Last week was my husband’s 40th birthday. Celebrating was in order. I planned the weekend of his birthday months in advance. You see I knew that his parents and brother were flying in to surprise him. So I looked around, booked a room at a local restaurant for the party, asked him to make a guest list, we picked out the menu, and then I asked him if there was any dessert he would like what would it be? He said he had to think about it, and that was fine by me…because I was now not only keeping the secret that his parents and brother were arriving, but that my sister was flying in too.
As the weeks went by I asked Brian again what dessert he would like. After some contemplating, he came to a conclusion of two desserts! Could I blame him? Absolutely not! He wanted two very different desserts, so that everyone could possibly have something they like. (One of the many qualities I admire about him; he is always thinking of everyone.) Brian asked for me to make something very fall, very fitting – a simple French Apple Tart. These tarts are easy, and elegant in their own way. The other dessert he requested…Flourless Chocolate Cake! I should have known this is the one thing Brian would have asked for. When we had a bakery he loved indulging in a slice of this cake from time to time as we always had it on the menu. It is rich, smooth in texture, possess deep chocolate flavor, and lays nicely on the tongue. A rich and flourless chocolate cake topped with chocolate ganche; it was very elegant and sophisticated. Both desserts were quite fitting for a 40th birthday celebration if you ask me.
So while planning the finalities on the desserts I got a phone call from my parents. They decided to fly in last minute for Brian’s birthday too. Oh, and they wanted it to be a surprise as well. So now I had three very big secrets to keep from Brian and two very special desserts to make. This was going to be some party. So on the Wednesday before his birthday I called Brian in the afternoon and asked if I could take him on a date. Where did I take him? To the local Marriott, I surprised him with his parents and brother waiting in the lobby for him. You should have seen the look on his face. He was dumbfounded and shocked. The next afternoon I had made reservations for lunch at the restaurant I work for. Brian walked in and was surprised with my parents there too (surprise # 2) . He was grinning and told me- “Wow! I feel so loved!” The following day I came home from work with my sister in tow…Surprise #3! Brian was swept away with glee. He said to me the next day as I got underway with the dessert, “I am overwhelmed. I really cannot believe that everyone is here for me. And now, it’s almost time for cake!” You have got to love his enthusiasm.
The night of the party went really well. Brian’s friends, co-workers, and our families had a great time. We all indulged on some great eats, many libations, and then some desserts! Both of the desserts I made were big hits and some people took home a slice or two with them. Three big surprises, festivities that lasted all week long equal out to a not so bad birthday celebration in my book. Brian was a bit overwhelmed and taken back. He kept repeating to me- “It was only a birthday, everyone didn’t have to come all this way.” I think it was a memorable birthday for him. That and I think he choose well where dessert was concerned. Maybe it is experience that comes with age? Or maybe he is just good when it comes to deciding sweets? I will let you decide that one. For now, Happy Birthday Brian! So glad it was a special one.
Flourless Chocolate Cake (makes one 8-9 inch cake)
*This recipe can be doubled easily. For Brian’s birthday cake I doubled it and split it between a 10 inch and 8 inch cake pan.
1 lb of bitter sweet chocolate (chopped if needed)
5 oz. of butter
5 eggs (separated)
1 tbsp of sugar
First, on a double boiler melt down the chocolate and the butter until smooth, let it cool slightly.
Next, preheat your oven to 300 degrees, and grease an 8 inch pan, then line the bottom with parchment.
Then, using a mixer on high speed wisk the egg whites until foamy. Gradually add the sugar. Continue to whisk until stiff peaks form. But do not over whisk.
Meanwhile, blend the yolks with the chocolate mixture until smooth. Gently fold in the whipped whites a third of them at a time into your chocolate mixture. Do not over mix or the whites will clasps. But be sure not to leave any streaks in the batter either.
Finally, scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake in a water bath for 25 - 40 minutes until slightly set and lightly firm. Cool on a wire rack and then chill in the refrigerator 8 hours or overnight. It will then be ready to pop out of pan and use. If you gently heat the bottom of your pan your cake should quickly pop out of the pan.
Chocolate Ganache (enough for 1 cake)
5 oz. Semi-sweet chocolate (chips are fine but chopped chocolate is best)
1/2 cups cream
First, place Cream and chocolate in a bowl of a double boiler over medium heat (there should only be an inch or two of water in the pan, and the bowl should not be touching the water).
Next, you will want to gently stir the chocolate and the cream together as the chocolate melts. You will keep stirring until your chocolate and cream have unison and are a smooth sauce, and glossy looking.
Finally, remove your mixture from heat and let cool slightly before using. You will want to pour the ganache over the top center of the cake and let it gently drip down the sides. Let it chill together so that the ganache sets. Note: If using you can decorate with some gold leafing. A little bit goes a long way. Serve at room temperature. (can hold up to 4 days in a refrigerator if needed.)