Thursday, November 1, 2012

Taste the Celebration

When I was in first grade, I became obsessed with fairies. I had a fairy house – think dollhouse – outside, and I spent hours making furniture out of twigs and delectable fairy delicacies out of flowers. So of course, when the leaves began to turn and my birthday planning began, I asked for a fairy themed party. My mom and I planned fairy games, crafts, and costumes, and after I submitted my request for lemon cake and vanilla icing, my mom planned the cake. On the day of my party, as all my classmates sang “Happy Birthday,” my mom carried a beautiful fairy to the table – my favorite lemon cake forming the giant domed skirt of a repurposed Barbie doll with a blue icing bodice and wings.

When I was little, I always wanted plain lemon cake, but the shapes my mom created each year stole the show. Koala bear faces and teacups for me, footballs and train tracks for my brother: food coloring, carving, and lots of love. Ever since I can remember, birthday cakes have been a big deal in my house. At some point along the line, the cakes became simple round layers, and I shifted my allegiance from lemon cake to chocolate with a year or two of carrot cake limbo in between. Nevertheless, I still see birthday cakes as the center of the celebration – a birthday necessity made to order.

This year, I was lucky enough to be home for my mom’s birthday which meant that I had the all-important honor of baking her cake. Not surprisingly, she asked for chocolate cake and in particular for what has become our favorite chocolate cake from Bon Appétit. Considering the multitude of chocolate cakes we’ve tried over the years, that’s quite a compliment. With a moist and fluffy crumb, the cake melts deliciously in your mouth.

Cake decided, it was time to choose the icing to top it off. To the great satisfaction of my taste buds, my mom selected chocolate ganache. With its fancy French name, I used to think ganache was a difficult and sophisticated preparation reserved for restaurant desserts. Luckily, I discovered before too long that it is remarkably easy – requiring just a quick whisk of warm cream and chopped chocolate. Even more importantly, it is lick-the-bowl, never-eat-store-bought-icing-again kind of good.

When I carried the cake to the table on my mom’s birthday, it wasn’t quite as showy as the fairy of years ago. It didn’t feature food coloring or carving. It wasn’t colorful or creative. But it was just as delicious as any birthday cake before and it was baked with just as much love.

My favorite chocolate cake recipe can be found here on the Bon Appétit website. Oddly enough, I’ve never made the cream filling or ganache recipes that are paired with the cake, but I think you’ll love the cake regardless of the fillings and icings you choose.

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