Forgetting a birthday- be it your partner's, your mother's or your best friend's, it's a cardinal sin. And whenever it happens, the guilty is always the worthy recipient of scorn and derision, and usually, what's coming to the accused is always warranted. Birthdays are important things, and should be celebrated accordingly- with festivity, and whenever possible with lots of food and alcohol. But what happens when you forget your own birthday?
Well, it's not exactly my own birthday that I have forgotten; now that would almost be equivalent to suffering retrograde amnesia, but it's actually the blog's birthday that I have neglected to remember. It's true, Milk and Cookies turned 2 years old, a good 8 weeks ago, and the momentous occasion almost passed by without so much as a mere mention or acknowledging it with a hip-hip-hooray and a little rendition of "for he's a jolly good fellow". Shame on me! Perhaps I was too distracted by my up-coming travel plans.
Born on the 2nd of May 2006, how could I forget that (slightly embarrassing) pioneer post that kicked off the whole odyssey into baking and eating? And the only way to exonerate one's self from the embarrassment and shame of forgetting their own blog's birthday is to make a cake celebratory enough to compensate for the indiscretion. Yes, for any baker, cake is the answer to most of life's quandaries.
I had always wanted to bake one of the celebration cakes featured in Dorie Greenspan's book Baking From My Home to Yours. But I've always had this aversion towards seemingly complicated cakes, especially layer cakes that looked so labour intensive. They look all great and majestic in the pictures; tiers and tiers of scrumptious layers towering towards cake heaven but ten mixing bowls and several whisks later you find yourself knee-deep in batter you no longer have the will to bake.
I'm more one of those 10 items or less chicks, nothing complicated, no fuss, no mess. I usually don't go for recipes with so many steps that include beating, melting, sifting, whisking, folding, sprinkling and a lot of waiting around for things to bake then cool and settle before you go on to the next step. Call me the impatient baker but I'm all for simple desserts; that's probably why you see so many small cakes on this blog. They're quick to bake, and the quicker they come out of the oven, the quicker I can get to eating them.
In saying this, my curiosity was getting the better of me and I was imagining what it would actually be like to be the architect of one of these tower of Babel constructions. It's mortifying to say but I think this has to be my first proper attempt at a layer cake. Be it a cake of only two layers, but a layer cake nonetheless. And all this time I had the audacity to call myself a baker, tsk tsk. There goes my reputation.
Also, I figured that going through the whole process of making this layer cake would be the only penance that could justify my wrongdoing. After all the blog has treated me so well over the past two years, it was the least I could do for such an oversight. So off I went, on my day off work to make a cake worthy of forgiveness.
There's not much I can say about this cake that you wouldn't already gather from looking at it. It looks delicious and it tasted just like it looked. The cake is all Dorie, except for the cream filling. I just thought that there needed to be something to soften the richness of the chocolate cake and the cream does this really well. There's also much to be said about my frosting skills (or lack of it) with the blank patches at the bottom edges of the cake, but hey, for my first reluctant hand at this I think the blog and I can finally move forward and put this whole thing behind us.
This cake is dedicated to the blog and to another great year of blogging. And with the blog going into a new chapter in the next coming months it's only fitting to set-off the move to London with this cake, I guess making layer cakes aren't all that bad (as she takes another forkful to her mouth).
And a big thank you to all the well wishers who voiced their delight and excitement about my up-coming move to the United Kingdom, I cannot wait.
Cocoa-Buttermilk Birthday Cake
Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours
FOR THE CAKE
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
110g bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled (optional)
FOR THE CHOCOLATE MALT BUTTERCREAM
150g bittersweet chocolate, chopped coarsely
¼ cup (packed) brown sugar
2 tbsp malted milk powder
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup boiling water
180g unsalted butter, at room temperature
pinch of salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
1½ cup confectioner’s sugar
FOR THE CREAM FILLING
200ml pure cream
2 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
Preheat oven to 180ºC.
Butter 2 x 22cm round springform cake tins, dust the insides with flour and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
MAKING THE CAKE
Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment or hand mixer in a large bowl; beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy.
Add the sugar and beat for 2 minutes.
Add eggs one at a time, then yolks, beating 1 minute after each addition.
Beat in vanilla extract.
Reduce mixer speed and add the dry ingredients alternatively with buttermilk, staring and ending with dry ingredients. Mix only until each new batch is blended into batter.
Add the melted chocolate and fold in with rubber spatula (optional).
Divide batter between two cake tins.
Bake for 26-30 minutes or until cakes feel springy to the touch and start to pull away from the sides of the tins.
Transfer cakes to racks and cool for 5 minutes.
Run a knife around the sides of the cakes and unmould. Peel off parchment paper and invert and cool to room temperature.
MAKING THE BUTTERCREAM
Melt the chocolate with half the brown sugar in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat.
Whisk the malt powder and cocoa together in a small bowl, pour over 3 tsp boiling water and whisk until smooth.
Gradually whisk in hot malt-cocoa mixture with melted chocolate- it should be dark smooth and glossy. Set aside.
Beat butter until soft and fluffy and add the remaining sugar and beat for another 2-3 minutes, until well blended.
Beat in salt and vanilla.
Scrape in chocolate mixture and mix until smooth.
Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar and beat for a couple of minutes, then add the remaining tablespoon of boiling water and beat until well blended.
It should be thick enough to use immediately. If it doesn’t hold its shape then beat it a just a bit more.
MAKING THE FILLING
Whisk cream into stiff peaks, it should be able to hold its shape properly.
Sift in confectioners sugar and fold into cream.
ASSEMBLING THE CAKE
Place one layer top side up on a cardboard round or a cake plate protected by strips of parchment paper.
Spread the top of this layer with cream filling.
Cover with second layer.
Frost the sides and top of the cake either smoothing buttercream for a sleek look of using a spatula, knife of spoon to swirl for more exuberant look.
Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour to set the frosting then bring it to room temperature before serving.