I’m trying to be like Hannah this week (and maybe next week and the week after that). I mean, what else is new?
I’m doing that cleanse that she’s talked about before. I’m on day three. It’s kinda rough but kinda awesome. Kinda rough because I’m a caffeine and baked goods addict. Kinda awesome because I feel kinda awesome even after only two days! Eating only things that are good for you will do that. I guess.
This morning I woke up with a terrible caffeine headache and thought it would be a good idea to drink a cup of coffee. Breaking a cleanse that makes you feel awesome is not a great idea. You feel heavy afterward. Just don’t do it. Lessons learned.
All of this goes to say: I’m really glad I have a few posts backlogged. I don’t think I could deal with baking things right now. I would probably think it was a great idea to lick the bowl. And then I would feel gross again. Maybe next week I’ll be a stronger person.
But this week, I’m going to tell you about the birthday cake I made for The Accountant!
So, fair warning, this cake is kinda involved. But I dunno. I kinda like The Accountant. So I kinda think he’s kinda worth it.
The Accountant doesn’t really think his birthday is a very big deal. This is a foreign concept to me.
In my world, birthdays are really special days. Maybe some of my favorite days of the year. Everyone deserves a day that is specifically designated to celebrating the fact that they exist. This is just something I believe. I think it’s a good belief.
Birthdays are days where everything goes exactly as you plan it and you do all your favorite things. My ideal birthday? Wake up and get breakfast. More specifically pancakes, scrambled eggs, and hash browns (preferably from IHOP. I think they have the best pancakes). Come home and take a nap with my cat. Wake up again. Watch glorious amounts of TV or maybe sit outside in the sun (my birthday is in January, so this is unlikely). Then, go to dinner with friends (preferably Mexican food. Then again, pretty much all food is good in my book). End the night with cake, friends, whiskey, and karaoke. Perfect day.
Anyway, this leads to a fight every year about what The Accountant wants to do for his birthday. By fight, I don’t mean we yell at each other. He just gets annoyed that I keep asking what he wants to do and I get annoyed that he always says “I don’t know. We don’t have to do anything.” and he eventually has to just go along with whatever I decide to plan with his friends and such. Nothing dramatic. Just a “discussion.”
This discussion usually ends with me deciding to make him breakfast that he likes. He likes French Toast more than pancakes.
I don’t even want to talk about it.
Then we probably go to dinner. With some cool people. They are always Accountant-approved.
And there is always always ALWAYS a cake involved. The first birthday cake I made him came from a box and a can of frosting. The fourth birthday cake I made him is this one.
I hope he doesn’t expect the same rate of improvement/complication for the next four cakes…
Almond Praline Cake with Mascarpone Frosting and Chocolate Bark
Makes one 9 inch, three-layer cake
For the cake
1 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
21 oz almond paste, cut into one inch pieces
7 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 tsp almond extract
For the ganache filling
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
3 tbsp dark brown sugar, packed
10 oz bittersweet chocolate
For the frosting
12 oz mascarpone cheese
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the almond praline
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
For the chocolate bark
4 oz bittersweet chocolate
- For the ganache- Heat cream and sugar over medium heat until simmering and sugar is dissolve. Add in chocolate and whisk until smooth and glossy. Chill for 4-6 hours or until just spreadable. If it gets too solid, take it out of the fridge for a bit and stir it around. It’ll get there.
- For the cake- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter and flour your 9 inch cake pans. You can line them with parchment if you have it. I didn’t because it was a boy’s apartment. Whisk together your dry ingredients and set aside.
- Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in the almond paste, one piece at a time. This will take some time. Once all the paste has been added, mix until you don’t see big chunks of paste. Don’t worry about overbeating here. There’s no gluten involved yet, so you won’t get a tough cake.
- Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add extracts. Then fold in your dry ingredients until just combined.
- Divide batter among your pans and bake about 25 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans on a wire rack.
- For the praline- Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with tin foil.
- Combine sugar and water in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to boil. Then increase the heat and let boil without stirring until the mixture turns a deep amber color. You can swirl the pan every once in a while to distribute the heat if your burner has a hotspot or you’re uncomfortable letting something boil without stirring.
- Once the right color, add the almonds. Stir quickly and promptly move mixture to the prepared baking sheet. The sugar mixture will start to harden immediately after you turn the heat off, so move quickly here. Spread the mixture as much as you can. Then let cool.
- When it is completely cool, peel off the foil and coarsely chop the praline.
- For the chocolate bark- Prepare baking sheet again by lining with tin foil. Melt 4 oz of chocolate in a double boiler. Pour all but 1 oz chocolate in thick zigzags over the foil. Chocolate might pool in places. Don’t worry about it. Bark doesn’t have to be perfect. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of almond praline. Chill until hardened. Then break into pieces. Save remaining chocolate.
- For the frosting- Mix all ingredients in a bowl on medium speed until soft peaks form. Seriously, though, stop beating the frosting when you start to see this happen. There is very little time between perfectly whipped frosting and curdled frosting. Trust yourself. You did it right.
- To assemble the cake– Remove cakes from pans. Remove parchment paper if you used it. Place one cake layer on your serving platter and spread half of the chocolate ganache on top. Then, sprinkle 1/4 cup of almond praline over then ganache. Top with another cake layer and repeat. Top with final cake layer.
- Though this frosting is very spreadable, I still did a crumb layer. Lightly frost the sides and top of the cake and then chill for about 10 minutes. Then, frost the cake for real. I used almost all the frosting and it did not overwhelm the cake.
- Press praline into the bottom two inches of the cake. Sprinkle more over the top. Press edges of chocolate bark into the top of the cake. Remelt remaining chocolate and drizzle over the top.
- Serve and enjoy!! Leftovers should be chilled.
I really, really liked this frosting. It wasn’t too sweet. It was light. It was delicious. Mascarpone can be kinda hard to get your hands on. I found it at Trader Joe’s. Look for it with the ricotta and fresh mozzarella. And STOP WHIPPING the frosting when peaks start to form. Curdled frosting is sad frosting. Don’t have sad frosting.
Happy Leap Day! Bake with love!