Fave Human + Birthday = A Very Extra Cake

Alright alright I’m a few days late and SO delinquent on anything resembling regular posts here but….. better late than never.

Charles’ birthday was this week so you better believe there was CAKE! Birthdays are a great excuse to be very extra and bake a layer cake with six layers (yes. I did) – this is the Fave Human we are talking about, after all. He’s cute. He can stay.

Good news is, since I waited a few days to post, I can relay the comments – everyone who ate it thought it was delicious, so I can safely say this one is a winner. Almond cake, marionberry + blackberry and chocolate ganache filling, and vanilla buttercream. Nothing in here is overly complicated; they just are stellar when put together. This is also one of those that can be made in stages, which is such a boon for a busy week. I ended up making the filling over the weekend, the cake layers monday, and then frosting, ganache and assembly on wednesday, his actual birthday. Besides, freezing cake layers actually makes them easier to slice (at least I think) and helps flatten them out a little.

This is a pretty dense cake so a little goes a long way – this was a 7″ cake to feed 6 at dinner, plus about a fourth of it leftover – obviously, who doesn’t love leftover cake. With six layers it makes for a pretty tall slice. It’s sweeter than my average dessert but hey, birthdays only come around once a year. It IS whole grain, so there’s that. Can’t let my dessert morals slide completely….

As to why I haven’t really had anything resembling regular posts on here… I *have* been baking, but a) I keep making variations on the same galette and I don’t need to be spamming your feeds with endless galette variations and b) camp is literally IMMINENT and I have been eyeballs deep in director stuff since basically… May… so that plus a full time job = not so much free time for blog things. Promise I’m still baking on a regular basis even though it doesn’t always show up here! Headed up to camp on the 15th, and I can’t wait.

The summer fruit right now is outrageously good… my philosophy is to mess with it as little as possible so it can shine as much as possible; hence the endless riffs on berry-stone fruit galettes.

case in point.

Anyway. Next time you need a layer cake for an occasion – or no occasion, maybe just for fun – might I recommend this one? I promise it’s delicious :)

I hope everyone has a lovely holiday weekend – hugs from my kitchen to yours.

Almond Cake with Dark Berry Filling, Chocolate Ganache, and Vanilla Icing

Not too sweet almond cake sandwiched with a marionberry & blackberry filling, dark chocolate ganache, and a vanilla buttercream. A celebration cake at its finest. Yield: 1 7-9″ cake, depending on what pan you use; serves several. This recipe is written slightly differently than usual; less of a list and more akin to suggestions. Most components can be made ahead, making this a good one to make in stages.

For the cake:

I use this cake, as written with the exceptions as follows: reduce sugar to a scant 1c per batch (I used fair trade cane sugar here); sub whole wheat pastry flour (*not straight whole wheat, it’s not fine enough).

For a 7″, 6 layer cake (3 layers, halved), I made 1.5 batches. I tend to make them ahead of time, wrap well in plastic wrap (the ONLY time it is allowed in my kitchen) and freeze them, at least overnight. Thaw in the fridge overnight before using or at room temp. Typically I will top them for flat layers, like I did here, but you don’t technically have to (though if you do, you can eat the scraps and everyone knows that’s the best part).

For the marionberry & blackberry filling:

Honestly, just use jam! It’s delicious, easy and just about the perfect consistency. If you’re feeling fancy, you can make a berry curd, like this:

Take 2 cups, ish, of frozen berries (I used blackberries & marionberries), and toss them in a saucepan. Add 1 tbsp maple syrup, zest and juice of one lemon, and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5-6 min, mashing the berries slightly with a spoon, until most of them have burst. Remove from heat, and strain into a heatproof bowl, through a fine mesh strainer, pressing to release as much juice as possible. Discard the seeds, or use them creatively somewhere else (maybe a smoothie or something?) In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tbsp cornstarch + 2 tbsp water and set aside.

Return strained berry juice to the saucepan, and whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Turn the heat back up to medium and whisk constantly, until the fruit starts to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cook for 1-2 minutes more (you’ll see it visibly thicken), then remove from heat and let cool completely. Chill in the fridge before using. Can be made up to one week ahead; store in an airtight jar in the fridge and stir well before use.

I ended up using a combination of both jam and curd, just for fun and also for flavor. You do you! All jam is completely fine and much faster.

For the frosting:

1/2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c powdered sugar
2 tbsp plain yogurt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp whole milk

This is a very straightforward buttercream – using a hand (or stand) mixer, cream butter until light and fluffy. Add in powdered sugar a bit at a time, beating after each incorporation. Add yogurt, vanilla and whole milk and beat to combine. The frosting should be smooth and spreadable. Can be made ahead and refrigerated; beat before using to fluff it up. I do prefer to make this immediately before using just for ease, but it works just fine ahead of time too.

I like my cakes lightly frosted; if you’re making a cake that is going to be fully frosted with frosting also between the layers, make a double batch of what is listed here. This made exactly enough for me to use a thin layer between the cake layers + frost the whole thing naked cake style, but I only wanted a thin layer so that was exactly what I was after.

For the ganache:

Rough measurements – I used about 1c of dark chocolate + 1 tbsp coconut oil. Stir in a double boiler until melted, then use before it starts to set up again as it cools. Reheat as needed to bring it back to a drippier consistency if desired.

To assemble:

I wanted a 6 layer cake; to do that, I baked three 7″ layers, then topped them to flatten them out, and halved them. A serrated or just very sharp knife works well for this; just go slow.

Spread a thin circle of frosting on your cake stand or plate, just smaller than the cake itself. Plop down the first layer, followed by a layer of frosting, a layer of berry curd/jam, and a layer of ganache, then a layer of cake, then frosting, berry, ganache…. rinse, repeat. Once you have the final cake layer on, use an offset spatula to frost the rest. If you want a naked cake look, smooth it on but let the cake layers show like mine; otherwise, you can do a crumb coat, refrigerate, and then come back for the second frosting layer.

Top with ganache – you can have it drop down the sides, or not (I chose to not) – and fresh berries. Refrigerate before serving if it’ll be longer than a few hours and/or your kitchen is very warm; mine wasn’t so I left it out. It’ll do at room temp for a few hours but refrigerate any leftovers. Serve & enjoy!

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