17 February 2014

Eats: chocolate chip cake with nutella, strawberries, and cream

Guess what? It’s my birthday! We gonna party like it’s my birthday!

Yes, it’s been officially a year since I turned thirty, so I’m definitely rocking my fourth decade of life. Whoa!

Although today’s the big day, Mr. P and I celebrated valentirthday over the weekend with brunch, the symphony, and a not-so-giant metal chicken that I christened Mini-Beyoncé.

It was pretty fab.

Anyway, since it’s my birthday and the first post since our Valentine’s celebration, I think it’s only appropriate that we EAT CAKE. Admittedly, we didn’t do anything super-special on Valentine’s Day, partly because I’m not a giant fan of the holiday and also because Mr. P has been under the weather. So, I just decided to bake a big cake for Valentine’s Day that I could continue to eat throughout the valentirthday celebration, and used this recipe from PW as inspiration.

A fancy cake totally counts as a present to Mr. P, right? I’d say that my love language is food, but really it’s more like my love language is turning things into a big production... because my everything language is turning things into a big production.

Fortunately: we start simple, even simpler than PW’s recipe. Boxed cake mix, a cup of mini chocolate chips.

Because why just have a chocolate cake when we could have a chocolate chocolate-chip cake?

Note that if you make this, you really want mini chips over the regular kind, because the normal-sized chips are more likely to sink to the bottom of the cake. I mean, a big gooey mess of melted chocolate sounds good, but it’s bad for the structure of the cake. So go with mini!

But just to make extra-double-sure the chips won’t sink, take a tablespoon of the cake mix and toss the chips in it.

You can pull the same trick with flour in other baked goods. We’re just repurposing the cake mix here because adding extra flour might make the cake tough.

Then just make the cake mix as directed. I mean... you can handle a boxed cake mix, right? I never want to make anyone feel dumb for their kitchen shortcomings (remember, I am the person who dealt with a crisis by googling “fire in oven”) but I’m pretty confident you can follow the back of the cake mix box without a step-by-step from me. I believe in you!

Right before you spread the batter in the pans, stir in the chocolate chips by hand. Don’t over-mix... just get them sorta-evenly distributed in there.

And speaking of the pans, I went for parchment rounds this time. Last time I didn’t bother and it came out ok, but I thought I’d try it this time.

However, if anything, the parchment rounds made things slightly worse. Ultimately, the cake didn’t stick to the parchment any less than they stuck to the pan, and they puckered in the moisture. Rather than a flat cake bottom, it was like my toes when I stay in the bath too long. So you can totally skip the parchment, in my humble and probably ill-informed opinion!

Bake those cakes according to the directions on the box. Meanwhile, you can cut up the pint of strawberries!

Why yes, I did cut off the stems in such a way to make the strawberries heart-shaped. It’s my thing.

The strawberries get mixed with a quarter-cup of sugar and a splash of vanilla. (A “splash” is the new “some”.)

(Timeout, do you see those clumps of dried-out sugar? Boo to that! Yeah, I’ve got a fix coming up in a later post.)

While the strawberries meld with the sugar and vanilla, it’s time to make the whipped cream. A pint of cream and a quarter-cup of powdered sugar!

PW’s recipe called for a half-cup of powdered sugar, but this other recipe I read called for less. I prefer a more savory whipped cream (especially with so much other sugar going on), so I cut back.

Whip it up!

Now there’s just one more component to this cake that we’re missing: THIS STUFF.

PW reasoned it could be a reasonable substitute for making a ganache. I wholeheartedly agree!

And then finally, once the cakes are baked and strawberries are sliced and the cream is whipped and the nutella is NOT eaten with a spoon even though you totally want to: it’s time to assemble! We start by spreading a big spoonful of nutella onto one layer of cake.

I had a serious problem with this, which I realized – too late – was because my cake was cold. Yes, I pre-baked my cakes and refrigerated them until I was ready to assemble on the morning of the 14th. That’s totally do-able – BUT, be sure to bring them to room temperature, or at the very least, stick the nutella in the microwave for 15-30 seconds before you try to spread. Otherwise, it turns out like this, with tons of crumbs in the nutella:

I mean, it still tastes like cake, but it could be a lot prettier. Oh well!

Next is a layer of whipped cream:

Followed by strawberries (be sure to drain off the liquid, or use a slotted spoon to leave it behind):

I totes put all the ugly strawberry halves on top of the first layer so they’d end up hiding in the middle of the cake. Yes I did.

Then you just repeat the steps until you have a glorious confection befitting any romantic or age-related celebration!

Between the chocolate chips, homemade whipped cream, and berries, you’d never guess this started out as a cake mix. I’m sure a cake-from-scratch would be tasty in its own right, but this cake has so many delicious things going on that it’s really not worth your time... or mine.

Not to mention the presentation. It’s kind of hard to convey what a monster this cake is for having just two layers. So fancy!

Mr. P seemed to enjoy it as a special Valentine’s treat. I’m still enjoying it as a special birthday treat! And you can enjoy it because you just deserve a special treat sometimes!

Finally, this week’s meal plan at Casa P:

Sunday: Eating out, twice, ‘cause it’s valentirthday time!

Monday: miracle mac & cheese with smoked sausage and broccoli (because eating mac & cheese on my birthday is something of a childhood tradition)

Tuesday: chicken tacos with chips and salsa

Wednesday: leftovers

Thursday: spaghetti bolognese (bumped from last week) with salad

Friday: chicken & rice stew

Saturday: more leftovers

That’s it, dear readers! Keep baking, keep staying warm!


Tina said...

Happy birthday, Sweetheart!55
Let's let it be known that despite my stuffing birthday goodie bags with half-price Valentine chocolates (Mary Beth's aside, of course), the mac 'n' cheese was totally fulfilling the birthday girl's special request. Jus' say in'... ;-)

Mary Beth said...

Hope you are having the best day ever!! And the cake looks amazing ... except for all of that chocolate stuff ;)

Rachel C said...

Happy Birthday!

And yum, that cake looks amazing.

Tina said...

Silly silly... the "55" above was the first of the non-robot proof. A robot wouldn't make mistakes like that =P~~~