Birthday Cake: Anise and Pineapple (and Crème Fraîche and Maple and Walnuts Too)


birthday cake

This is overdue, but who cares?  Cake is cake.

I made a birthday cake late last year, for my lovely sous-chef, editor, and boyfriend.  (One of those roles came before the other two, not vice versa.  I’m not that kind of girl.)

I demand inspiration each year for this cake.  You may remember last year’s version, or the one before.  And lest we forget, the first year I handed him the challenge, his reply was for a cake that “most people wouldn’t want to even try, based solely on the description”.

This year, the request was for something anise.  Or pineapple.  Whichever.

Of course, I had to do both.  What’s life about without a good challenge now and again?

Anise Spice Cake with Crème Fraîche Frosting, Pineapple Jam, and Maple Walnuts

In the end, I gave him an Anise Spice Cake with Pineapple Jam, Crème Fraîche Frosting, and Maple Coated Walnuts.  And if I’m brutally honest (I am), I wish I had been more bold with the anise, and used a heavier hand with the pineapple.  Neither flavor came through particularly strong, though the cake was a very good one overall.

It’s not too rich.  The crème fraîche puts the frosting firmly on the tangy side of sweet, without being too sour.  The cake is very moist, and the pineapple jam helps it stay that way over time.  The crunch from the maple walnuts is just delightful.

Also, be sure to let the cake chill thoroughly before slicing it.  Take it from one who knows.

Anise Spice Cake with Crème Fraîche Frosting, Pineapple Jam, and Maple Walnuts
chill that cake or this’ll happen to you

Anise Spice Cake with Crème Fraîche Frosting, Pineapple Jam, and Maple Walnuts

Yield: 1 gorgeous cake

Anise Spice Cake with Crème Fraîche Frosting, Pineapple Jam, and Maple Walnuts

The jam is adapted from this recipe. The cake and frosting are adapted from this recipe. I baked this in a half sheet pan, though round cake pans will work just as well. They will bake more quickly, though.

Measurements are given in grams, because I take great pleasure in precision baking. I honestly don't understand how anyone bakes without using a scale. The frosting, on the other hand, can handle a lot of variance, so the measurements are a little looser. Wing that one. Have fun.

Ingredients

    For the Pineapple Jam:
  • 1 medium pineapple, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 d'Anjou pears, chopped very finely (or peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces)
  • 210 grams (7 1/2 ounces, or 1 cup) sugar
  • Zest and juice from from 2-3 lemons (enough to make about 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice)
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • For the Maple Coated Walnuts:
  • 125 grams (about 1 cup) walnuts
  • 100 grams (about 1/3 cup) maple syrup
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • For the Anise Spice Cake:
  • 300 grams (2 1/2 cups) all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground aniseed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground Chinese five-spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 50 grams (1/3 cup) finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 170 grams (3/4 cup, or 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus a little extra for coating the cake pans
  • 200 grams (1 cup) dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
  • 170 grams (3/4 cup) hot water (not boiling)
  • 190 grams (2/3 cup) maple syrup
  • For the Crème Fraîche Frosting:
  • 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatine (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons cold water (optional)
  • 2 cups crème fraîche
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 6 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon rum

Instructions

To make the Pineapple Jam:

1. Chop the pineapple and pear, and combine in a medium pan with the sugar and lemon juice.

2. Simmer over medium-low heat until fruit is tender, about 10 minutes.

3. Reduce heat to low. Stirring occasionally, simmer an additional 30 to 60 minutes, or until thick. Do not let scorch. Jam will continue to thicken as it cools. Can be made several days in advance.

To make the Maple Coated Walnuts:

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.

2. Toast walnuts on a sheet pan for 7 to 10 minutes, or until fragrant but not overly browned. Let cool. Lay out a piece of aluminum foil on a heat-proof surface.

3. Place nuts in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Drizzle maple syrup over walnuts, and stir to coat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook until syrup is thick and dark, about 3 minutes.

4. Turn nuts out onto the foil, and sprinkle with a large pinch of Kosher salt. Let cool at least 1 hour.

5. Chop coated nuts finely, either by hand or by pulsing in a food processor. Can be made several days in advance.

To make the Cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet (13x18x1 inch) with cool or room-temperature butter, then dust with flour. Knock any excess flour out of the pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.

2. Whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda, salt, and ginger. Set aside.

3. Combine the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, cream together on medium speed until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes, scraping the bowl once or twice to combine thoroughly.

4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating on low to combine after each addition, scraping the bowl as needed.

5. Stir the hot water and maple syrup together. Add the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture in the stand mixer in 4 separate additions, alternating with 3 separate additions of the maple syrup and water. Beat on low speed to combine after each addition, scraping the bowl as needed to incorporate evenly. Do not overmix; just beat until no large pockets of flour are left.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top evenly. Bake at 350° F for 30 to 40 minutes, or until done. Let cake cool in pan.

