Monday, January 30, 2012

CHOCOLATE ESPRESSO LAYER CAKE

ANOTHER BIRTHDAY


The secret to staying young is to live honestly,
eat slowly,
and to lie about your age.
~ Lucille Ball


Oh, grow up!” he often says to me when I’ve said or done something particularly ridiculous, a smirk dancing upon his lips, a glint of humor in his eyes. “Would you really want me to?” is my usual rejoinder. We revel in our youthful silliness and utter disregard for the rules of behavior that most seem so urgently ready to apply to folks of our age. Another birthday has rolled around and I am now squarely centered in that “woman of a certain age” category. I look in the mirror and see the lines on my skin and the silver threaded through my dark hair, I feel the weight of the years upon my shoulders, pulling me down with unforgiving severity, gravity giving me a less-than-youthful appearance. These old bones creak and the back has a tendency to slouch, the elevator has taken precedence over the stairs and fabric seems to strain at snaps and buttons. But for all of the outward changes, that slow but inevitable metamorphoses that we each go through, the visible traces left by the advancing years, I somehow feel an inward subtle shift in the opposite direction.

So the “Oh, grow up!” followed immediately by the “Would you really want me to?” is a game we play, just more childish banter between two who simply do not feel that the years have made us grow old. We laugh in the face of Old Man Time and hold onto youth joyfully, in an ironclad grip.


Youth is a wonderful thing.
What a crime to waste it on children.
~ George Bernard Shaw

The body is some strange foreign vessel, almost alien in its outlandishness. There is an odd disconnect throughout our youth and well into adulthood, this relationship we have with our outer shell, as if wearing someone else’s ill-fitting clothing. As a child, we often have moments of not quite being able to control our movements nor do we quite understand the changes that happen seemingly overnight as we sleep; as a teen, there is discomfort and embarrassment in every lump and bump, every growth spurt and unruly, out-of-control development. There may be a brief moment when we achieve the perfect balance, when we reach some ideal age, that place in time where it all comes together effortlessly, without blemish, pure and sublime, our hair, our skin, our figure; we glance in the mirror and smile, content, self-confident, at ease and at peace with ourselves. “Ah, I have finally grown up and grown into the person I was meant to be all along!” we exclaim, nodding in approval as we turn to blow out the 30 or so candles. But the moment is fleeting; it rushes by, a whisper blown swiftly away on the wind. We wake up shortly after, minutes it seems, and the walls begin to crumble; the skin sags, ever so imperceptibly at first, but we notice it a bit more every day; the first gray hair sneaks in, almost as a fine joke; the knees creak and crack as we climb the stairs to the apartment and it seems just that much more difficult to push ourselves out of bed in the morning. We catch a glimpse of our face, our body as we walk in front of a mirror or plate glass window and are stunned, wondering when it was that we grew so old.


Growing old is mandatory;
growing up is optional.
~ Chili Davis

Yet, although I reached my stride quite a number of years ago, my peak physical years have come and gone, and today, well, the lines are getting fuzzy, the streaks of sophisticated silver run their fingers brazenly through my unruly hair and keeping in shape takes more effort every day, my inner child is well and alive, thank you very much. Rebellious in nature, the youthful me bursts at the seams, a ball of energy, not willing to sit still and twiddle her thumbs allowing any old rather snooty Grande Dame to make the decisions. Some may say that there is something irreverent in the way I behave, that silliness does not become a woman of a certain age; others may shake their head in dismay at my adamant determination to simply not grow up, their eyes opened wide in disbelief at my jokes or antics. But although I have little control over the outer shell other than exercise, diet and a good haircut, a touch of makeup and the choice of what I wear, my spirit is my own to do with as I please.


Age is a question of mind over matter.
If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.
~ Leroy "Satchel" Paige

Yes, another birthday has come and gone with much hurrah and I was spoiled and pampered by my men in their usual, quiet way. And as is the tradition every single year, I baked my own cake. French pastry shops are abundant in tarts of glistening fruit, creams of chocolate, raspberry or vanilla studded with poached pears or bright berries and crunchy with praline or biscuits, elegant verrines of layer upon delicate layer of mousses and bavaroises topped by froths of whipped Chantilly; one jaw-dropping gorgeous, ravishingly delicious delight after another, it is true, but a birthday is simply not a birthday without a layer cake. And there is no better way to have exactly what you love best than making it yourself. I toyed with the idea of repeating last year’s wildly successful Espresso Chocolate Cake with Mocha Mascarpone Frosting, as it had indeed been one of the best cakes I have ever tasted. And although I had finally settled on the same flavor combination – a favorite – I turned instead to my favorite chocolate cake recipe, one that was handed down from my father, and my simple chocolate buttercream frosting. Yet I twisted and turned and added espresso to both the cake batter and the frosting, whisked in a container of fresh mascarpone to the buttercream for a richer, smoother, creamier frosting and voilà I created my perfect birthday cake!


