15 December 2008

Double the Pleasure

It's that time of the year again when my brother and I celebrate our birthday. Three years apart, same day, what does that mean? Two times the food!

So I went to open the container of pastry flour, and much to my dismay I saw millions of little bugs. Obviously, I haven't been baking much with pastry flour. The only way to salvage the situation was to scoop off the top layer, bugs included, and use the flour underneath.

KIDDING. It was all tossed.

On the menu was a peanut butter-banana cake with chocolate frosting for my brother, and I wanted to create the cake from the previously mentioned (many times) Pooh book. The layers were pink and the frosting was chocolate, and I found a recipe for a real strawberry layer cake with a strawberry purée, no white cake mix, and a minimum of strawberry gelatin on Cookie Madness. The recipe for strawberry layer cake came from Domino Sugar.

Caution: There may be stems in with the strawberries

So pretty! I'm not really one for wearing much pink, but there's no doubt that pink really makes you happy. Never before have I actually smiled as I watched cake batter come together, but the pink swirls looked pretty!

The only change I made to the recipe was decreasing the sugar from 3 cups to 2 cups. I thought about decreasing it to 1 3/4 cups, and it most likely would have worked because the strawberry puree was sweetened, but I wondered if it wouldn't make the strawberry flavor as pronounced. Thanks to the Daring Bakers and their comments on past challenges, they've successfully decreased the sugar in recipes without it negatively affecting the outcome, and remembering that I was able to do the same.

What I also thought was interesting was that the recipe called for both butter and oil, and I don't know why that is. If I'm thinking correctly, I remember reading something about oil was used in recipes where a density was wanted, as in carrot cakes, but this cake wasn't meant to be dense (and it wasn't) so I don't get it. Enlighten me if you know, please!

Here's all five of the cake rounds for both of the cakes.

For my cake, I layered and frosted the outside with a regular chocolate buttercream made with melted semisweet chocolate, but it wasn't as dark as I would have liked. Probably an addition of cocoa powder might have helped. After that set, I poured ganache over the top to give it a really smooth, dark contrast from the pink dots I piped the next day.

Yes, I made my own cake; I considered it a gift to myself and, most importantly, I wanted to make it. I know I'm not the only one who's like that.

My mom made a peanut butter-banana frosting/filling for the layer and a bit on the outside, and a chocolate fudge frosting was used for the outside.

I've realized that for many of the past cakes I've made, I've forgotten to slip strips of wax paper underneath the layers so that when I finish frosting, I pull the strips out and the cake stand remains clean.

Birthday Dinner

When my mom was at the store a few days ago, she saw a container of arborio rice that was discounted and asked me if she wanted risotto for my portion of the dinner. She had blanched chunks of butternut squash and put them in the freezer and I remembered a recipe for butternut squash risotto from Everyday Food that I made a long time ago, and that became my dinner.

No-knead bread dipped in miso vinaigrette. Both were amazing, and the miso vinaigrette is my new favorite, which I'll blog about later this week.

I'm very sad that Pellegrino no longer uses glass bottles. As odd as this may sound, that was one of the reasons I liked buying it.

The risotto. A slight sweetness from the butternut squash mixed well with the small amount of parmesan cheese, and the subtle hint of lemon zest, while not really noticeable itself, made the finished dish seem lighter. The rice was firm, yet tender, and the contrast of the 'sauce' and the rise blended together wonderfully. Risotto is amazing stuff.

For the next course we had coconut-crusted tilapia. It was good, but the sweetness from the coconut was kind of different (my mom and I think it needed unsweetened coconut), and it probably needed a spice or herb to 'temper' it. All I added was white pepper (mom added the kosher salt) to the coconut-bread crumb mixture before Mom coated the pieces.

Tilapia is a great fish to cook with because it's firm, holds its shape, and the flavor of the fish itself won't clash with the flavorings you use. We use it often in our family in soups, like above, and things of that nature.

My brother requested pasta, so my dad made a peppers and sausage sauce and it was served with portobello-cheese stuffed ravioli-like pasta.

This was quite a bit of food and I was pretty stuffed. But not stuffed enough that I couldn't eat two slices of cake!

My brother's cake, with chocolate-cherry ganache ice cream.

My cake, with cafe latte ice cream (it wasn't as good as the chocolate ganache ice cream).

That's what we had for our birthday. And guess what? There's LOTS OF CAKE LEFT!


  1. i love that you guys celebrate with such fabulous eats!! looks great :)

  2. THOSE CAKES!!!!! Best celebration eats ever.

  3. Happy birthday to both of you indeed, the cakes look awesome and I'd love a bowl of the risotto (extra cheese please).

  4. Belated Happy Birthday to both of you, and what an amazing spread. And OMG, what woderful cakes:-)!

  5. Oh yea - now this is such a reason to celebrate...I love the two times the food concept - lol. That's something I'd totally do - lol.

  6. Happy birthday! looks like an amazing spread, the cakes looks great!

  7. happy birthday! the cakes are ADORABLE and so is the food!

  8. TTFN - That's one of the best part about celebrations, other than the people =)

    VeggieGirl - I have since eaten 1-2 slices of cake each night.

    Peter - I want more risotto, too.

    Just Me - That's what I thought!!!

    Shreya - Thanks!

    Darius - Now imagine if there were three of us who had the same birthday... OMGooses!

    Sam - Thank you!

    Pearl - Yup, everything was awesome =)

  9. The cakes are gorgeous!! YUM! Pumpkin risotto looks awesome, too.

  10. Jeeze for my B-day this year I had a bag of hard pretzels and a diet soda.

    Strawberry layer cake! Heck the entire dinner looked fantastic especially the tilapia. R_c you're no joke, why don't you have your own T.V. show yet?


Thanks for taking the time to comment. Your thoughts are appreciated! ^,^


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