Last week was Paul's birthday.
Coincidentally, last week I was also not feeling well.
Paul has been shafted in the birthday department multiple times. Although he certainly does not view it that way, I feel very guilty that three out of the four birthdays we have celebrated together as a married couple, I have been out of commission all together. And he really is such a great guy and very sweet to me all year round...I believe no one is more deserving of a great birthday than my Paul.
Year One: We had just suffered our first miscarriage and we both were in pretty bad shape emotionally. We celebrated, but the overall tone was quiet and somber.
Year Two: I was in labor all day long with Mr. Matthew (that's my son, not my boyfriend on the side). We headed into the hospital that evening and he was born the next morning. We did a cake and all that but it really does take something out of it when the wife has to pause during the singing of "The Birthday Song" because she is having a pretty intense contraction. Again, Paul did not care and was actually hoping that Matthew would be born on his birthday, but I felt guilty.
Year Three: I made an awesome steak dinner and a delicious Chocolate-Raspberry cake. Finally. A normal birthday celebration.
This Year: Once again, I was physically recovering from the loss of another child to miscarriage. We had a minor celebration, but I did not have the energy to make Paul a cake.
Today, I am going to remedy the situation.
Paul does not know it, but I am going to have a special dinner of Pork Tinga Tostadas (one of his favorite dishes), homemade refried beans, guacamole, and chips.
And then we are going to have a proper birthday cake, complete with trick candles.
For the cake, I decided to attempt a cake that Paul and I shared while on a date in Helena, MT. We split a dessert that came from one of the local bakeries. It was a delicious chocolate cake infused with Earl Grey tea and filled with a delicious, silky Earl Grey chocolate mousse. The whole thing was then glazed with a dark chocolate ganache.
I am not a fan of Earl Grey tea, but the slight essence of the tea leaves in both the mousse and the cake really did elevate to an ethereal level. We tried that cake almost two years ago, and Paul still talks about it on a regular basis. Recreating that cake would be a wonderful treat for him.
For the cake layers, I settled on using my go-to devil's food recipe from King Arthur Flour. The layers are moist, light and sturdy enough to support a rich layer of mousse. To infuse it with Earl Grey tea, I simply would combine the 1 cup of boiling water required by the recipe with 6 tea bags, letting it steep for approximately 5 minutes before removing the bags, bringing the tea back to a boil, and then using it as directed.
For the chocolate mousse, I picked a recipe from Cooks illustrated. Again, I infused the water necessary in the recipe with a couple bags of Earl Grey, let the tea cool to room temperature, and then proceeded with the recipe as written.
I really ran out of time when it came to assembling the cake. I made the cake layers and had them chilling in the freezer so they would be easier to slice into layers and then went out to run a couple of errands. While at Walgreens picking up some photos, I locked my keys inside the car. I have a history of doing this in the past. When Matthew was 6 months old, I locked my keys AND my baby in the car on a hot, sweltering, 100-degree summer day.
Worst. Mother. Ever.
Anyway, I stupidly imprisoned my keys again and immediately called in the troops to rescue me. Paul came over from GE to unlock the car with the spare...only to realize that the spare we had that we thought was to my Camry actually belonged to the other car. Then we made the call to Geico for a little roadside assistance and, after waiting about an hour for the guy to show up, we were finally able to finish our errands and make it home. The whole ordeal set us back about two hours. So, I had to RUSH to assemble the cake. I wanted it to be a surprise for Paul and he was literally 10 minutes from the house when I tried to slice the layers, spread with the mousse, and then decorate with ganache. As a result, I did a truly pitiful job. I spread about 2/3 of the mousse on one layer, leaving a pathetically meager amount for the second layer. And my decorating job with the ganache was simply sad.
The husband, however, did not seem to care. He wanted to devour it.
So did Matthew. He was downright forceful about the whole matter!
As far as the flavor, Paul thought the cake was spot on from what he could remember. That made my day. Next time I make this, though, I will try to put a little more care and precision into the assembly and decorating.
And this weekend, Paul and I are going to a locksmith to make a copy of our car key.
Earl Grey Chocolate Mousse Cake
For the cake layers:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups white sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup boiling water
6 Earl Grey tea bags
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Grease and flour two 8" round by 2" deep cake pans. Sift together or whisk the dry ingredients through a strainer into a large mixing bowl.
Combine the boiling water and the tea bags. Let stand five minutes, then remove the bags and return the water to a boil.
Combine the oil, buttermilk, boiling water and vanilla in a medium bowl or large measuring cup. Add to the dry ingredients and mix well. Scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl, then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Mix on medium speed for another 2 minutes or until smooth.
Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for about 50 minutes, or until the cakes spring back when lightly touched or a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.
Let cool completely on a wire rack, then turn out of pans and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Place in the freezer for at least 1 hour before assembling the cake.
For the Mousse:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
6 tablespoons water, infused with 1 bag of Earl Grey tea for 5 minutes
2 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon sugar, divided
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream, plus 2 tablespoons
Melt chocolate, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and earl grey-infused water in medium heatproof bowl set over saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water, stirring frequently until smooth. Remove from heat.
Whisk egg yolks, 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, and salt in medium bowl until mixture lightens in color and thickens slightly, about 30 seconds. Pour melted chocolate into egg mixture and whisk until combined. Let cool until just warmer than room temperature, 3 to 5 minutes.
In bowl of mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium-low speed until frothy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, increase mixer speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, about 1 minute. Detach whisk and bowl from mixer and whisk last few strokes by hand, making sure to scrape any unbeaten whites from bottom of bowl. Using whisk, stir about one-quarter of beaten egg whites into chocolate mixture to lighten it; gently fold in remaining egg whites with rubber spatula until a few white streaks remain.
In now-empty bowl, whip heavy cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, about 15 seconds more. Using rubber spatula, fold whipped cream into mousse until no white streaks remain.
For the Ganache:
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
Heat the heavy cream in the microwave until boiling (watch carefully!). Immediately pour it over the chopped chocolate and let stand for about 30 seconds before carefully whisking until smooth and glossy. Let stand at room temperature until cooled before pouring over the cake.
To Assemble the Cake:
Remove chilled cake layers and slice each layer evenly in half with a serrated knife. Place one layer on a cardboard round set on a wire rack placed in a baking sheet. Carefully spread 1/2 of the mousse evenly over the layer. Top with another cake layer and once again smooth with the remaining mousse. At this point, you may make a ring out of a strip of aluminum foil to wrap around the cake in order to keep the mousse contained within the cake layers. Top with a third cake layer and return the cake to the fridge to set for at least 1 hour before topping with the ganache (Please do not rush it like I did - the cake will turn out much more beautiful if you are patient!).
Once chilled, pour a generous portion of the ganache over the top of the cake and allow it to run down the sides. Use an offset spatula to smooth it over the tops and sides. Decorate with any remaining ganache. If you chill the leftover ganache for about 30 minutes, its texture will change to resemble the soft, silky insides of a truffle and you will be able to pipe it into pretty shapes all over the cake.
Return the assembled cake to the fridge to chill for at least 1-2 more hours before serving.