I don’t know what it’s like for you, but every time I have a family party penciled onto the calendar I also seem to have an abundance of other things happening at the same time. It could be work deadlines, sick kids to contend with, a week of solo parenting, parent council meetings, etc. It seems like life here works on a ‘feast or famine’ mentality, meaning we’re either very busy, or not too busy at all.
Such was the situation last month when we were having a large party to celebrate my eldest son’s 16th birthday. I knew I needed a cake that would feed a crowd easily, obviously I wanted something incredibly decadent and delicious, and it also had to be easy to decorate. I didn’t have a lot of time that week to prepare for the party so I knew I needed to pull out all of my back-pocket simple entertaining tricks to make the planning more manageable.
Last Christmas, I made a large chocolate cake from Ruth Reichl’s new book My Kitchen Year. It’s a two-layer rectangular cake that she claims feeds 20-25 people. Having made it twice now, I can confidently say it feeds 20 adults easily, but you can certainly cut the pieces even smaller to feed a larger group if you like. Not only is the result everything you hope for in a chocolate cake, the real beauty of it is that you can make, bake and frost the cake in advance and then freeze it until you need it. Yes, you read that correctly. The entire cake can be prepped in advance and stored in the freezer for up to two weeks before you need it. How brilliant is that?
I really shouldn’t be too surprised by this fact. When I worked in a catering kitchen we froze frosted cakes all the time. The secret to bringing them back to an edible consistency is to defrost them overnight in the refrigerator and then set them out at room temperature for at least 4-6 hours before serving. This is exactly what I did with Ben’s birthday cake, and just before we were ready to place the candles on the cake I covered the top with sprinkles and voila… it was ready!
If you’d like to give this recipe a go yourself, it can be found on Ruth’s website. She even instructs that you can double or triple the recipe using as many pans as necessary to make as large a cake as needed. Happy baking!
P.S. As you can see, I also made our baked birthday cake donuts for the occasion and they were a massive hit with the kids!
Spring is the second biggest cookbook release season of the year, and my desk is currently home to approximately ten of this season’s newest and soon-to-be-released titles. I’ve spend the past few weeks cooking from the pages of each, a mix of testing recipes for review and pleasure, and my current favourite books are the ones that have given me plenty of new ideas for feeding my littlest eater.
Growing Up Gourmet is one of the books I’ve been cooking from this week, and while it doesn’t release to the public until late next month, it’s definitely one you’ll want to make a note of if you’re feeding anyone under the age of two. Written by Jennifer Carlson, co-creator of Baby Gourmet—one of the top-selling organic baby food brands in North America—this book shows parents how to make nutritious, delicious homemade meals and snacks your baby and older family members will enjoy.
This strawberry chocolate chia mousse caught my eye from the get-go. Using seasonal fruit (well, almost. Strawberries will be in season soon if it ever warms up!), plus coconut milk and chia seeds to create a mousse-like, spoonable snack you baby will love. The addition of cocoa powder, maple syrup and cinnamon gives it a decadent taste while keeping the recipe healthy and toddler friendly. I put all of the ingredients in my NutriBullet and blend for 60 seconds. Then I pour the mixture into resealable containers and pop them in the fridge overnight. The entire process takes no more than 6 minutes and makes a sweet snack my toddler can’t seem to get enough of.
Strawberry Chocolate Chia Mousse
Adapted from Growing Up Gourmet
Makes 4 ½ cup servings
Prep and Cook: