with homemade lemon curd (Rose’s fabulous recipe, that works like a charm and tastes amazingly zingy).

The white chocolate lemon buttercream was the real surprise in this recipe.  The technique Rose calls for is one that I’d never come across before – essentially, you make a white chocolate custard, cool it, beat in butter and then beat until stiff peaks form – and then leave it at room temperature for up to 2 hours until “slightly thickened and spongy”.  Then you beat until smooth, and beat in the lemon curd.

Why the fermentation period?  The buttercream was smooth and creamy and tasty – everything you want – but I can’t quite figure this one out.  It’s easier, overall, than doing either French or Italian buttercream, but you have to have those two hours of downtime.  Does anyone know what’s going on, here?

In any case, the cake and buttercream both came out delicious, I put it all together and decorated with white chocolate shards, and served with either raspberry or blackberry cabernet sorbet.  The not-birthday-boy and his friends/family were highly pleased; very little of this cake was left after the party!  Another hit, Rose.

Birthday cake for a *very* lucky boy

Birthday cake for a *very* lucky boy

So, my dearest darling husband turned 30 Sunday (yay!).  I’d asked him a few months ago what he wanted for his birthday cake, and he told me that his mom used to make the Death by Chocolate cake (from the Desaulniers book) for special occasions (such as his 20th bday), and that he’d love it.  So that was that!

(Actually, he said something more like, “Death!  No, wait, cake!  I meant cake!” because we’re both huge Eddie Izzard geeks in this house.)

The DbC cake is not, strictly speaking, a cake.  It consists of several layers:

(from the bottom up):
Brownie layer
Ganache layer
Cocoa Meringue layer
Espresso Mousse layer
Second brownie layer

Then you cover the entire thing in more ganache, and pipe chocolate mousse stars on the top.

Oh, and you serve it on a lake of Mocha Rum Sauce.

Cake of Death

Cake of Death

[Note: You really, really don’t want to know how many calories this thing has.  Desaulniers tells you, at the end of the recipe, and it’s shocking.  Now, his number is based on a 12-person serving size, which is ridiculous – the cake is so dense and rich that it served 20 handily with some left over – and most people still couldn’t finish their slice.  But still, we’re talking a quadruple-digit calorie count, easily.  You’ve been warned.]

I started the cake a few days early with the brownie layer, which I then froze to await slicing and construction on the day of our party (Saturday).  The chocolate mousse needed to refrigerate at least three hours, so it got made on Friday. Friday night I also made the cocoa meringue, which takes something like 3+ hours in the oven, plus outside cooling time.  It was pretty:



Saturday morning I needed to make only the ganache, espresso mousse, and mocha rum sauce.  Piece of cake, right?

Not so much.

Ganache should not look like this

Ganache should not look like this

Until my ganache broke.  Which has never happened to me before.  As there was a pound and a half of callebaut chocolate in it, I wasn’t going to give up easily.  I tried adding some more chocolate – no go.  I tried adding more fat (to soak up all of this horrid extra liquid; cocoa butter) – no go.  I went to the web and found a procedure that called for taking half of it and heating to 130F, and cooling the other half to 60F, and then whizzing them together – this also failed, at which point I gave up and stuck it in a tub to be used in making ice cream.

Ganache should *definitely* not look like this

Ganache should *definitely* not look like this

Another trip to the store to get some more cream so I’d have enough to make everything, and of course, by this time it’s less than four hours to the party, and the house isn’t clean yet, and the cake has to chill for at least four hours before you can cut it… argh!

In the end, it all got done.  The espresso mousse was more like espresso-chip mousse (how do you get the (room-temperature) chocolate and (cold) whipped cream to incorporate together without chocolate chunks?  I never can manage it), and I forgot to give people the mocha rum sauce until they’d gotten halfway through their pieces, but I netted two and a half offers of marriage (one from the description alone; the half-offer was from someone who was probably worried I might take it the wrong way), so not bad.  🙂

Maybe marriage-offers should be part of a ranking system for chocolate desserts?  1-star, offered only servitude.  2-star, at least one offer of marriage.  3-star, more than two offers.  thoughts?


side shot

My thoughts on the cake?  Although the layers were individually really lovely (I didn’t taste the espresso mousse, though, as I hate the taste of coffee) I didn’t feel that they played together particularly well.  The meringue layer, in particular, just sort of stood out as something Not Like the Others.  It was an incredibly expensive cake to make, and took a lot of work, so I don’t think I’ll be offering this one for sale anytime soon (although I’ve been informed that it will be the birthday cake that my very good friend C. purchases for his girlfriend next November).

In particular, there is a lot of folding, which I can’t do left-handed and which ended up aggravating my RSIs.  But, Jeff loved his birthday cake, so that’s what counts!

We managed to make all of the cake go away at the end of the evening, although I still have a couple cups of mocha rum sauce left over, plus a plate full of chocolate peanut-butter mousse bars.  And a tub full of beer.  Sounds like we need to have another party…