Di turned 71, or 72, and his birthday was in January or is in 5 days. Confused? Join the party. The discrepancy depends on whether you follow the Western or the Chinese calendar. Di was born on the 13th day of the (Chinese) New Year, but when my illiterate Ma-Ma registered the birth at the Department for Home Affairs, this was duly noted as 13th January. To compound the confusion, in Chinese years, a baby is 1 year old when born, – rounding up the gestation term, as you are deemed to have started aging from conception. Brutal, but you can’t refute the logic. So, Happy (Belated) 71th (or 72th) Birthday Di!
I searched the cookbooks and internet sites for a cake that’s rich and indulgent, elegant enough for a birthday cake so doesn’t need frosting or much decorating, and would appeal to both adults and young. When I saw this article by Dan Lepard in The Guardian, I knew this would work. This has a layer of thick chocolate mousse sitting on top a light chocolate sponge cake. Di likes chocolate, but isn’t a fan of sugary treats, so this bittersweet concoction is perfect.
This has to be made the evening before or at least 6 hours before you want to eat, as it needs to set in the fridge. My hack is baking the sponge cake, and adding the custard mousse into the same cake tin, so you skip a few steps. This makes a large cake, enough for 12. Serve with raspberries on the side; the sweet tartness of raspberries complement the rich chocolate wonderfully. Buy the berries fresh if you can get them, but frozen is delicious as well. I also served up raspberry cordial from Kapiti Kitchen mixed with iced soda water. Fabulous!
Ingredients for chocolate sponge cake:
3 medium eggs, separated
60g caster sugar
½ tsp honey
45g plain white flour
15g cocoa powder
Line the bottom of a 22-cm springform cake tin with baking paper. Preheat oven to 180°C.
Beat egg yolks with half the caster sugar and honey until light and creamy. Whisk the egg whites. Gradually add in rest of caster sugar, and continue to whisk until soft peaks form.
Add the egg yolk mixture to the egg whites. Fold in partly. Sift the flour and cocoa powder into the mixture, and continue to fold with a gentle hand until incorporated.
Pour into the pan and bake for 12-15 minutes until cooked. Cool at room temperature for 15 minutes, and then put into fridge. While cake is cooling, make the chocolate custard mousse.
Ingredients for chocolate custard mousse:
4 medium eggs, separated
200g caster sugar
25g cocoa powder
175g unsalted butter, softened
350g dark chocolate, chopped (I like Whittaker’s Dark Ghana)
25ml brandy, plus extra for the sponge (optional)
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
Put egg yolks into a medium saucepan with cocoa powder, cream and half the caster sugar. Whisk over medium heat until mixture has thickened, around 3 minutes. Take off heat. Add the butter and dark chocolate, and whisk through until mixture is homogenous and glossy. Add in vanilla extract, and brandy, if used. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Heat the egg whites with the rest of the caster sugar over low heat (be careful as you can easily cook them!) until sugar is mostly dissolved. Cool slightly, then whisk until soft peaks.
Scoop the egg white meringue into the chocolate mixture, and fold through until evenly mixed. Pour over the sponge cake and return to the fridge to set for at least 6 hours.
To turn out the cake, warm a paring knife in water, then slowly separate the cake from the side of the pan. Ease the cake out, and if you need to smooth out the sides, use a warmed palette knife.
To serve, decorate with raspberries and ensure a supply to serve on the side.
All the kiddies decided to draw pictures of the cake and the birthday party afterwards, and Zach left his behind as a present. Yup, that’s me and a happy Sam with a large bone outside his kennel. Thanks Zach!