A childhood delight to bring out the youthful frivolity, the joy and delight in each of us; dense, ultra moist, devilishly chocolaty layers with a diabolically inspired kiss of espresso, a cake at once flirtatious with its voluptuous swirls of mocha cream and serious in its sinful decadence. And what a cake! A flash to whip up and bring together, and oh so easy going down. Kid friendly indeed yet oh so incredibly adult.


And a perfect romantic dessert for St. Valentine's Day.

CHOCOLATE ESPRESSO LAYER CAKE
Makes a 8 ½ or 9-inch two layer cake or an 7-inch three layer cake.


1 ¾ cup flour
2 cups sugar
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tsps vanilla
1 cup prepared coffee *

* If you prefer, the coffee can be replaced with water or a mixture of water and fruit juice.

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Oil and flour two 8 ½ or 9-inch round cake pans or three 7-inch cake pans generously. (I oiled the pans, lined with parchment and then lightly oiled the paper and dusted with flour.)

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Whisk or whiz them with the electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds until everything is well combined. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Beat on low until well blended then increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 2 minutes. Bring the 1 cup of coffee just to the boil and stir in carefully by hand until very well blended. Carefully divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans – it will be liquid. (If you want to make the smaller 3-layer cake and only have 2 cake pans: oil, line and flour the two pans and divide 2/3 of the batter between the two; the pans should be filled about 1/3 to ½ full. Bake the first two layers. When they are done, remove from the oven, allow to cool for several minutes, slide a sharp knife around the edges to loosen and invert (then upright) on cooling racks to completely cool. Clean, oil, line and dust with flour one of the pans and pour the remaining third of the batter into this pan and bake as directed.)

Bake in the preheated oven for 35 – 40 minutes or until the center is set (30 – 35 minutes for the smaller layers). Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 – 15 minutes on cooling racks before turning them out onto the racks to cool completely.

CHOCOLATE MOCHA MASCARPONE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING


11 - 12 oz (325 - 350 grams) powdered/confectioner’s sugar
8 Tbs (120 grams) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1.8 oz (50 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
4 Tbs very hot prepared coffee
3.5 – 5.3 oz (100 – 150 g) fresh mascarpone cheese

Using an electric hand mixer, cream the butter and the powdered sugar together. Add the cocoa powder and the hot coffee and beat, scraping down the sides as necessary, until well blended and fluffy. Beat in as much mascarpone as desired until smooth and whipped.

Chill in the refrigerator until firm enough so that, when spread and the layers are stacked, the frosting does not slide.

Frost the tops of the layers then stack, placing the bottom layer on a cake or serving plate. I slip strips of waxed paper or parchment under the edges of the cake before frosting the sides in order to keep the plate clean and frosting-free. Smooth the frosting on the sides of the cake. Pipe rosettes of frosting and decorate as desired. Gently slide the strips of parchment out from under the cake and retouch as needed. Chill in the refrigerator until the frosting has firmed. Because the frosting contains mascarpone, it is best to store uneaten cake in the refrigerator.

79 comments:

a spoonful of yumm said...

that is one pretty cake ! sinful :D

WiseMóna said...

Sounds like you had a delicious birthday Jamie. The Chefs birthday is this week and it is also the tradition in our house that he bakes his own cake. However, due to the fact that he is working his butt off ... I am making him a Cherry Pie this year. That cake looks delicious and very very moist. I can tell you have perfected the recipe x

Rose et ses petits plats said...

Seems so good !!

My Little Expat Kitchen said...

Happy birthday Jamie!
Good for you for staying young at heart and acting as silly as you want.

Your birthday cake ticks all the boxes for me. Epresso and chocolate, moist and rich, perfection. Thanks, I will keep it in mind for Valentine's Day.
Magda

Lisa said...

This cake makes me want to book a ticket to France and rent a car to Nantes, right now. You think it would last long enough? Absolutely beautiful and decadent birthday cake, Jamie! This cake is the ultimate food porn! So glad you had a wonderful birthday! *hugs*

Bunkycooks said...

It is best to never grow up completely and to see the humor in life's twists and turns. I think that being to laugh keeps us young. If we didn't laugh at some situations, we just might cry and thatbis notbgood for our facial muscles. ;-)

I am so happy that you had a fabulous birthday. Your cake looks incredibly moist and decadent loaded with chocolate and mascarpone. I can see why you would want to bake it yourself! I truly must make this cake!!

