Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake

Chocolate covered cherry cake

I’ve told the story in the past of how, when we were 23, David came into the ice cream parlor where I worked and ordered chocolate and cherry ice cream. Since that time, the poor fellow has been fed some combination of chocolate and cherries for every single birthday, valentine’s day, anniversary, back-to-school-night, groundhog day… Yesterday was no exception. But as I was thinking about it, maybe it’s sort of a metaphor for marriage. (Hold tight, folks, and fasten your seat belts, it’s an extended metaphor!!) You’ve got your basic ingredients. You know you love them, more than any other flavor ever, and part of the reason that you love them so much is because they work so well together. And the ways that they can be combined is endless and as surprising as you make it. Because each individual flavor is distinctive and variable – bitter, sweet, soft, melting, warm, cool – and when they come together to form a whole, it’s their contrasts as much as their similarities that make them so pleasing. I owe David so much, over all the years since we were 23; he’s made me more happy, more human and more sane. He’s taught me so much about art and music. He has such a beautiful and unique way of looking at the world – really looking – he sees shapes and colors and patterns and beautiful things that I would pass by obliviously. I feel so lucky to have him with me to puzzle through life. And year after year my way to thank him for all this is a combination of flavors that are good on their own, but work wonderfully together.

This cake, for his birthday yesterday, was supposed to call to mind a chocolate covered, rum-soaked cherry. It has layers of rum-cherry-chocolate chip cake interspersed with layers of cherry preserves and rummy chocolate mousse. And the whole thing is topped with bittersweet chocolate ganache. For some reason, although the cake batter was pinkish (because it had cherry jam in it) it took on a greenish tint upon being baked. Possibly because I have aluminum pans? It was a comical surprise that we took in stride, and carried on valiantly eating large pieces of cake.

Here’s a 23-year-old Johnny Cash singing I Walk the Line. I wonder what kind of ice cream he liked?

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Apricot almond cake w/ apricot-cassis cream

Apricot almond cake

I love the idea of a cake with apricot glaze – I always have. It’s strangely associated with some childhood notion of sophistication in edible form. Strange, because I can’t remember the actual moment that I ate an elegant cake with an apricot glaze. I can remember plenty of battenburg cakes, wrapped in plastic like the block of modeling clay that they resembled. They had a layer of apricot glaze under their oddly chewy marzipan layer. I loved them! But I’m sure I never thought of them as elegant. The truth is, whether sophisticated or not, a layer of apricot makes sense in a cake! It adds a pleasant fruity tartness that offsets the sweetness of whatever else happens to be in the cake. This cake happens to have almonds – a classic match with apricots – and bittersweet chocolate, which adds its own version of bitter-with-sweet, to complement the apricots.

Inexplicably, I became semi-obsessed with making apricot-cassis cream. I thought about a million different things to make, but I kept returning to this. So I turned to my new BFF, the pastry cream, and I added a purĂ©e made of apricots and cassis, and then folded in a little lightly whipped cream. I thought it was very nice with the cake – I don’t think I’ve ever had pastry cream or any of its subsidiaries alongside a cake before, but I thought it was a lovely combination of textures. You could easily eat the apricot cream on its own as a mousse, with some crispy cookies!

I just can’t not share this! It’s a song called Apricot, by the Armenian Navy Band, and it has my Malcolm dancing around the room in his pjs.
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Nutella cake

Nutella cake

I was shelving some books in the boys’ room (their preferred method of storing books is heaping them in a giant pile on the floor, as if in preparation for a bonfire) when I came across a book from my childhood. My Learn to Ride Book. It was from the period in my life that I saved up every penny to buy myself a horse. Looking at the pictures – clean line drawings and simple colors, I recalled vividly what a keen pleasure the book had been for me. I can’t really explain why that would be. There was something so hopeful about it, maybe…the book goes from choosing a horse to jumping over giant hurdles on your horse in about twenty pages. It makes it all seem possible. I never did buy that horse.

Somebody asked me to bake a cake! For an occasion! I felt so honored. I decided to make a nutella cake – everybody likes nutella, right? So I added dark cocoa and ground hazelnuts to the batter, I put a thick layer of nutella in the middle, and I coated the whole thing with bittersweet ganache, just for kicks. While I was making it, I thought about a picture from My Learn to Ride Book. The picture shows the kind of horse you should avoid at all costs. The poor thing has so many problems, one of which is a sway back. Well…my cake didn’t get all puffy and round on top. It wasn’t meant to, I tell you! It was meant to have a dense but tender, cakey-brownie-like texture, with little crunchy hazelnut accents. It was all carefully calculated! But the people at the event might not know that! They might think my cake looked like an undesirable old horse! Sigh. I made myself a tiny version of the cake to be sure that it was edible, and let me tell you, people, it was delicious!! Firm on the outside, light and soft on the inside, with lovely lovely hazelnut taste and crunch. You really can’t go wrong with nutella!

This might seem like sort of an odd connection, but here’s Big Boi’s The Rooster. It was the PTA that asked me to bake the cake, and he talks about going to a PTA meeting on this track, which just kills me, somehow. I love this song!
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