While I am traveling to several food conferences in a row, some of my friends have graciously sent me articles and photographs to share with all of you. I can’t wait for you to meet each one and discover new blogs to follow and meet some of the best talent in the industry!
Today I would like to introduce you to Robin E. H. Ove of What about the food? She is a wonderful woman I met last year while at IFBC in Seattle. She needed a place to change clothes before an evening event and a mutual friend suggested she contact me. That was all it took and by the end of the weekend we were fast friends.
Robin is one of the most talented photographers I know – just take a look at her photos on her website, Tastespotting and FoodGawker. Amazing! And she was gracious enough to take my new head shot – what a love! She is also an amazing cook and baker. I am honored that she was willing to share a recipe with all of you and boy oh boy, what a recipe!
Without further ado, I give you Robin!
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Somewhere after the age of twenty-one, birthdays seem to lose their inherent charm. Those expectant childlike butterflies in anticipation of fluffy cakes and presents accompanied by a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday to You.”
Depending on the expectations set by your family, birthday celebrations could be extraordinarily extravagant with themes, entertainment and dozens of guests, each party designed to top the previous. Hard to improve upon year after year, defining this event may be measured in terms of grandeur, expense and falderal. It is no wonder as adults many shun their birthdays, cringe at the mention of a surprise parties or even simple recognition the day exists at all. Or, perhaps there were no celebrations, ever, due to circumstances beyond a child’s control or understanding. We all come to how we feel about it based on our history, don’t we?
Growing up, our birthdays were simple affairs, a favorite dinner, cake, family and the heartfelt love that we could celebrate together on this day. The gifts given, little surprises or what from time to time seemed to be amazing treasures like a birthstone ring or a new-to-me two-wheeler freshly repainted blue and white. The handwritten messages on birthday cards with the unique scrawl, “Love and stuff, Mom and Dad” or the five single bills, fresh from the bank tucked in envelope from my dearest Grandma.
Growing up with two working parents a kid learns a certain amount of self-sufficiency and independence. That meant if our birthday was during the work-week, it was even more streamlined and seemingly an afterthought. The tradition of pizza and Dr. Pepper ran for years as our standby for those nights, making it a party anyway we could. Such was the case when I turned nine.
As every morning, we all left the house early. Mom was gone by 6:30am to get to school for yard duty and the classroom bell at 8:00, ready to teach six periods of math and science. Dad dropped me off at school at around 7:15 so he could be at the glass shop by 7:30 and setup for the day’s labor, organizing the materials and crew. We didn’t talk about the night’s plans, heads already loaded with the complications of the day, our thoughts our own. As was normal, I got home before everyone else, the house quiet. Somehow, I got to wondering about my birthday cake. We hadn’t baked one in advance and nobody said they were picking one up on the way home. What kind of party could it be without cake?
A solution presented itself with the tingling jingle of the traveling bakery truck that drove down our street once a week. I grabbed the few dollars saved from my allowance and flagged the driver down. The best I could do was a single layer prune cake, nicely iced with nuts on the side. Pleased with myself and with problem solved, I placed it proudly on the white glass cake stand. I didn’t think twice about the fact that I just bought myself my own birthday cake. Some would take issue with that, but in that moment, that day it was about the whole of the celebration and the whole of the family, not just me. And that made me happy. The rest of the story is my Dad stopped by our favorite bakery and brought home a luscious, rich and beautiful Italian Rum Cake. Lucky girl, one birthday, two cakes. Somewhere in the collection of family black and white photos there is one of me, tee shirt and ponytail blowing out a single candle perched atop that prune cake as the strains of Happy Birthday fade.
Regardless of how you think about your birthday, whether fraught with comparisons of birthday’s past or as a time to measure and assess your failures and successes as if in an annual report card I would challenge you to reframe your perspective. This is your day. Take a minute to celebrate. No one else is going to make you happy, today or any other day. So do something that brings you cheer and if it is as simple as making your own birthday cake, good for you!
This is my birthday cake. Dark chocolate, rich and adult flavored with hints of dark beer and coffee. A simple sprinkling of powered sugar instead of frosting keeps the texture light and the focus on the intense flavor. I hope you enjoy.
- 1 cup Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout * (at room temperature)
- 10 tablespoons (1 stick, plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 1-3/4 cups superfine sugar **
- 2 oz Scharffen Berger 62% Dark Chocolate Baking Bar
- 3/8 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla paste
- 2 cups cake flour
- 3/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Prep: Preheat oven to 350° F
- Butter and flour and line bottom 9” springform pan with parchment paper (Don’t forget to butter/flour top of paper as well.)
- Sift dry ingredients in large bowl, set aside.
- In a small bowl, beat eggs and whisk together with yogurt and vanilla paste.
- Method: Melt butter over low heat in medium saucepan, add stout and sugar.
- Stir to dissolve sugar thoroughly, add dark chocolate pieces
- Turn off the heat, stir to melt all chocolate and cool.
- Pour about a 1/4 cup of butter/beer mixture into egg/yogurt mixture, stir together to temper before adding rest of butter/beer to wet ingredients.
- Whisk until fully incorporated and smooth.
- Add liquid to dry ingredients, whisk or beat on low in your mixer until completely blended and glossy.
- Pour into spring form pan and give it a little shake to make sure batter is evenly distributed. Bake on middle rack of oven for about an hour.
- This is a very moist cake, and make sure the middle cooks completely before removing from oven, as it might fall if underdone.
- Cool completely in pan on wire rack before placing on serving plate.
- * You can substitute other dark beers, there are a great variety of chocolate stouts, porters to play with -- indulge yourself! One for the cake and one for you!
- ** If you don’t have superfine sugar, use your blender or food processor and pulse until the sugar crystals are broken down and refined. Works like a charm.
To learn more about Robin, follow her food adventures and discover her delicious recipes, make sure you visit Robin’s wonderful blog, What About The Food?. And to follow her on social media, click on these links:
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