Yesterday was another birthday for me. My mom, dad and grandma all called me to tell me that they couldn’t believe how old I was and that I made them feel old. Even my younger sister called to tell me that she’s ordering me a scooter to help me get around in my old age (although she told me that last year too, and I’m still waiting for my wheels!) While many other people would say I’m still young, I have to admit I can’t believe how fast the last few years have gone. Going to graduate school and living in New York can rapidly age anyone, and I think I’m starting to slow down. One thing is certain though; my cravings for sweets are still as strong as a kid’s. I think this characteristic is in my genes and will never fade. Seeing that my mom’s cookie-for-breakfast habit is still alive and well, I know I have a few good years left in me.
When it came time to choose my cake for this year, I decided to go with one I had actually never tried before. The Polka Dot Cake Studio makes a hazelnut cake that I have had my eyes on for awhile now, so I decided my birthday was the perfect opportunity to try it. The cake consists of two layers of genoise (vanilla) cake and hazelnut ganache, all coated in mocha buttercream and chopped hazelnuts. I prefer cakes with a vanilla base and chocolate filling/frosting, so this looked perfect. The mocha flavoring and chopped hazelnuts added a bit of variety, and it made a wonderful birthday cake.
One of the perks of working for a great owner at a great cake shop (thanks Ayse!) is that I got to use most of the ingredients already made at Polka Dot, so it only took me about 10 minutes to put the whole thing together. While assembling the cake I got greedy and overloaded on the ganache, making the filling layer particularly thick. Ideally, the cake layers and filling should be of equal proportion, but I thought I could get away with extra chocolate since it was my birthday. While the cake was good, next time I will follow the golden “equal layer” cake rule since more of the delicious genoise would have been nice. I should also work on my cake writing. Believe it or not this is the first time I’ve ever written on a cake.
Since the components I used for the cake were from the Polka Dot Cake Studio I can’t divulge details about the recipes, but I can give you tips on how to prepare a similar cake for yourself.
To prepare the hazelnut cake components:
1) Bake a vanilla cake, using your favorite recipe, in two round 8″ cake pans.
2) Prepare 1 cup of ganache (or more if you’re chocolate-greedy like me) by pouring warm cream over chopped chocolate. The general rule of thumb is to use one part cream to 2 parts chocolate. You can find more details on ganache at the Joy of Baking.com. Once the ganache has thickened slightly, mix in approximately 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts (or more to taste).
3) Prepare swiss meringue buttercream. Once the buttercream is ready, make it “mocha” by mixing in a little melted chocolate, 2 tablespoons cooled espresso and 1 tablespoon ground espresso.
Assemble the cake:
1) Remove the cakes from the pans, and cut off the domed tops to make the cakes level.
2) Place one of the layers of cake on a cake stand or plate, bottom down. Using a pastry bag with a wide tip (approximately 15mm), pipe a circle of mocha buttercream around the edge of the top of the cake, about 1/2″ tall.
3) Spoon the ganache filling in to the center of the mocha buttercream circle.
4) Place the remaining layer of cake upside down on top of the filling.
5) Spread mocha buttercream around the entire cake (this is called “crumb coating” since cake crumbs are sealed in by the frosting)
6) Coarsely chop 1 cup of hazelnuts. Using your hand, lightly press the hazelnuts along the side of the cake. Do this when the buttercream is room temperature (or slightly cooler) so the hazelnuts properly stick to the side of the cake.
As a birthday bonus, I thought I would share more about myself by answering a list of questions recently sent to me by Chan from Lick the Spoon. I couldn’t think of seven things for each category like she originally requested, so I changed it to five (hey, it’s my birthday!) Thanks for asking Chan.
Five Things To Do Before I Die:
1. Have kids.
2. Learn to speak French, so I’m considered a real “Bernard”
3. Learn to play the piano.
4. Ride in a hot air balloon.
5. Visit a national park.
Five (ok, six) Things I Cannot Do:
1. Eat without getting crumbs everywhere.
2. Walk in a straight line.
3. Remember what I actually said during a public presentation.
4. Blow out more than one candle at a time.
5. Pretend I like someone when I don’t.
6. Sing. Seriously, not one note.
Five Things That Attract Me to Blogging:
1. Being able to tell more than just my friends about great desserts I find.
2. Andrew. He said it would be good for me. He’s right.
3. Meeting people with similar interests across the world.
4. Providing a record for things I see and do. My memory is so bad I would forget it all without a blog.
5. Helping me believe I can actually start a business.
Five Things I Say Most Often:
1. Hi Drew
2. Just one more thing and then I’ll be done…
3. The passionfruit, lemon or blackout cake, but it depends (every customer asks which cake is the best at Polka Dot)
4. Get out! (meaning “no way” like Elaine on Seinfeld, not literally “get out”)
5. I’m cold
Five Books I Love:
1. Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
2. Me Talk Pretty One Day – David Sedaris
3. The Alchemist – Paulo Coehlo
4. New York’s 50+ Best Places to Enjoy Dessert – Andrea DiNoto and Paul Stiga
5. The Historic Shops and Restaurants of New York – Ellen Williams & Steve Radlauer
Five Movies/DVDs That I Watch Over and Over Again:
1. Pretty Woman
4. Kate & Leopold
5. Austin Powers
Five Bloggers I Want To Join In Too:
2. She Who Eats
3. Dessert Comes First
5. Su Good Sweets