and this one, also by Mr. Life of the Party himself, John M. Barry:
I, on the other hand, I brought along this classic, which I had been meaning to get to for a few years:
and the latest by our law school friend Emily,who had the good sense to quit practicing law and become a New York Times bestselling author instead:
And it goes without saying that you'll never see these toes of mine setting foot on sand without a copy of this:
Yes, I do sometimes feel frivolous sitting on the beach chair next to David, and he does kick my butt in Trivial Pursuit. But particularly since having kids, I really can't handle overly heavy subjects in books or on film, which eliminates most of the world's great literature and the vast majority of nonfiction, at least for the time being. I fell asleep on the sofa in self-defense fifteen minutes into "No Country for Old Men" -- Mr. Creepy Assassin was just too much for me. I just can't read about or watch suffering of any kind without thinking "UGH! That is somebody's CHILD!!!" Really, the worst kind of pain I could handle these days is the pain of somebody who just got reamed out by Anna Wintour for taking too long to come back with the lattes. Especially when I'm recreating. David obviously does not have these hangups (but just for the record, he really is a fun and wickedly funny guy, even though he reads about public health pandemics at the beach.)
Well, just as we agree on "books" but have wildly divergent opinions on "which books" to bring to the beach, my hubs and I agree that "cake" is an essential part of any birthday celebration, but we part ways when it comes to choosing "which cake." Because for my perfect birthday cake, I now need to look no further that the famous Cover Cake itself,
this week's TWD selection, Devil's Food White Out Cake, chosen by Stephanie of Confessions of a City Eater. To me it is everything a birthday cake should be -- dramatic, decadent, delicious, and d'chocolate. But poor David will have to make do with some other, lesser cake, because he gave up chocolate of his own volition back when he was 16, just to see if he could do it. And boy, could he ever!! The man has not had a bite of chocolate in over twenty years, just 'cuz. I wish that this kind of willpower could be bottled and sold, that's for sure. I can't even seem to give up chocolate for a day. Well, we'll just have to find some other cake for David, but for the chocolate eaters among us, this is a veritable dream cake.
As I looked over our
The cake itself came together easily.
Requisite batter shot:
And the cakes:
I was a lot afraid to slice these in half horizontally -- they weren't particularly thick, after all -- but I didn't have any trouble. I was relieved to know going in that one of the four half cakes was going to get crumbled up anyway. That somehow removed approximately 1/4th of the pressure of this undertaking.
Time to make the filling & frosting! This requires heating up some sugar, water and cream of tartar in a saucepan, and then mixing it with some beaten egg whites once it reaches the magic temperature of 242 degrees. I dug into the depths of my spice rack and finally found cream of tartar:
August 2003: my first baby had just turned one, Lil' Kim and Matchbox Twenty were jockeying for the top spot in the Billboard Top 40 countdown, and my cream of tartar expired. Funny how you just don't burn through this stuff until you start baking every week. I sprung for new cream of tartar -- just didn't want to take any chances with the cover cake.
Requisite shot of my candy thermometer sitting in boiling liquid and not budging:
I was worried about this part from the beginning, because boiling sugar is just never easy around here. Personal injury, property damage and/or emotional distress are just part and parcel of the sugar boiling process for me. Dorie does not provide an estimate of how long it should take the boiling liquid to reach 242 degrees, so while I didn't know what to expect, I started to feel like this was not working about 30 minutes into the process when my thermometer was still stuck on 180 degrees. My mind started drifting (close your eyes if you are easily offended) to the store-bought white frosting that I would have to use to put this cake together. But there wasn't really any harm being done in standing there watching the pan boil, so I waited a little longer. And I was shocked when all of a sudden the little thermometer started to creep up! I started beating the egg whites, and when the sugar mixture reached 242 degrees, I added it to them. It worked perfectly! The frosting was delicate, but sturdy enough to hold up to layering, and it tasted great. I can't believe I made it (and can't help but feel like it's a total crapshoot as to whether I'd be able to do it again).
Here is the cake, layered up, before getting doused with crumbles:
Here is the cake after getting doused with the crumbles:
Here is our little birthday friend checking out her cake.
See those cookies she's reaching for? I had taken some of Dorie's Grandma's All-Occasion Sugar Cookie dough out of the freezer so the girls would have a cookie-decorating activity. Unfortunately, they were definitely more into the cookies than the cake. That's just how things tend to go around here.
Here is the cake cut in half. Not the cleanest cut in the world, sorry:
I sent half of the cake over to David's brother's house. My SIL called me later to tell me that the cake was delicious, and couldn't have come at a better time -- my 11 year old niece had broken her toe just weeks before a big dance event, and my 7 year old niece was feeling sad because the hamster that Santa Claus brought her for Christmas had just lost a brave battle with an upper respiratory infection. I am glad that my cake was able to spread some cheer. (UPDATE: toe is much better and replacement hamster has been acquired.)
This is a really fabulous chocolate cake. This would become my go-to chocolate cake recipe in a heartbeat, but I have to admit that the filling part was pretty stressful. I kind of feel like it was just dumb luck that it actually worked for me the first time around -- between getting the sugar/water to the right temperature, and trying to time the eggs so that they are whipped enough, but not too much, when the liquid reaches temperature, it seemed like this was just fraught with danger at every turn. I wouldn't want to be making this an hour before anyone's party, that's for sure. That said, I enjoyed this cake enough that I will most definitely attempt it again, but not without having an easier frosting in mind as Plan B in case this crazy marshmallow stuff doesn't work.
Stephanie, thank you for finally choosing the cover cake for us! It was so much fun to make, and completely lived up to its hype!