Jamie said...

@Lisa: Get here fast but if not then I'll make a fresh one for you! Did you read that I said it was fast and easy? So I'll be waiting!

@WiseMona: Happy Birthday to the Chef and lucky man to have you making him a cherry pie! My favorite fruit pie flavor and yours must be fab!

@My Little Expat Kitchen: Perfect V Day cake!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Good to know that you had a wonderful birthday and were spoiled by your men! Yes, ageing is a strange process...

That cake is fabulous and so irresistible! You've used the same sponge recipe as I did with my chocolate layer cake. Iit is such a fabulous sponge.

Cheers,

Rosa

A Thought For Food said...

What a fabulous cake to celebrate your birthday! Looks wonderful!

Elizabeth said...

This looks absolutely delicious!!

Cake Duchess said...

Silliness is the key to longevity (and some good cake;). I'm the opposite of you and like my Chef making me a cake every year. It's one of the times I can get him to bake for me and it's always a traditional torta Italiana. Your cake is a chocolate lover's dream:)

Happy Cook / Finla said...

It is ages ago i indulged myself making a cake like this, looks super super beautiful and delicious too,

lisa is cooking said...

Happy Birthday!! That's a fantastic birthday cake, and the layers look stunning. Hope you're still busy celebrating!

Priya said...

Happy birthday,cake looks absolutely divine Jamie.

domenicacooks said...

Jamie, those words could have been written by me (though not so eloquently or elegantly). Happy birthday to you, from another 'woman of a certain age.' xo

Nancy said...

That definitely looks like the perfect Birthday Cake!!! I think baking your own is the best!! Love your comments about being a "woman of a certain age!

Jeanne @ CookSister! said...

Oh I hear you sister! I am definitely getting less mature as I grow older (or maybe I just care less about looking or acting mature and/or appropriately?!) It is indeed a strange disconnect between our outer and inner selves and at times it does seem like a cruel joke that the more comfortable we become with our inner selves, the close the outer self edges to complete collapse. But, as they say, ce'est la vie! And living well is the best (or indeed the ONLY!) revenge. So glad you had a fantastic birthday and this cake definitely qualifies as living well!! ;o)

Charlie said...

Happy, happy birthday, Jamie. And you deserve a cake as beautiful as this one, even if you did have to make it yourself. Actually, I think it's a lovely idea to make your own perfect cake - a birthday present to yourself. I'm so glad you were spoiled by your family too xx

Jennifurla said...

it's just beautiful, beautiful, rich, and gorgeous.

Pavithra Elangovan said...

Happy Birthday Jamie !!! Wow cake looks irresistible ..wonderful flavors yumm :)

Barbara | Creative Culinary said...

I think Jeanne hit the nail on it's flat little head. Caring less about what others think and listening to our own voice is one benefit of growing older. Not that we don't care; we just don't care so much as to let others change us by squelching that 'girl' who is ALWAYS there.

Happy Birthday my faraway sister. Love, hugs and kisses.

Helene said...

Sorry but I don't buy that for a second! I was shocked to learn your chronological age because you could easily pass for a good 10-12 years younger. In fact, I've decided to bake this very cake in the hopes of discovering your secret to looking youthful beyond your age. I will eat my way to mature hotness.


xoxo

Une complice de Chanteloupe

Jamie said...

@Helene: Or maybe it is the magical elixir Perspective sipped surreptitiously in Paradise? Mature Hotness certainly will suit us both to a tee :-) x

Meeta K. Wolff said...

Growing older - hmmn! I need to reassess many things - I turn 40 and you already know that it's made me contemplative about many things. I feel great and often forget the age attached. It's a great feeling until I realize "God! You need to act your age!" But I do not want to loose that zesty craziness that makes me tick.

I need some of these "devilishly chocolaty layers with a diabolically inspired kiss of espresso!"

Jamie said...

@Meeta K. Wolff: I YOU start acting your age where oh where will that leave me? You are one of my girlfriends that I brings out my inner 16 year old! Zesty, Saucy, Sweary, Snarky, Sporty we are better than ever! xo

Rambling Tart said...

"live honestly" - I love that so much, Jamie. Thank you for your kind and understanding comment on my post. It meant a great deal to me and helped give me courage to write an email I had to write. Thank you. :-) Happiest of Birthdays to you! Wishing you a beautiful year with your man and your boys and your besties. :-)

Aimée @ Food, Je t'Aimée said...

