I don’t think this was what Marie Antoinette had in mind when she suggested that they (the French peasants) eat cake, nom nom. Actually, the original quote is probably misattributed and apart from that, it’s supposed to say: “Let them eat brioche.” Oh, and did you know that there is a House episode titled “Let Them Eat Cake?”
I have a favorite birthday cake. I love love love it – well, if I didn’t love it, it wouldn’t be my birthday cake. The cake? It’s a Mocha Cake. It’s actually my Gran’s specialty. She used when my Mom was a little girl. Well, the cake was distributed among the entire family including the bunch of cousins, and everybody got a teeny sliver. A teeny sliver that everyone savored. And it was a treat – there were no mixers, no KitchenAid so all the mixing and beating of the dough was done by hand. I’ve beat whipping cream by hand, which already was a lot of work so I can’t imagine how much work that was. And since they didn’t have an oven, they had to take the cake to a bakery to have it baked there.
Gran doesn’t really work off recipes. Neither her cooking nor her baking is full of precise direction. Her Indian food recipes are something like “when the oil begins to pearl but not too quickly” or “when it smells right” or “depending on the meat.” Yeah, not so helpful. You need to really have a lot of experience for those directions to make sense. And my Indian cooking is nowhere on her level that I have had enough practice making those dishes. Whenever I cook something in that direction I end up being disappointed because it’s just not up to her or my Mom’s standards. Which means that I don’t get the practice in to get more cooking experience. I also don’t like going out for Indian food since it’s never as good as Mom’s. A catch-22.
Anyway, Gran has always fudged her proportions, which is pretty contrary to baking since it so based on chemistry – change the balance and you might end up with a cake mess. In fact, the last time I made a Mocha cake with her, she basically asked me dump 1 lb of butter in the bowl, plus a bunch of sugar – just based on her sense of proportion. And a bunch of eggs – I’m not sure how many since it’s a been a long time since we baked together, but it was at least 8 eggs. The mixing bowl was already full with that mix, so we separated the mass, and then she added flour and nuts and coffee according to her judgement. We ended up with 3 and a half cake ‘loaves’ – our neighbors and friends loved us. In fact, one of our friends always hopes that there’s some leftover mocha cake when she stops by for a meal.
The cake is basically a modified sponge cake, with less sugar than normal (so many cake recipes call for too much sugar). Apart from the usual suspects, it als consists of ground nuts, either almonds or hazelnuts, and mocha. The mocha is very concentrated coffee – instant coffee dissolved in very little water. I guess you could also use a very very strong espresso. Once the cake is in the oven you make your frosting. It’s a mix of butter, powdered sugar, more concentrated mocha and ground nuts, whatever you used in the cake. Once the frosting is done you stick in the fridge to keep it cool.
Then it’s time for the best part of the cake – apart from eating the cake of course. The completely cooled cake is carefully cut in half . If you’re ambitious, you can cut the cake into 3 layers rather than two. Just make sure you whip up some extra frosting. Now you’ll frost the bottom layer of the cake before adding the top layer. If your frosting is too, well, buttery and warm, stick it in the fridge til the frosting is cool and spreadable, not too solidified. Then you’ll frost the remainder of the cake. At the end, when you’re done you’ll add walnut pieces, preferable walnut halves as a decorative element. Stick the cake in the fridge to solidify the cake. Make sure to also store the cake in the freezer.
And then, then it’s time to eat! The end pieces are the ones everyone battles for, but the rest is just as tasty. Plus you savor every single bite since it’s made only once a year.
But – I think I want a Star Wars kind of cake too. I mean, how creative. And the geek in me would have so much fun. And can you imagine Star Wars cupcakes? You know, headshots as cupcake decorations? I think I need to tinker around with that. I probably will need to make the cake covering out of fondant, or if I really want to be decadent, I could also make them out of marzipan. Mmmm, marzipan.
I’ll also take a Star Wars party – the geek in me would have so much fun, plus it’s so much more practical than a Stormtrooper outfit, or Darth Maul or Leia slave costume. Tasty cake vs uncomfortable costume, hmmm, which one would win… Although, it is pretty awesome to see the costumes that people create. Plus there are apparently many Star Wars themed weddings – not my cup of tea, but I’m sure it’s a great wedding party. (Click on the images for more pictures from the different parties).