Thursday, April 2, 2015

Marathon of Birthday Sweets

An array of decadent desserts paraded through my kitchen this past month honoring March otherwise known as "the birthday month" in my family.  It seems a lifetime ago that we celebrated Declan's 9th birthday on March 7th topping it off with tangy Buttermilk Panna Cotta with a sweet/tart/slightly bitter lemon syrup (both recipes from one of my new favorite cook books: "Prune" by the gifted Gabrielle Hamilton).  Unfortunately, Declan did not even want to taste this creamy, cool triumph as he ended the night by rolling around on the couch complaining that his belly was too full of hamburgers and the bacon jerky that his aunt bought for him purchased from Andy's Market on Rte 151. 
The snow receded a tiny bit more the following week when we went to Val's to celebrate mine and Karyn's birthday(s).  Val served a childhood favorite of mine, rolled chicken filled with ham and cheddar.  For dessert, Rob brought French pastry and I rounded it all out with "Crème au Chocolat Noir" (dark chocolate pudding) from "My Little French Kitchen" by another favorite author, Rachel Khoo.  Of course, we all thoroughly enjoyed the pudding topped with dollops of freshly whipped cream, although Declan deemed it to be "too rich" to finish his portion.  Where did I get that kid?
By the time we were on to celebrating Val's birthday the following week, we felt like the snow was never going to leave us, still piled high aside driveways and completely covering flower beds that by this time are usually raked free of dead leaves to allow the daffodils to poke through.  It was way too cold to imagine the sun would be able to ever melt it all and pretty much all of my friends on facebook were still posting photos of "icebergs" clogging the shores of Chapoquoit beach (enough, already!!).  This doom and gloom feeling called for not one but two chocolate cakes in celebration of Val and the springtime that was hopefully on its way sooner than later.  The flourless chocolate cake from which uses far less than the usual 400 eggs and 20 pounds of butter found in many flourless cake recipes is just as decadent and you don't have to use most of your grocery budget to buy the ingredients.  Sadly, when I search the website for the recipe to create a link, I cannot seem to find it but here it is below.  Lucky me, I wrote it down on a scrap paper!  I chose to adorn mine with powdered sugar, fresh raspberries and homemade whipped cream.  You can do whatever you want.

"" Flourless Chocolate Cake
(serves 8)
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1 stick butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus extra for dusting
(optional) powdered sugar for dusting
fresh raspberries
homemade whipped cream (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Grease an 8" round cake pan, line the bottom with wax paper and grease the paper.
Chop the chocolate into small pieces.  Place the chocolate in a double boiler with the butter and melt over medium heat until the mixture is smooth.  Remove mixture from heat and whisk in sugar.  Add the eggs and whisk well.  Sift 1/2 cup cocoa powder over chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined.  Pour batter into pan and bake in the middle of the oven 25 minutes or until the top forms a thick crust.
Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes then invert onto serving plate.  Dust cake with additional cocoa powder or powdered sugar.  Serve with fresh raspberries and generous dollops of whipped cream.
Homemade Whipped Cream
( a good amount)
1/2 pint heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pour all ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixture with whisk attachment.  Cover top of stand mixer with a dish towel and allow towel to hang over sides of the bowl. (Do this to prevent splatter all over kitchen!)  Beat mixture on high for 1-2 minutes until still peaks form.  Enjoy immediately. 


I baked another chocolate cake for no other reason except that I just couldn't help myself.  This one is also gluten free. (My sister, Karyn is my new guinea pig/muse with her gluten free diet.)  I found this recipe on the amazing website   The Chocolate Mochi Snack Cake not only looked delicious in the photo (The website has drool worthy photos.) but I also wanted to try it because it only had one ingredient that I would have to add to my pantry: rice flour.   I used Bob's Red Mill brand and it baked into spongy perfection.  So many gluten free baking recipes call for an array of odd and expensive types of flour that it makes me want to abandon the idea completely.  This one was not only easy to make, but I will be baking it again for anytime not just to accommodate dietary restrictions.
We sent Val and Dick off to California to celebrate Ethan and his son's Nate birthday(s) hoping that when they arrived home a week later that the sun would be beating down on us but as you all know, the average temperature by the 25th of March was still about 20 degrees.  AAARGH!
Time to prepare for Ava's birthday on the 27th and my nephew, Ryson's day whenever this teenager could make himself available for us to shower gifts upon him.  Ava chose chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting.  She must have been reading my mind, I have been dying to make Ina Garten's
Chocolate Cupcakes & Peanut Butter Icing from her cook book "Barefoot Contessa At Home".  The chocolate cupcake is deep and dark chocolaty tasting, so much so that Declan declared it to be "too rich" as he dramatically clutched his stomach which can only mean it is the perfect amount of dark chocolate perfection for me.  Was my kid switched at birth?  Never mind, we enjoyed the cupcakes for Ava's birthday dinner and the leftovers the next day along with her BFF's after a showing of the new "Cinderella" movie.  (A must see!)

March is always, for us, a marathon of celebrations and birthday sweets.  It's exhausting.  But I'm also thankful for the 31 days of complete madness that makes the end of the winter go by much faster and ushers in springtime just in time for all the raking and yard work so I can attempt to work off all of my indulgences.  Happy Birthday!

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