Happiest birthday, Jamie! A sinful cake, perfect for the most self-indulgent of occasions! :)

You are beautiful - and I could only hope to look as fabulous as you when I'm 35 :)

xo

Shulie said...

Happy Birthday Jaime. Love the peek into the cake layers!!

Lana said...

Happy belated birthday, my friend! It seems that it has been only a few weeks since the last one...
I don't delude myself about my age and looks, but every time I look in the mirror, my 17 year old self looks back, and as long as I can see that youthful sparkle, I am at peace with the world:) Sure, sometimes I wish that the time would slow down just a bit, but every age brings new joys and experiences.
I have your last year's cake bookmarked, and I will have to add this one, too, but no cakes are going to make an appearance in my kitchen until I can shed a few of really stubborn pounds. My birthday is creeping up in March, and coffee and chocolate cannot be beaten:) Here is to many more gloriously young years!

Carolyn Jung said...

I think the secret to looking younger is chocolate! LOL Seriously, I bet if I have two slices of this cake, it will shave 20 years off me. OK, it might put four inches on me, but that's beside the point. ;)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

A beautiful cake and you don't get older, you get wiser! Love those quotes too! :D

Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen said...

Happy Birthday Jamie! Keep that wonderful silliness no matter what your age, it's what makes life fun. We are all little kids at heart no matter what our birth certificates say.

Jamie said...

@Carolyn Jung: LOL!!! Love it!

Maureen said...

What a gorgeous cake. Like you, I refuse to be "mature" - that's for people who need walking frames and someone to wipe the drool. I'll get there but I'm not rushing it!

I hope you have heaps more birthdays with a different cake each time.

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

Happy birthday Jamie. Hope you had a great one. As another commenter said, stay young at heart.

That cake is to-die-for and a great way to celebrate another year. Love the two sayings. Sadly there will never be another Lucy.
Sam

Andrew's Mom said...

What a gorgeous cake! Sounds like you had a beautiful birthday!

Tickled Red said...

Simply stunning cake! I am so glad that you had a wonderful birthday and I hope that many more come and go love :D {{hugs}}

Eliana said...

What a stunning cake! The flavor combination sounds awesome too.

Valentina said...

Happy happy birthday. May more silly games come and go as well as many more birthdays. the cake photo - the very first one, had me thinking only about the fact that I wanted to bake it myself. The joy of your narrative put a smile on my face, and life popped out of the screen and danced in front of my eyes, all due to the power of your words. Total delight!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

That's the new standard for me, whenever I think of birthday cake! Glorious, just glorious.

thelittleloaf said...

This is heaven in a cake! I always make my own birthday cake too and, in fact, I might have to bookmark this one to make (my birthday is in July though...not sure I can wait that long!). Absolutely gorgeous post. Yum!

Nuts about food said...

Well, first of all, happy belated birthday. Who cares about the grey hair and the saggy skin if you feel young and alive inside, right? That birthday cake looks delicious, exactly my kinda cake...I would maybe even be willing to turn a year older to have a slice. Maybe...

Shu Han said...

"The secret to staying young is to live honestly,
eat slowly,
and to lie about your age."

best quote i've heard this week! happy birthday (: first time at your blog and loving your writing.

Ivy said...

Happy birthday dear Jamie. That cakes looks scrumptious and would never trade it with a store bought one! Aging is a wonderful process that should be positive and living a healthy lifestyle keeps us energetic and young and most of all lucky to be alive and see our family grow.

angela@spinachtiger said...

Happy Birthday. My husband baked me a chocolate cake for my birthday cause it's my favorite. His is next month and I'm bookmarking this cause I know he'll love it. So gorgeous.

Lora said...

What a perfectly gorgeous birthday cake. I am all for being spoiled by men on birthdays and yay for young at heart!

Jayasri Ravi said...

Hi Jamie, I was on a blog brake, I have missed so many posts, Its nice to be back again to read your posts, Happy birthday Jamie, Picturesque cake seems that you had a Gorgeous birthday, Happy birthday dear, What gorgeous cake.., it looks so moist and inviting..

Amy said...

I dreamt about cheesecake last night, but tonight I think I'll dream about your chocolate cake. Yum!

El said...

Needless to say the cake looks marvelous. It sounds like you overcame a lot to get where you are. Cheers to you on your special day. I hope it was wonderful. Happy Birthday!

Terra said...

Awwww, it looks like you had a rockin' birthday!!! That cake is out of this world:-) Seriously is would be fantastic if computers had a scratch and sniff button, just saying! Hugs, Terra

Soma said...

