living a well tended life... at any age

celebrate, good times

Last weekend was one for celebrations. On Friday afternoon Mike came home from an almost 2-week business trip (yay!!!). Noah really missed him, and would every so often stop what he was doing to look up at him and just smile and stare,  as if to say, “You’re really back!”. So cute.

On Saturday I attended a “milestone” birthday celebration for a very dear friend.  It was so lovely to look around the table and see women from all of her many walks of life, gathered together to pay tribute to this special lady. For dessert, I made my flourless chocolate roll cake – a little nontraditional, but it serves a crowd and is SO good.

And on Sunday we had a birthday dinner for my dad. As I do for everyone in my family, I take dinner requests for birthdays. Pretty much anything goes, though most times I’m asked to make the same thing year after year.

My dad is probably the easiest person to cook for – he gushes, cleans his plate and always asks for seconds. Basically a chef’s dream. He typically requests either lasagna or short ribs, but this year he surprised me and asked for veal chops. I panicked briefly because I’ve never made them before (which is odd because I LOVE them). But I quickly decided to get the best cut of meat (easy to do at my wonderful local butcher), and keep it simple. I dusted the chops with a little flour, salt and pepper and pan-seared them in some olive oil. I then arranged the chops on a baking sheet and finished them in an oven set to high heat. I learned this technique at a class I took at my local catering shop and it’s a great way to cook proteins – you get a nicely browned crust on the stove top, and finish it off in the oven so that it cooks through without drying out.

I topped the chops with a salad of baby arugula, grape tomatoes and red onion, and served them with tiny roasted potatoes. Delicious.

Dessert was easy. My dad has this cake every year, and you’ll see why – it’s truly a celebration on a plate. Moist, delicious chocolate cake, chopped Heath bar filling (!!!) and whipped ganache frosting.

There’s a little more fussing than usual with this cake but you can execute most of the components in advance, and the whole thing can be assembled and kept chilled for up to two days. You’ll just have to keep your troops at bay (NOT easy, I assure you!).

How are birthdays marked in your family? A special meal, either at home or out? Or maybe it’s a  tradition that’s reserved just for that day? Please share with me!

(New to baking? Read my post on baking tips and tricks to get you started.)

chocolate crunch layer cake

chocolate crunch layer cake

chocolate crunch layer cake

chocolate crunch layer cake

Chocolate Crunch Layer Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting
adapted from Epicurious

Cake
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
½ c. hot water
1 ¾ c.  (175 g.) cake flour
1 t. baking soda
½ t. salt
½ c. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¾ c. (350 g.) sugar
3 large eggs
1 t. vanilla
2/3 c. whole milk
(4) 1.4 oz. Heath bars, cut into ¼” dice

Frosting
1 ¼ c. heavy cream
¼ c. light corn syrup
¼ c. unsalted butter
1 lb. milk chocolate chips

Garnish
(1) 7 oz. milk chocolate bar

Bake cake:
Pre-heat oven to 350; prepare (2) 9” cake pans (read here on how to prepare a cake pan).

Combine chocolate and hot water in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat until melted and smooth. Cool to lukewarm, stirring often.

Whisk flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl.

Beat butter and sugar in your mixer till light and fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then vanilla extract. Beat in chocolate mixture. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with milk in 2 additions, beating just to blend after each addition.

Divide batter equally between pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 5 minutes, then remove from pans to cool completely.

Make frosting:
While cakes are baking, clean your mixer bowl.

Combine cream, corn syrup and butter in a large saucepan. Whisk over medium heat until mixture begins to simmer. Add chocolate chips. Reduce heat to low and whisk until frosting is smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer to your clean mixer bowl, set over another large bowl filled with ice. Whisk until frosting is cool and begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.

Using your electric mixer, beat frosting for 5 minutes.

Assemble cake:
Place 1 cake layer on a cake stand, plate or cutting board. Spread about 1 ½ cups of frosting on top; sprinkle with diced Heath bars. Place the second cake layer on top; press down slightly to adhere.

Spread a thin layer of frosting on top and sides of cake – this is called the “crumb coat”, and it seals in the crumbs. Place the cake in the fridge for 1-2 hours to set. Remove cake from fridge and spread the remaining frosting on the top and sides.

Make “curls” with the chocolate bar by running a vegetable peeler down the length of the bar.

Pile the curls/shavings on the tops and/or sides of the cake (I usually concentrate on the parts of the cake that need the most “concealment”).

Chill the cake for 2 hours, or up to 2 days. Let it sit at room temperature for about an hour before serving.

(print this recipe)


This delicious recipe brought to you by Sheri Silver
http://sherisilver.com/2012/05/02/celebrate-good-times/

Note – I suck at making chocolate curls. Always have. I manage to eke out a few legit curls, while the rest wind up more like chocolate “shavings”:

chocolate crunch layer cake

It makes no difference to the look or taste of the finished cake. Promise. That said, if you have any suggestions on how to make perfect chocolate curls, please share them here!!

12 Comments

  1. Meri on May 2, 2012 at 7:26 am

    That looks really really really good. You know, my birthday is on Monday 🙂

    • sheri silver on May 2, 2012 at 12:57 pm

      We are way overdue for a celebration, my dear…………xoxo

  2. Sandra on May 2, 2012 at 8:08 am

    Nice job on the icing! Crumb coat’ll do it every time.

    May is a big month for birthdays and celebrating – mine, the man’s, our wedding anniversary – all within a week. And visiting my parents who are celebrating a joint milestone birthday – they both turn 80. Funnily enough, I woke up super early today thinking, “I need to make a plan, I need to make a plan!”.

    We don’t have Heath bars here in Canada but I think a Skor bar is similar and will do the trick. This looks great!

    • sheri silver on May 2, 2012 at 12:57 pm

      Thank you! And you are correct, Skor is the same thing – let me know if you make this! 🙂

  3. Amy Zerman on May 2, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Ah Sheri, you made this fan so happy!! Not only did you include a link to the cake I had the pleasure of breaking my diet for this weekend … we we discussing just how good it was on the train AGAIN this morning, but also an other recipe using my favorite candy bar. Anything with Health Bars in it has my name written all over it. Yet, again, you’ve brightened my day…. dreamin’ of baking.

    Amy

    • sheri silver on May 2, 2012 at 12:56 pm

      Aw thanks Amy – I hope the cake was worth the “break”! I’m Heath fan too – this is a keeper! xo

  4. ML@My3LittleBirds on May 2, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Yum! And so pretty Sheri! I pinned it : )

    • sheri silver on May 2, 2012 at 9:01 pm

      You’re the best – thank you! xo

  5. Hotly Spiced on May 2, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    I think that’s so wonderful that you go to so much trouble to give the members of your family a special birthday meal. Those veal chops would have been so delicious served with that salad. And I love your cake – it looks fabulous to me, very rich and dark. We don’t have Heath bars in Australia so I’d love to know what’s in them xx

    • sheri silver on May 2, 2012 at 9:01 pm

      Thanks so much! Do you have Skor bars? They’re chocolate covered toffee bars………..xo

  6. Lisa on May 2, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Sheri, you would be such a successful chef! What an exquisite torte! Looking at your creations always makes me so hungry! And I loved reading about Noah’s reaction to his dad’s return home – so very sweet!

    • sheri silver on May 2, 2012 at 10:04 pm

      Thank you so much! Your comments mean the world to me, really! 🙂

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