Wow, it's been over 3 weeks since my birthday, and I'm just getting you the recipe now. It's been a crazy two months - lots of orders, exams to grade, finals to write. But Friday was my last class until February, so I should be here a lot more often in the coming months. I have been baking this whole time, and I have all sorts of things just waiting to post!
For the past four years, I've made a peanut butter cake with chocolate ganache and cream cheese frosting for my birthday, but I decided to change it up this year. This year, I made a raspberry ice cream cake (coming soon) and an almond cake with chocolate praline ganache filling and brown butter moscato d'asti frosting. It went over really well. I couldn't taste the wine in the frosting as much as I would have liked, so I'll try to remedy that next time, but otherwise I think I'll leave it as is for next time.
Almond Cake (adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum): makes 3 9" layers
1 1/3 cups sour cream, separated
2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/3 cups cake flour, sifted
2/3 cups finely ground almonds, toasted and preferably unblanched
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 sticks butter (12 ounces), room temperature
Preheat oven to 350F. Spray 3 9" round cake pans with baking spray, line with parchment paper, and spray again.
In a medium bowl, stir together the eggs, 1/3 cup of the sour cream, and the extracts. Set aside. Don't worry, it won't be smooth or pretty.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all the dry ingredients - mix for 30 seconds. Add the butter and the remaining 1 cup of sour cream, and mix on low until combined. Mix on medium for 2 minutes to aerate batter. Add the egg and sour cream mixture in 3 additions, beating 20 seconds after each addition.
Split the batter between the cake pans, and smooth with a rubber spatula. Bake for 30-40 minutes until a toothpick just comes out clean.
Let the cakes cook in their pans for about 10 minutes, then turn on to cooling rack. Cool completely, then wrap in plastic wrap and chill until ready to frost.
Chocolate Praline Ganache Filling
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup praline
Place the chocolate in a bowl; it doesn't have to be chopped finely, but you don't want any pieces that are much bigger than a blueberry. Bring the cream to a boil, and pour over the chocolate. Stir in the praline if desired, and chill.
The ganache should be fairly thick before you spread it on the cake, you don't want it to squish out the sides when you place the cake layers over it. A couple of hours in the fridge should be sufficient. If it's too thick to spread when you remove from the fridge, just microwave on half power for 10 seconds or so and stir.
Brown Butter & Moscato d'Asti Frosting (enough to frost and decorate (but not fill) a 9" 3-layer cake)
3 sticks butter, browned
1 1/2 pounds powdered sugar
6-8 tablespoons heavy cream
6-8 tablespoons Frangelico (or water or your choice of liqueur)
Pinch of Kosher salt (optional)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Brown the butter, pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, and set aside to cool. Wait for it to cool completely.
Pour the cooled brown butter into mixer bowl (paddle attachment). Add about 1/3 of the powdered sugar, and beat. Add the caramel syrup, and continue beating. Add half the remaining powdered sugar, and beat. Add the 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of heavy cream, and beat until smooth. Add more cream if you'd like the frosting to be softer, and more powdered sugar if you'd like it to be stiffer. Add salt if desired.
Dye the frosting if desired. Refrigerate until ready to use. Re-whip the frosting right before use. If it's been in the refrigerator long (say over night), you might need to let it sit for an hour or two before it's ready to whip and frost).
Place one cake layer on a cake board, and slide scraps of parchment paper between the cake and the board. Top with half the chocolate ganache. Top with another cake layer and the remaining ganache. Chill before frosting if the ganache is not thick enough to set yet.
Frost the top and sides of the cake. When you've covered the whole cake, run your offset spatula under hot water for 30 seconds, and quickly dry it. Run the spatula around the top and sides of the cake to smooth out the frosting (hold the spatula still very lightly against the cake at an angle, and rotate the cake on a revolving cake stand if you have one). Remove the parchment paper, and decorate the rest of the cake as desired (borders, flowers, etc).
What a difference flowers make!