Happy Belated Birthday Jamie! And what a cake!! I would pounce on it with my fists dug in as if I was a 3 year old. Oh its best to feel 16, and not pay heed to the lines and the silver thread. Life is indeed good if we can only stop thinking about this "alien" body of ours. Hugs and I want a slice :) The ever love of chocolate and espresso.

Anh said...

Happy belated b'day! This is the cake fits for a queen. ;)

JavelinWarrior said...

Happy belated birthday, Jamie! This cake is stunning! I have featured your post in today's Friday Food Fetish roundup. Let me know if you have any objections and thanks for the inspiration...

Lizzy said...

Wow! Just a stunning cake! I'll definitely give this one a shot :)

ButterYum said...

Seriously one of the best looking chocolate cakes ever!

:)
ButterYum

ButterYum said...

PS - meant to wish you a happy birthday!

tasteofbeirut said...

I have an aunt who is over eighty and still wears a two-piece suit to the beach; if I did not know her age, I 'd never think of it! Be glad you are young at heart, you will always be this way. Wonderful cake, the buttercream looks so luscious and smooth want to eat a huge portion!

Xean said...

wow! it's so tempting.. looks so delicious, i can't help my self without salivating.

Happy birthday! :)

Yuri - Chef Pandita said...

Happy belated birthday, dear Jamie! Cake looks spectacular. Xoxo

Sarah said...

Happy Birthday Jamie!You seem to understand the important things in life, sharing chocolate cake with those you love the most.

Mairi @ Toast said...

Wow that is some cake! Sadly it doesn't fit in to my month of abstinence on all things calorific...but I am happy to know it will be waiting in the wings, chocolate at the end of the tunnel! Quite possibly the perfect way to treat myself.

Cookin' Canuck said...

Happy, Happy Birthday, Jamie! Yes, the skin may sage and the wrinkles may deepen, but it's that inner child that keeps life interesting. What a beautiful cake for your special day.

Anonymous said...

Splendide ! Serait-il possible d'avoir la recette en français ?

Jamie said...

@Anonymous: Merci beaucoup. Je vais voir si je peux ajouter la recette en français à mon prochain blog post.

Helene Dsouza said...

so I understand that correctly..

Joyeux Anniversaire et je te souhaite une bonne sante dans tes annes a venire!

(in case I made writing misstakes, just over look them)

and... u fabricated such a gorgeous cake. I wish I could have a slice or maybe even more.

Anh said...

Ah. So sinful! I am trying to remind myself that I am on a diet.

Dress and Dish:Lana said...

Hope your birthday was wonderful! Cake, cake, cake, how I love you! Yummy.

TJ said...

This looks incredibly delicious! Just wow...

Anonymous said...

Ce serait top ! Sinon je me lancerai dans sa traduction tant cette merveille me fait les yeux doux. Encore bravo !

Kelly B said...

I made this over the weekend. By far the best chocolate cake I've ever had (or made). I received a ton of compliments on it, and can't wait to make more (because of course it all got eaten)!

Thank you for sharing your genius with the world.

Food Manager Certification said...

Can't wait to try this recipe. I'll make these for my mom and my brothers and sister. They will be so happy about this.

Anonymous said...

La estoy haciendo en este momento para el cumpleaños de mi novio..!! Que emoción..!!! :) Hice todo tal como aca dice, espero me quede exactamente igual.

jacqueline mccoy said...

Looks very delicious i never seen like this well dressing cakes amazing and superb work...

Zoë François said...

Happy Birthday Jamie! The color of that chocolate cake is out-of-this-world-intense, I can just imagine how incredible it tastes. Have a fantastic day - year! xoxo

Jamie said...

Thank you so much, Zoë! I hope I will finally get to meet you in the coming year... and this cake? Every single birthday or some variation of it. xoxo

Sophia Del Gigante said...

Beautiful and well written post with some REALLY yummy cake!

Musings of a Modern Hippie said...

I've made this for 2 years in a row for my son's birthday...soon to be 3 years in a row. By far the best chocolate cake I've ever had. I usually double the frosting recipe because we love frosting! Last year I made a giant chocolate lego version of this cake. Huge hit. Thanks for bringing amazing food to our world.

Anonymous said...

Happy very belated birthday, Jamie! I am planning to bake this for my friend! However, she is lactose intolerant. How will I be able to vary the frosting?

Jamie said...

@Musings of a Modern Hippie: I am thrilled that you make this cake for your son's birthday! But it is pretty fabulous, isn't it? Thanks so much for letting me know!

@Anonymous: I am assuming that you are replacing the milk in the cake batter with a substitute? You can simply make this frosting recipe without the mascarpone added in.

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