Birthday Week – Part 2

After reading about our family tea party for the first born son, please do not think that my husband was short of celebrations on his birthday weekend.  Weeks ago he ...

After reading about our family tea party for the first born son, please do not think that my husband was short of celebrations on his birthday weekend.  Weeks ago he decided that this year, to mark  the day (which normally goes by with minimal fuss) he just wanted to have his closest friends over for dinner.

“Fabulous!” I thought, as I love any excuse to prepare a feast.  I carefully planned an Indian banquet.  However, the week before I was totally debilitated with illness and could hardly move.  Stressed about how could possibly to pull it off, I did something I had never done before – I called in the reserves 48 hours before we were scheduled to eat.  I decided that it was more important that we were all together to celebrate my better half than to cancel simply because I did not have the energy to cook.  We were still going to feast.  And well.

Honey and Co came to my rescue.  It is one of my favourite restaurants in London, run by a husband and wife team who are exceptionally talented chefs and wonderful people.  I called Sarit in a panic.  She assured me that of course they would be delighed to supply us with the most sensational array of dishes for dinner.

Ittamar arrived a few hours before our guests and assembled the most amazing selection of middle eastern treats, breads and a cheesecake.

I did however, muster the energy to make Baked Alaska with all of the Gelupo ice cream stashed in our freezer (in case of emergency of course).

It was a triumph.  The food was more than delicious.  We celebrated the older birthday boy in true style.  And we all had a blast.

Note to self: you don’t always need to cook everything to put on a smashing feast.

Baked Alaska Birthday Cake  (Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine Sept 2013)

You need to start making this cake the day before so that it has time to set.  While there are a few steps, none of them are particularly fiddly (except maybe the Swiss meringue), so my tip is just leave enough time!  Feel free to use any ice cream flavours you like, I simply used the ones listed as they are my husbands favourite!

1 tier of chocolate cake or any other chocolate cake you may have on hand

55g (1/2cup) toasted pecans

125ml (1/2cup) double cream

125g (4oz) dark chocolate chopped

500ml (1 pint) salted caramel ice cream

500ml (1 pint) mint chocolate chip ice cream

500ml (1 pint) chocolate ice cream

60ml (1/4cup) water

6 large egg whites at room temperature

Pinch of cream of tartar

Pinch of salt

Make the ganache layers:

Preheat oven to 180c (350f)

Spread pecans on baking sheet and toast for 5-10 minutes until fragrant, and allow to cool completely

Divide cake into 3 layers, reserving 2 layers for the top and bottom of the cake

Crumble the third layer in to the food processor with the pecans and pulse until they form coarse crumbs

Heat the cream in a bowl over simmering water until almost boiling and bubbles form around the edges

Add the chopped chocolate to the hot cream and leave for 2 minutes

Stir together to make shiny ganache.  Add the pecan chocolate cake crumbs to the ganache and put to one side

Assemble the cake:

Line a soup pot or vessel that will hold the round cake base comfortably with strips of parchment across the bottom and the sides making sure that the paper extends at least 10cm from the base

Lay the first cake layer on the bottom

Remove the salted caramel ice cream from the container and slice into fairly equal slabs

Lay the slabs onto the chocolate cake and spread out

Spread half of the nutty ganache over the ice cream and put in the freezer for an hour to set

Repeat with mint chocolate chip ice cream and ganache and freeze for another hour, and then with the chocolate ice cream

Lay final cake layer on the top, and fold the parchment over the cake

Freeze overnight or until very firm

Make the meringue:

Remove the cake from the soup pot or vessel and transfer to a cake plate.  Return to the freezer

In a medium saucepan pour in the sugar and cover with the water

Bring to a boil slowly without stirring until it is dissolved, brushing down any crystals that form with a wet pastry brush

Meanwhile in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment whisk egg whites with salt and cream of tartar until soft peaks form

With mixer on medium speed slowly and carefully pour the hot sugar syrup to the egg whites

When it is all incorporated beat the mixture on high speed for 5-10 minutes until stiff and no longer hot

Remove cake from the freezer and spread the meringue all over.  (Try to leave some texture  and peaks so that it forms a great pattern when you torch it.  If you like you can pipe it through a pastry bag with a plain tip, but I never do!)

Torch the outside with pastry torch until the meringue is nicely toasted in spots

Return to the freezer for at least 15 minutes if not longer

Remove 5 minutes before serving and cut with slightly moistened knife