Well folks, it's been busy here as we tackle endless to-do lists to prepare for our move back to the U.S. next month. The fact that my laptop has recently decided not get along with its power cord has also made computer/blog time especially hard to come by. But, as last Sunday was the hubby's birthday, I couldn't miss sharing with you our favorite yummy from the week's festivities.
Yes, that's right, the WEEK's festivities. In our house, we don't just celebrate the birthday itself, but we give the man/woman of honor a whole Birthday Week to lavish them with birthday warm and fuzzies. Each day from one week prior to the big day, we give the birthday honoree a birthday 'treat.' Sometimes it's edible, sometimes it's not, but it's always something sweet ;-)
Our favorite (edible) sweet treat from Nathan's birthday week turned out not to be his birthday cake, which sadly was a ho-hum recipe. But the Birthday Parfait I threw together absolutely rocked, and as Donkey proclaimed in Shrek: "Everybody loves parfait!" Truer words may never have been spoken...
Happy Birthday, Nathan! <3
This parfait was just a hodge podge of recipes that I thought would work nicely together: Ina Garten's Beatty's Chocolate Cake (hands down the moistest chocolate cake I've ever made, it stays fresh for days and is my current fave), America's Test Kitchen's Pastry Cream, and my own bittersweet chocolate ganache. I casually threw everything together in informal layers since we were eating this in our pajamas, but if you plan to serve at a party, you may want to take some care to make distinct layers with each of the components. If you do, piping the pastry cream from a pastry bag instead of spooning it in may make your life easier, especially if you're making individual portions as it can be hard to keep the sides of smaller glasses smudge free when you're trying to spoon and spread pastry cream in a fairly small area. If you want a lighter, airier pastry cream filling, just fold in some whipped cream into the chilled pastry cream. And if you can spare the extra calories, make a little extra whipped cream to put on top of the finished parfait to take it all the way home.
Beatty's Chocolate Cake
1 3/4 all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar*
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup hot coffee
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two round cake pans and line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
2. Sift dry ingredients into a medium size bowl and mix on low speed until combined.
3. In another bowl (I just use the measuring cup the buttermilk is already in), combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.
4. With mixer on low speed, slowly add wet ingredients to the dry.
5. Keeping mixer on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
6. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 35-40 min. Cool in pans for 30 min, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
(Adapated from America's Test Kitchen; recipe can be found at www.americastestkitchen.com)
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar, divided into 6 tbsp and 2 tbsp portions*
1/4 vanilla bean, seeds removed
5 egg yolks
3 tbsp corn starch
4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
* I prefer to use 1/4 to 1/3 cup of sugar, depending on the sweetness of other components
1. Bring half-and-half, 6 tbsp sugar, vanilla bean and seeds, and salt to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks, cornstarch, and remaining 2 tbsp sugar until smooth.
3. Whisk 1 cup of simmering half and half mixture into the egg yolks to temper.
4. Slowly whisk tempered egg yolks back into the simmering half-and-half mixture and reduce heat to medium and cook, whisking constantly, until pastry cream has thickened and begins to bubble, about 30 seconds.
5. Take pan off heat and remove vanilla bean. Whisk in butter.
6. Transfer pastry cream to a bowl and press parchment paper directly onto the surface. Chill for 3 hours.
Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 oz bittersweet chocolate
1. Chop chocolate into small pieces, roughly the size of chocolate chips or chunks you'd use in cookies. Place into a bowl.
2. Heat cream over medium-low heat until it begins to simmer.
3. Remove cream from heat and add to chocolate in bowl; let stand 1 min, then whisk until chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.