Birthday cakes are, in my eyes, one of the most important baked goods in the world. They are the ultimate tribute to a loved one and therefore must reflect their tastes as well as your own and that of their friends and family. These variables are compounded by amount of layers, icing flavors, decorative finishes like sprinkles, flourless or gluten-free… the options are dauntingly limitless.
And yet, birthday cakes are fun to bake. Tailor-making a sweet for your sweet someone is an exercise in love.
So, when my cousin’s 15th birthday came around, I was thrilled to make her a birthday cake. I was 7 when my cousin C was born and 12 when they moved to British Columbia from Toronto. I watched her grow up from a Buddha baby (a charming nickname, I know) into a cherub faced child and now, into an angsty, make-up wearing teenager. It’s a marvelous thing to watch someone you love grow up, particularly when you have had a hand in molding them into the lovely being they have become.
I held C in my arms when she was just one month old and when she fell asleep, her baby perfumed scent sweeter than honey, I knew that I had fallen in love for life. She brings me joy every day and not just in a passive, merely-because-she exists way. No, this girl texts me, draws beautiful pictures for me and tells me, day in and day out, that I am the most beautiful person she has ever met inside and out.
So, I set about to make a cake that was beautiful inside and out, a symbol of our familial love and the true beauty of my little cousin (she’s 15 so she finds it extremely hard to look at herself in a positive life, do you remember those days?).
A black and white chocolate birthday cake seemed like the perfect idea. Cousin C is pale, blonde and blue eyed, the exact opposite of my ethnically vague, dark looks (a difference that she often bemoans) but we both share the same obsessive love with chocolate in any variation. This cake takes chocolate to the next level. The four tier cake is filled with two layers of Nutella cream cheese icing and one layer of white chocolate goat cheese ganache while the exterior is iced with salted dark chocolate mascarpone. The cake itself is chocolate and studded with mini chocolate chips. Before you think is death by chocolate, the difference in flavors and the light texture of the cake keep it from being a heavy, soggy mess. Instead, it is a rich, beautiful and balanced cake (that perfectly represents my cousin).
- 1 cup butter, at room temperature
- 2½ cups granulated sugar
- 4 eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ⅔ cup cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoonq cinnamon
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1½ teaspoons baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2⅔ cups all-purpose unbleached flour
- 1 cup canned coconut milk
- ⅔ mini chocolate chips
- 1 cup Nutella, at room temperature
- 1 cup powered sugar
- 16 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon coconut milk
- ½ cup white chocolate chips
- 3 oz goat cheese
- 2 tablespoons coconut milk
- 21 oz dark chocolate
- 1 cup mascarpone cheese
- 2 tablespoons coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- In a large mixing bowl with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on high for two minutes or until light and fluffy. Then incorporate the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated before adding the vanilla.
- In a seperate bowl, sift together the cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour. Add to the wet mixture ⅓ at a time before mixing in the coconut milk. Once the batter is smooth fold in the chocolate chips. Divide evenly into four cake tins (I used 10") prepared with butter and parchment paper. Bake for 15-20 minutes, checking with a tooth pick to see if they are cooked through.
- Meanwhile, prepare the nutella cream cheese icing by mixing the ingredients in a clean mixing bowl using the stand mixer or by hand with a whisk (be sure to stir vigorously to incorporate all ingredients).
- Set a saucepan filled half way with water on the stove over medium low heat and set a small heatproof bowl on top. Melt the white chocolate in the bowl. Take off heat and stir in coconut milk before quickly incorporating the goat cheese. Place in the refrigerator for at least ten minutes before using to allow it to set.
- In a clean heatproof bowl over the same simmering water in the saucepan, melt the dark chocolate. Remove from heat to fold in the coconut milk and sea salt. Vigorously incorporate the mascarpone cheese to the mixture using a whisk, hand beaters or an electric mixer.
- To assemble the cake, set the cooled layers in a row and ice two tiers with the Nutella cream cheese icing and a third with the white chocolate goat cheese ganache. Sandwich the white icing layer between the two Nutella ones and place the fourth unfrosted tier on the very top. Smooth the salted dark chocolate mascarpone over the entire cake.
- Decorate as you please or as I did with alternating circles of dark and white chocolate chips.