Azita turned two yesterday. I have a lot to say about that, and I will in a later post. Today, however, my focus has been on birthday cake. Last year I bought a birthday cake from the famed, thanks to Oprah, Cake Love. It was a great birthday cake. Beautiful and delicious. But it missed the thing all birthday cakes, at least those for a loved one, should have — love. This is especially true when the birthday girl is the daughter of someone who fancies herself an above-average baker.
Alas, I don’t have much time to bake anymore, but this year I vowed to plan ahead and make amends. My plan was to make a ladybug cake. Azita loves ladybugs. Who doesn’t, actually? They are cute and pretty and a universally likable member of the Insecta class.
Now if I was going to make something super cute and fancy, I would have used fondant. The problem with fondant, however, is thatÂ I’ve never worked with it. And motherhood has imparted on me the wisdom to know my limits. I didn’t have time to practice with fondant, so I stuck with things I have worked with quite a bit — ganache and sanding sugar.
The cake was chocolate. I used this recipe from Bon Appetit. For a filling, I stuck with raspberry. I love raspberry and chocolate together, and I wanted to brighten up the cake a little. To make the filling, I simply used a half pint of raspberries, a little bit of confectioners sugar, a few tablespoons of lemon juice, and a few tablespoons of raspberry jam. I cooked until bubbling and thickened, then mashed through a strainer to get out all the seeds. The result is an intense red, raspberry sauce that I spread on both layers of the cake.
Finally, I made a dark chocolate ganache. Ganache is one of those things that sounds really fancy and complicated, but it’s super easy to make. And let me tell you that if you are not a fan of frosting, it’s probably because you’ve never tried a ganache frosting. I, myself, am not a fan of buttercream, but this frosting is rich and sweet, but also slightly bitter. The bitterness is the necessary ingredient here as it downplays the cloying sweetness I so dislike in a frosted cake. If you’ve never made ganache before, try Martha Stewart’s recipe. You will be a convert.
Once the ganache was made, I put a few dollops on the bottom layer of the cake and spread it out over the raspberry puree. Then I put the top layer on and frosted the cake. Finally, I cut two pieces of parchment paper — one a long thin strip and the other a big rectangle. I placed them on the ganache to leave only two, partial semi-circles of frosting uncovered, and I went to town with some red sanding sugar. Two well-placed yellow M&Ms and 4 chocolate discs later, and I had myself a ladybug.
So, what do you think? I’m counting this one as a success. Happy Birthday my sweet, little Azita.