To make the Frosting:

1. Sprinkle the gelatine evenly over the surface of the cold water in a small, microwave-safe bowl. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes, or until evenly moistened and bloomed. This step, though optional, will help maintain the integrity of your frosting and keep it from weeping over time.

2. Microwave the bowl of gelatine for about 30 seconds, or until dissolved.

3. Combine the crème fraîche and cream in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high while gradually adding the powdered sugar. Do not beat past soft peaks.

4. Drizzle in the gelatine, maple syrup, and rum while whisking at low speed. You may need to whisk or fold these in by hand. If the cream starts to look a little lumpy and over-whipped, whisk in some additional heavy cream to smooth it out.

To assemble the cake (see photos below):

1. Using a serrated knife, cut the edges of the cake off (just like cutting the crust off a sandwich). Cut the cake into four equal-sized pieces.

2. Spread one piece with a thin layer of the Pineapple Jam, and place on desired cake plate or serving platter. Slide four strips of wax paper under each side of the cake to protect the platter from over-frosting.

3. Spread a dollop of frosting evenly over the top of the Pineapple Jam layer.

4. Repeat the layering process, spreading a cake layer with jam before stacking it onto the cake and spreading frosting over the top of the jam. Do not spread jam onto the last cake layer; just stack it on top of the other layers.

5. Place a very large dollop of frosting on the top of the cake. Smooth it across the top and down the sides of the cake in a thin, even layer. Do not worry about crumbs at this point, just make it look even. This is called a "crumb coat". Use additional frosting as needed, but make this coat a thin one.

6. Once the crumb coat is finished, chill the cake and any unused frosting for at least 1 hour.

7. When the crumb coat is firm and well chilled, repeat the frosting procedure with the remaining frosting. No crumbs should be showing.

8. Press the chopped Maple Coated Walnuts into the sides of the cake.

9. Chill the cake at least 1 hour, or until frosting is firm and well chilled. Now remove the wax paper from under the cake.

10. Serve with candles and merriment and friends to sing "Happy Birthday". A spot of Champagne or Bourbon is not unwelcome here.

http://www.onehundredeggs.com/birthday-cake-anise-and-pineapple-and-creme-fraiche-and-maple-and-walnuts-too/

Step by step photos for cake frosting:

cake cake cake
perfectly smooth cake
cut cut cut
cut into four equal pieces
jam jam jam
thin layer of jam
dollop
small dollop between layers
squish squish squish
the stack
so much frosting
lots of frosting on top for the crumb coat
second coat of frosting.  this cake would fail in culinary school, please don’t show this to my former teachers.
cake!
finished!  masking the sides with nuts fixes all ills.

The Birthday Cake

In case anyone was wondering – and you were all wondering, right? – this is the birthday cake I made for my boyfriend this year.

It’s a tradition that I ask him every year what kind of cake he wants, and in return he gives me not a flavor, but a fairly broad category that I can have fun with.  These have included “fruit”, “cookie”, and “something that most people wouldn’t even want to try based solely on the description”.  Good times.

This year, the challenge was “super spice cake”.  So I made a super-gingery ginger cake with spiced poached pears, and lemon ice cream for a clean counterpoint.

Recipes for the ginger cake and poached pears are both from David Lebovitz‘s Ready For Dessert, one of the smartest cookbook investments I’ve ever made.  Every. Single. Recipe. is flawless, and turns out exactly as described.

The ginger cake (recipe can be found here) has so much ginger in it, you’ll think it’s a typo.  But have faith, because you’ll be rewarded with an incredibly moist cake that’s bursting at the seams with fresh, clean, super ginger flavor.  Did I mention moist?  This cake, cut and covered loosely with plastic wrap at room temperature, did not dry out even a little bit.  Not even the cut edges.  Not even after a week or more.  Absolument incroyable.

The pears, lightly spiced, were a delightful addition, and in any other setting would be stars in their own right.  But here they were clearly in a supporting role.  A similar recipe to the one I used can be found here, on Mr. Lebovitz’s blog.

But the lemon ice cream… oh!, the lemon ice cream.  The recipe (which you can find here) is from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, by Jeni Britton Bauer.  And people, if you have an ice cream maker, and you don’t have this book, you’re cheating yourself.  It’s not just a gorgeous book to look at, the recipes are inventive and result in textbook-perfect texture for your homemade ice creams, sorbets, and ices.  Listen to this woman, she knows exactly what she’s doing with ice cream.  I might not ever use anyone else’s ice cream recipes.

This lemon ice cream strikes the elusive ideal balance between tart, sweet, and creamy.  Even better, the headnote of the recipe said she developed it to pair with an intense and dark ginger cake.  I was practically forced to make it.  The result couldn’t have been better.  I’m intending to use up part of the remaining ice cream in ginger cookie ice cream sandwiches, it went together so well.

Again, recipes:
Ginger Cake
Poached Pears
Lemon Ice Cream

happy birthday indeed