Friday, April 14, 2006

Clay's Birthday

Clay’s birthday was yesterday and guess what? We had another Beach Night and, yes, another birthday cake to feature here.

But first I have to tell you about dinner. Gail made a cauliflower and jicama casserole that was supremely delicious. When I get the recipe from her I’ll post it for you. Donna made an onion quiche

that was fully 3-inches high, packed with caramelized, sweet onions, cream and cheese in a flakey crust. It melted in our mouths. Ilene and Mark brought margaritas (yay!) in quart-size jars and a bowl full of roasted baby yellow potatoes that accompanied my garlic-rosemary studded, roast leg of lamb perfectly. And Annie made a ginger with rice soup that had my taste buds dancing for joy. The gingery tastes were so complex and delightful! That’s another recipe I’ve got to get. Last but not least, glory be, we had just one salad.

I did remember to take photos this time but most of them didn’t turn out well. It seems, while I’m still in the learning stage with my camera (and it also seems that the curve is a bit steeper than I though it would be), that I had inadvertently hit a setting that delayed the shutter speed. Most of my photos came out fuzzy. Ah well, they will get better.

Now for the cake: It was like eating a chocolate-almond candy bar. I adapted the recipe from one I saw a long time ago in the New York Times cooking section, called Gateau Reine de Saba. It’s a single layer, dense - but not ponderously so – rich, chocolate cake topped with a velvety chocolate glaze. Made with almonds and no flour, if you use Splenda instead of sugar it’s a low carber’s dream dessert. Here’s my version.

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter
6 ounces of Scharffen Berger’s 70% dark, bittersweet chocolate, chopped
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons strong decaf coffee (you can use leaded, but that would keep me up all night)
4 extra large eggs, separated
A pinch of salt, such as Maldon

1 cup Splenda granular or ½ cup Splenda-Sugar Blend (best for baking) or 1 cup sugar (if you don’t care about carbs)
1 ¼ cups ground almond meal from Trader Joe’s
¼ cup finely ground, toasted slivered almonds (don’t let them become paste-y in the grinding process)

Butter for the cake pan

Heat oven to 325 degrees with the rack positioned in the center. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9 ½-inch springform pan. Place a round piece of parchment paper into the bottom of the pan and butter it also.

Place 1 ½ sticks of butter, chocolate, vanilla and coffee in a saucepan and melt it all together over very low heat, stirring to blend. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Using your hand held electric mixer, beat the egg whites and salt until they reach the soft peak stage. Add ½ cup of the sugar, or ¼ cup of the Splenda-sugar blend, or ½ cup of the Splenda granular, and keep beating until the whites are thick and shiny.

In another bowl, with clean beaters, beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar (Splenda, etc.) until thick and a lovely lemon color.

Fold the egg yolk mixture into the melted, cooled chocolate mixture then add the almond meal and the ground almonds, mixing thoroughly. Whisk in a large spoonful of the egg whites to lighten the batter then fold in the remaining egg whites, using a rubber spatula, being careful not to compress the batter. You want it be light and airy.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the top is dry and a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out with some moisture on it – not wet though, just sticky. Cool the cake on a rack for about 20 minutes then remove the side of the pan. Continue cooling the cake on the rack until it is room temperature. During the cooling process, the top of the cake may crack. This is normal and will be covered up by the glaze.

2 tablespoons sugar, or Splenda Granular or 1 tablespoon Splenda-Sugar blend
1 tablespoon corn syrup (you could use honey I suppose, or rice syrup, but you’d still be getting sugar. Low carb maven, Kalyn, of Kalyn's Kitchen might know of a good substitute for corn syrup)
¼ cup water
4 ounces Scharffen Berger 70% dark, bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Combine sugar, syrup, and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil then remove from heat. Add the chocolate, give it a stir, and allow the pan to sit while the chocolate melts. Stir the glaze until well blended then whisk in the butter.

Pour the glaze over the cooled cake, spreading it out to the edge of the top and letting some of it drip over the sides. Leave at room temperature until the glaze has cooled completely. You can put it in the fridge for a while before serving to firm it up, but I wouldn’t leave it in there for more than a couple of hours. You can, however, refrigerate leftovers, should there be any.

If you wish, place edible flowers (I used fresh-picked violets) on the top then sprinkle with edible glitter just before adding the candles. I thought edible gold leaf would look good on this cake, but I left that thought for the last minute and then couldn’t find any. (BTW: I took this photo inside of the fridge without a flash. The cake is actually darker than depicted.)

The sun shone for Clay's birthday - what a present! He took the day off and spent it outside - rowing, walking on the beach. He said it was wonderful. The full moon rose as we sat around a campfire after dinner sipping our wine. The perfect ending to a perfect day after a perfect dinner shared with, dare I say it?, perfect friends!

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