Thom’s birthday was on Monday. I made him a cake because that’s what you do when people you love have birthdays, but unfortunately the actual celebration was a lot less exciting than such a cake would indicate, due to the fact that he had a bit of research and writing to do. Having known about his workload weeks prior, I decided to step up my gift game this year and wound up getting him a record player (thanks for the recommendation and pairing’s box, Kasey + Matt) and a vintage receiver because he’d been talking about getting a turntable system since we first met, seven years ago. At the 11th hour I also decided to throw in a pair of those fancy noise canceling headphones because it was the one thing he said he wanted if I was going to buy him a gift this year. HA! If I was going to buy him a gift. Since I had already made the investment in a new music system (and didn’t really feel like dealing with the return process), I figured we’d find a way to squeeze the headphones into our budget the way we found a way to squeeze in all those overpriced lunches in Iceland.
Side note: Somehow we both forgot how insanely expensive everything is in that country.
After he finished his work, we wasted no time cutting into the triple-layered beauty that’s pictured above. I surprised him with unwrapped presents (in my defense, the headphones arrived while we were eating the cake and I couldn’t find wrapping paper big enough to wrap the turntable) and then we walked half a mile down sketchy ass Colfax to fill our bellies with chips and salsa and tacos. He had a margarita, I drank half of it, and then we wandered to the local record shop to acquire some vinyl for his new gift. He walked out with an MF Doom LP and All Hail West Texas by the Mountain Goats. And I snagged the Garden State soundtrack and a Sigur Rós album even though it wasn’t my birthday and I had no business buying anything. He tried to say it was the best birthday yet, but then I reminded him about that birthday I got him a ticket to El Clásico. He retracted that statement but maintained that it was still a damn good birthday. So, mission accomplished.
In other non-birthday related news, vanilla extract sold out considerably faster than I had anticipated. I sat there looking at my inventory page, with a furrowed brow, thinking there was some sort of glitch in the system that was saying I was sold out when I wasn’t. BUT I WAS! So thanks for that. For those of you who missed out, I’m sorry and hopeful that you’ll have better luck next time. The good news is you still have over 12 hours to enter the giveaway on Facebook (psssst, it closes at 8PM MST) so I’ll cross my fingers for ya.
And for those of you who have been asking, there’s a big Iceland post in the works. Until then, I hope you’re staying warm and cozy. Keep your eyes peeled for all the festive deliciousness happening over on eHow.
Notes: If you want to give your cake layers a bit more lift, decrease the baking soda to 1/2 teaspoon. I upped it to 3/4 teaspoons because I didn’t want to deal with leveling the layers (which I typically do, but prefer not to with naked cakes). If you don’t have cake flour, you can make your own by replacing 2 tablespoons of flour with 2 tablespoons of corn starch, for each cup of flour. Just make sure you sift it twice. If you don’t have coconut milk (or if you get cans that turn out to be duds), use this frosting recipe from Thom’s birthday cake I made last year. I decided not to go the shortening route because shortening tends to make a nasty mess (and I didn’t want to deal with it), but if you do I strongly recommend using a variety that sources 100% sustainable palm oil. Environmental degradation is not worth the temporary satisfaction that comes from eating chocolate frosted cake. AMIRIGHT? ;)
ALMOND CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE-COCONUT FROSTING
2 cups unbleached cake flour (see notes above)
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup refined coconut oil, melted (not hot)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
1 1/3 cups almond buttermilk
2 cans full fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
1/4 cup cacao powder
6 ounces good quality dark chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line the bottom of three round 6″ cake pans with parchment paper and spray with oil; set aside. In a small mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil, sugar, and both of the extracts. Alternate between adding the buttermilk and flour mixture to the sugar mixture; add one third of the buttermilk, followed by half of the flour and repeat process ending on the buttermilk. Whisk batter just until combined (but don’t whisk too much or else you’ll overwork the gluten). Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake at 350˚F for 28-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for about 15 minutes then invert onto a wire rack.
While the cakes are cooling, prepare the frosting. Start by removing the cans of coconut milk from the fridge, opening them, and scooping the creamy white layer off the top and into a large mixing bowl. If your cans didn’t form the thick layer, you’ll have to scrap the coconut milk frosting and go the traditional frosting route I linked above, instead (some cans of coconut milk are duds, which is why I keep 10-12 cans in my fridge at a time). Discard the water or save for later use in smoothies, if desired. Beat the coconut milk fat on high speed with a hand mixer, just until smooth, then sift in the cacao powder and mix until combined. Pour in the melted chocolate and two tablespoons of maple syrup; beat just until smooth but do not over mix. If your frosting is too thick (it depends on the temperature of your house), add an additional tablespoon or two of maple syrup.
Once the layers have cooled, line a cake stand (or plate) with a few pieces of parchment paper that overlap at the ends. It isn’t absolutely necessary since we’re not frosting the entire cake, but I tend to fling frosting everywhere and prefer to cover the cake stand/plate. Place one of the cake layers in the middle of the prepared cake stand. Spread 1/3 of the frosting onto the top of the cake, then sandwich and repeat process with remaining layers. Top cake with sliced almonds and flaked coconut, if desired. Refrigerate the cake for 45 minutes, until the frosting is firm. Our house is pretty warm in the winter so the frosting will get super soft if the cake gets left out on the counter. I like to store the cake in the fridge, wrapped in plastic, then remove it an hour before consuming. Cake will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to four days.
Yield: 8-10 slices