Wednesday, June 15, 2011


The question was innocent enough:  "Do you know where I can buy a birthday cake for Mickey?"  Whether it was a loaded question or not, Mickey's husband liked my answer:  "I'll be happy to make one."  Our friends, Mickey and Tom are very forgiving when it comes to food.  I know they remembered the cake I made for their son, Ian, when he had his birthday.  The chocolate cream filling didn't set right and turned runny.  They said they loved it.  And now I was offering to make another cake.  But I was sure I could redeem myself.  At least I wanted to try.

My only cake pans are 8".  They're the old ones with the low sides, and I only have two.  I eyeballed about 2/3 of the batter to fill the pans.  When they came out of the oven, I quickly washed and dried one and filled it with the remaining batter, which turned out to be more like half instead of one third.  Oh, well, I thought, I can put the big layer in the middle.  No one will know.  I know now it was an omen.

The evening before, I had made the custard for the frosting and refrigerated it.  It was smooth and creamy and looked great.  I softened the butter and beat it with sugar, then slowly added the chilled custard.  It looked wonderful, but maybe just a tad stiff.  Since I wanted this cake to be absolutely perfect, I decided to add some heavy cream to thin it a little.  Somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind, a thought tried to break through:  whip the cream first and then add it.  I pushed the thought down and slowly added some cream to the frosting.  And it kind of.....seized.  Just like chocolate.  It was no longer creamy and smooth.  It was now curdled looking and the solids were separating from the liquids.

My plan had been to fill and frost the entire cake with this wonderful stuff that was now looking not so wonderful.  Plan B was already being formed in the same brain that just pulled off the biggest goof in cake making:  use the curdled frosting for the filling and top; cover the top with raspberries and frost the sides with chocolate buttercream.  Everyone will look at the raspberries instead of the curdled frosting.  I hope.

Mickey noticed, but didn't say anything till I mentioned it.  Our friend, Mark, couldn't get enough of it, because the flavor really was great.  It was best eaten with eyes closed though.

My cake was crooked, the custard frosting was curdled, and the perfectionist was not perfect on this day.  Maybe the third time will be the charm?

Here's the recipe, in case you want to give it a try:

Chocolate-Raspberry Cake with Two Frostings
Rating:  9 out of 10 

Custard Frosting and Filling:
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 cup low-fat milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 beaten large egg
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 tsp. raspberry extract
1 Tbsp. raspberry liqueur (nips available at ABC store)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, very soft
1 cup confectioner's sugar

In 1-1/2 quart saucepan, whisk cornstarch, milk, cream, sugar, egg and flavorings till smooth.  Cook over medium heat till thick, stirring frequently with whisk.  Remove from heat and place pot in tray of ice water.  Whisk till cool.  (At this point, custard can be refrigerated overnight, if desired.)

Beat butter and confectioner's sugar together with electric mixer; add cooled custard and beat till smooth and creamy.  (If you need to add more cream, be sure to whip it separately first before adding.) Refrigerate frosting for about 1/2 hour to help it spread better.  This  is enough to fill and frost a three-layer cake.  

Chocolate Cake:
1 Duncan Hines Butter Recipe Fudge cake mix, or your favorite chocolate cake recipe

Make as package directs, substituting coffee in place of water.  Make three layers.

Chocolate Frosting:
2 oz. (2 squares) Baker's unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 to 3-1/4 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
1/3 cup milk or heavy cream
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine, very soft
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. coffee essence (equal parts coffee and coffee liqueur)
1/4 tsp. sea salt

In small heat-proof bowl, melt chocolate pieces over simmering water till melted.  (Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water so that the lip of the bowl covers the lip of the pot.  It is important to keep steam or liquid away from melted chocolate, or it will seize.)  Cool slightly.

In medium  bowl, beat 3 cups sugar, milk, butter, vanilla, coffee essence and salt till smooth.  Slowly add cooled chocolate and continue beating till smooth and creamy.  Add up to 1/4 cup additional sugar, if needed, to make frosting of spreading consistency.

Other Ingredients
About 2/3 cup seedless raspberry jam or fruit spread
2 Tbsp. raspberry liqueur
2 half-pint containers fresh raspberries

Heat raspberry jam with liqueur over medium-low heat for a few minutes, till jam thins and smooths out.  Stir with spoon. Cool slightly.  Rinse raspberries and place, hollow side down, on several thicknesses of paper towels.  Top with additional paper towels.  Allow to dry.

Assemble the cake:  Place first layer on serving plate with pieces of waxed paper a few inches under, so that the paper pulls out easily when you are done frosting the cake.  This makes for easy cleanup and a neater bottom.  Spread about 3-1/2 Tbsp. jam over top of first layer, leaving about 1/2" to 1" open around the outside edges.  Top with some of the custard frosting also leaving 1/2" to 1" open..  Repeat with two more layers.  Frost sides of cake with chocolate buttercream frosting.  Place dried raspberries over top of custard frosting.  Pipe additional chocolate frosting decoratively around edges.


  1. Cakes and pastries really can make you cry. The lesson here--don't make changes unless you really know what you're doing. I actually include warnings sometimes, like don't add any liquid to the chocolate or it may suddenly turn stone-like. But even then, sometimes, peeps still go off the track. But you weren't entering a beauty contest & the eaters were happy--so all is well, right!?

  2. Yes, Nancy, all is well, but I disappointed myself. And I learned that it doesn't have to be chocolate to seize.

  3. I'm sure all eyes were on the raspberries Judy. I know mine were. Anything chocolate is always a crowd pleaser. You're a great neighbor to make the birthday boy a cake.

    Sure glad they didn't ask me. I'm not a baker and have never in my life made a birthday cake, but shhh, don't tell.....

  4. I think the cake looks amazing, and I bet your friend loved it.

  5. Wow, this looks BEAUTIFUL and delicious! Have a lovely weekend!

  6. You are a woman after my own heart, smiles. This cake sounds sooooo good. I am thinking I may have to try this for an August birthday that is fast approaching.


  7. Sounds like a challenge, but it turned out quite lovely. Plus there was double frosting in the end which is a total win for me. ;)


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