Favorite Things Birthday Cake – Madison Eats Food Tours
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Slice of chocolate cake

Favorite Things Birthday Cake

It’s too darn hot. But what can I do? It’s birthday month around here. My daughter celebrated hers August 11, and my husband’s birthday is August 22.

For me birthday means cake. Let me just interject here that my husband said I don’t need to make a cake. Riiiiight.

My daughter said no such thing, by the way. A fairy cake!! Okay, to be fair, she said a cake from Hy-Vee. But I put my foot down. I’ll make the cake. Yes, a fairy cake. And it will be soooo much better than a store bought cake.

Which it was. A 3-layer vanilla cake with strawberry meringue buttercream and strawberry jam filling, and the best chocolate frosting ever. Plop a couple of cupcakes, I mean toadstools on top. Decorate. Put two small dolls on top, and voila, a fairy cake. But I digress.

My friend Amy made a cake for her husband for his birthday, and called it a “favorite things” cake. I love that name, and concept, so decided to do the same. What does my husband love? Well, me of course, but I’m not popping into or out of a cake. That leaves coffee, peanut butter and chocolate. And beer.

So what was I to do? Make a 4 layer cake, with a shot of coffee, a peanut butter filling/frosting and chocolate-porter ganache, of course.

I combined a few of my favorite recipes from Smitten Kitchen; the cake and chocolate porter ganache adapted from here and the peanut butter frosting from here. And I will just say….THIS CAKE ROCKS! It was the best cake I have ever made. Seriously. If you like those 4 ingredients, this cake will blow you away. No joke. P.S. I’m usually more modest.

My latest trick is to make the layers a day or even a few hours ahead and freeze them. Take them out right before frosting and they don’t break apart and become crumby. It also helps the frosting to set. In the summertime, it’s perfect–they thaw quickly.

With all that cake baking, I have barely felt like cooking. But I felt compelled to make a special birthday breakfast for my hubby, since we don’t really have time for a leisurely dinner on Thursdays. Crêpes. My husband is a Francophile, spent a lot of time in Paris, and loves crêpes. Well, who doesn’t? I made the ultimate crepe trifecta–honey crêpes, ham and mushroom crêpes, and crêpes just topped with strawberry jam. Happy Birthday, babe.

Favorite Things Cake
Featuring four of my husband’s favorite things: Beer, coffee, chocolate and peanut butter

Chocolate Cake Layers from Smitten Kitchen

3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk (I subbed 1/4 cup each sour cream and mayo for 1/2 cup buttermilk)
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Make cake layers: Preheat oven to 300°F. and grease pans. Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper and grease paper.

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well.

Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. Cool cakes in pan for abut 10 minutes, then run knife around edge to loosen and invert on rack to cool. When they are room temperature, cut carefully in half to make four layers, wrap individually in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 4 hours.

Meanwhile make frosting and ganache.
Peanut Butter Frosting from Smitten Kitchen
Makes about 2.5 cups

5 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2.5cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

Porter Ganache
8 oz fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup porter ( I would experiment with adding a bit more next time)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1-2 cups powdered sugar

Heat chocolate, cream, porter and sugar over double boiler until melted. set aside

Beat butter, powdered sugar and cocoa powder until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in chocolate mixture, and corn syrup. Blend well. Chill to firm (or beat over bowl of ice.)

Heat chocolate, cream, porter and sugar over double boiler until melted.  Set aside
Beat butter, powdered sugar and cocoa powder until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in chocolate mixture, and corn syrup. Blend well. Chill to firm (or beat over bowl of ice.)

Assemble Cake

Start with cake layer. Spread with peanut butter frosting, then add a cake layer and a layer of ganache. Next layer then peanut butter frosting, then final layer and cover in ganache. You got it.