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Birthday cake
Apr 17th, 2006



Today is Ian's birthday. Three years ago today I woke up early in the morning convinced the baby was on its way RIGHT NOW. We woke up our groggy then three year old and dropped him off at his visiting grandma's condo, only to arrive at the hospital to find that everything suddenly ground to a halt. Of course. We were told to go walking and I remember wandering around Capitol Hill on a chilly morning and running into some friends we hadn't seen in a while. It was sort of surreal when they asked what our plans were that day to tell them that we were pretty sure we were going to have a baby. Eventually we gave up and went home for a nap. We made it back to the hospital later that afternoon - I think the hospital staff were a little freaked out that we had just disappeared. But hey we were seasoned second time parents, we knew a good nap wasn't something to pass up! Jay came and visited us at the hospital in the early evening and we played kickball in the hall with a giant blue birthing ball. Then around 8:00 that night, without much fuss, Ian Andrew made his way into the world. His head was almost completely round like Charlie Brown. We fell in love with him immediately.

These days Ian is a laughing, talking, stomping, big-brother terrorizing charmer. We had a small birthday celebration for him last night as his grandparents were in town. Unfortunately he was too tired to really enjoy himself, having run and jumped and played until he was just about to fall down. But he wasn't too tired to enjoy his cake, neither was his big brother who put away two pieces in record time.

This recipe comes from the excellent book Baking by Flavor by Lisa Yockelson. It has been very well reviewed in the blogging world, I think I first came across it here. Yockelson divides her book by flavors and delves into what ingredients will complement and punch up each particular flavor. We were all getting a bit tired of our usual chocolate birthday cakes, so Jim suggested a spice cake. It's a well established credo at our house that a little chocolate will make almost everything better, so I couldn't pass up this recipe that adds mini chocolate chips and a chocolate glaze to a vanilla infused spice batter.

I would characterize Yockelson's recipes as very detailed - not fussy necessarily, but she has obviously given a lot of thought to each step of the process and wants to get across that the little details along the way can add up to make an extraordinary end product. I don't usually sift my flour, but have to admit there was quite a big difference between the flour and spice mixture before and after it went through my pseudo-sifter (a fine mesh sieve). And the cake truly was delicious, spicy and sweet and dense. However, I normally measure my flour using the scoop-and-sweep method, and I wonder if I shouldn't have spooned the flour into the cup instead. I have a feeling the cake would have been a bit moister if I had. I also had a bit of trouble with the glaze. The recipe calls for bringing the glaze ingredients to a low boil and holding them there for a minute or two - but the minute my mixture came to a boil it separated. I was able to whisk the glaze back together, but it never was quite as shiny after that. I belive it harmed the texture. I wonder if I shouldn't have used 2% milk (I forgot to pick up whole milk at the store) or maybe I just screwed up the heating and stirring process somehow. If there are any experienced bakers out there I'd love to hear your thoughts.

So happy birthday my little three year old monkey. Today your daddy is probably taking you to get fast food and play all day in the park, your very favorite things. Tonight we'll open a few more presents and polish off a bit more cake. It's nothing fancy, but I'm hoping you enjoy your day. These three years have gone by so fast, I can hardly believe you're not my cuddly little baby anymore. Soon you'll be headed off to preschool. I get a little teary when I think about that and want to freeze time, but I also can't wait to see what's next. You change and grow almost before my eyes and I know it will be just a blink of an eye before I'm posting another birthday cake recipe. I love you more than a silly blog entry can express. Happy birthday Ian.

-Mommy


Spiced and Glazed Chocolate Chip Cake

2 1/2 cups unsifted bleached all-purpose flour (I used unbleached)
1/2 cup unsifted bleached cake flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 cups miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups vanilla-scented granulated sugar (store the pod from a scraped vanilla bean in your sugar jar)
4 large eggs
2 3/4 tsp intensified vanilla extract (store half a scraped vanilla bean pod in your vanilla bottle, fold it over if necessary)
1 cup milk

Chocolate Glaze
3 ounces (3 squares) unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted
1/3 cup plus 2 1/2 tbsp superfine sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
pinch of salt
1/2 cup milk
1 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp light corn syrup


Spray a 10" Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray and preheat the oven to 350°F.

Sift the flours, baking powder, salt, and spices onto a sheet of waxed paper. Put the chocolate chips in a bowl and toss with 1 tbsp of the flour & spice mixture.

In a large mixing bowl cream the butter for 3 minutes with an electric mixer or beaters. Add the sugar in three additions, beating for 30 seconds or so between additions. Then beat for another minute before beating in the eggs separately, again beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Add the vanilla extract.

Add the sifted flour and spice mixture in three additions alternating with the milk. Then stir in the chocolate chips. Put the batter in the Bundt pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake for about 55 minutes to an hour or until a toothpick poked in the middle comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for about ten minutes and then invert onto another rack and cool completely. Glaze the cake when it's completely cool (put some waxed paper under the rack to catch the drips).

To prepare the glaze:
Melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat, stirring often.

Sift the sugar, cornstarch, and salt into a bowl. Add the milk and blend well. Stir the milk mixture into the pan with the chocolate and butter and bring to a boil, stirring but not whisking the whole time. I had trouble here as the glaze separated as soon as it hit a boil. I did use 2% milk, maybe that was the problem. Anyway you're supposed to let it bubble for a minute or two while stirring and then remove from the heat. I just removed it from the heat immediately and whisked it until the glaze came back together. It wasn't as shiny as it had been though.

Rub the glaze through a seive and stir in the vanilla and corn syrup. Stir the glaze for two minutes and then spoon it over the cooled cake.

-adapted from Baking by Flavor, Lisa Yockelson
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Comments

Greetings!
To answer your question, yes, whole milk (not 2% or skim) should be used in the glaze. When substitutions are made that are not cited in the recipe, the results will be different! I am delighted that you enjoyed the cake.
Lisa

-posted by Lisa Yockelson on Apr 21st, 2006
Baking advice from the author herself! Thanks so much, I had the feeling it was my 2% milk screwing things up. I'll pay more attention at the store next time! Whole milk was on my list but somehow never made it home.

By the way, the cake was just as good a few days after I baked it. I just covered it with a bowl and kept it on the counter and it held up really well.

-posted by Kymm on Apr 21st, 2006
One more thought on the glaze: it needs to be stirred thoroughly, but not too vigorously, or the glaze will separate--another point to note--or break down because the thickening power of the cornstarch is disrupted by rapid stirring or beating. Yes, I agree, the cake is a good keeper. I hope that you continue to enjoy baking from BAKING BY FLAVOR.
Lisa

-posted by Lisa Yockelson on Apr 30th, 2006
© 2006, Kimberly Cooperrider | kymmco@excite.com