Cake. This simple yet magical combination of butter, sugar, eggs and liquid in it's most simplified form goes back centuries, has transcended cultures and is synonymous with celebration all around the world. Cakes can be big or small and as simple or as complex as your own imagination. I mean, you can't have a birthday, or a wedding without cake, or as Julia Child says... "a party without cake is really just a meeting."
In times where the ingredients such as sugar, nuts and spices were expensive, having a cake made for you was an immense honour. These days we experience birthday celebrations involving cake from age one and all throughout our lives, but the fundamental message has remained. I love making homemade birthday cakes for the special people in my life. It is a culinary offering of love, a way of showing someone that they are important and that you care about them. But the real joy is in the sharing and celebrating with your friends and family - it really is a lovely tradition.
It was my sister Beth's 21st birthday last week, and I wanted to make her a very special cake. After years of childhood bickering, I'm so happy that she is now one of my closest friends and business partner in a new venture that I'll tell you all about very soon. She is so funny, creative and a beautiful person inside and out. To say this cake was made with love would be the understatement of the century.
I put my own spin on a famous Momofuku Milk Bar recipe by Christina Tosi, keeping the chocolate chip cake and crumb elements but experimenting with the passionfruit curd and adding a vanilla bean cream cheese icing instead of the coffee buttercream. Is this sacrilegious? Perhaps...
I've long been a fan of the chocolate and passionfruit flavour combination (see here and here) so I knew that it would be good. But when my Dad, who has tasted many of the cakes I've ever made, says this is the best cake I've ever made, I think I made the right call. He has also requested this exact same cake for his own birthday next month. Hey, if it's good enough for David Chang...
The cake has a lot of liquid and fat in it, and the book was fairly specific about how the batter must be homogeneous at each stage to end up with a lovely moist cake. I split the cake mixture into four equal parts and baked my cake layers separately as I knew I wanted the 'naked' cake look of visible fillings and un-frosted sides, again another small deviation from the 'Milk Bar' way, but I think it's one of the best looking cakes I've ever made and I couldn't stop taking photos of it.
I was thrilled with how each component came out separately, and together the result was phenomenal. The passionfruit curd was sweet but tangy, which balanced out the rich cream cheese frosting. The chocolate crumbs added some texture and weren't too sweet. I actually wish I had doubled the amount of crumbs between the layers as I had a lot left over. The recipe after the jump looks quite long, but each part is pretty straightforward and you can make the elements over several days to lighten the load.
Happy 21st Birthday again to my gorgeous sister Beth. I hope this year is the best one yet, and I wish you adventures and happiness and french toast and success in everything you put your mind to xxx