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happy belated, Ronnie – plus a big cake!

we're friends and we're neighbors! Lori, Ronnie, Amy, and me

we're friends and we're neighbors! Lori, Ronnie, Amy, and me

Before you even look at this recipe, disclaimers all around! This is not an original recipe, this amazing cake was inspired by a recipe in the December 2007 issue of Bon Appétit. Since it just was not expensive, time-consuming, or impressive enough already; I added in the toppings of vanilla pastry cream, whipped cream and fresh berries! Want to know what is really crazy– I made this cake 5 times! I needed to make a total of four cakes for two separate cooking classes that I taught back in December (four cakes so I would have the various stages of the cake for each class). I used two of those cakes to actually serve at the classes, two as prizes for students who visited my blog, and finally the fifth one was for my dear friend, Ronnie’s, birthday. Unfortunately, the pictures do not show the cake with its toppings because I was too tired, broke, overbooked, and overworked to put those on Ronnie’s cake.  Although, even without the extra work and calories of the toppings,  it is truly a showstopper and undeniably delicious too!

Ronnie not only got gypped by not getting the cake toppings, but also was ripped-off on my blog, when I didn’t even mention that it was her birthday! You see, her birthday is December 23, so I’m sure that all her life, she’s felt slighted in the birthday department -always being upstaged by Christmas, and here I did it to her again. Sorry, Ronnie, I love you and dedicate today’s blog to you! xoxo

Consider making this cake for the next big birthday in your house or maybe even for Valentine’s Day, as long as there are at least a dozen of you celebrating together (kinky!) because, boy is this thing rich!


Chocolate Panna Cotta Cake

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped or chips
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup Kahlua or Mocha flavored Kahlua
1/4 cup hot water
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream

Panna Cotta
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup Kahlua or Mocha Kahlua
5 teaspoons unflavored gelatin (Knox)
7 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
5 ounces high-quality milk chocolate, chopped
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise
Chocolate Band
Two 16×3-inch strips waxed paper
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped or chips

Vanilla Pastry Cream
2 1/4 cups whole milk, divided
6 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar, divided
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped

2 pints fresh berries of your choice, garnish

Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two 10-inch-diameter springform pans with 2 1/2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray.  Place chocolate and cocoa in medium bowl.  Heat Kahlua and water in a small saucepan, then pour over chocolate and cocoa in bowl; whisk until smooth.  Set aside.

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in another medium bowl.

Using electric mixer, beat oil and both sugars in large bowl for1 minute (mixture will be crumbly).  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating to blend after each addition.  Beat in sour cream.   Mix in half of dry ingredients.  Beat in chocolate mixture.  Add remaining dry ingredients; beat on low speed just to blend (batter will be thin).  Divide batter between pans (layers will be shallow).  Bake cakes until tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes.  Cool in pans on rack.

Panna Cotta: Place water and Kahlua in small bowl.  Sprinkle gelatin over; let soften 10 minutes.  Place both chocolates in large metal bowl.  Combine cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla extract in large saucepan.  Scrape in seeds from vanilla beans; add beans.  Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves; remove from heat.  Add gelatin mixture; whisk to dissolve.  Pour cream mixture over chocolates in bowl; whisk until completely melted.  Place bowl over a larger bowl of ice water.  Stir often until mixture thickens like pudding, draining off water and adding more ice to ice-bath as needed, for about 30 minutes.

Pour 1/2 of panna cotta over cake in 1 pan (mixture may drip down sides of cake).  Freeze 45 minutes.  Keep remaining panna cotta at room temperature.

Remove pan sides from second cake.  Using large metal spatula, carefully slide cake off of springform bottom and place atop panna cotta in cake pan.  Pour remaining panna cotta over, filling pan completely.  Chill overnight.  (Can be covered and frozen for 2 weeks. Defrost overnight in refrigerator before continuing.)

Chocolate Band: Line large baking sheet with foil; set aside.  Place another large sheet of foil on work surface; place waxed paper strips atop foil, spacing apart.  Stir chocolate in medium bowl set over pan of simmering water until smooth.  Pour half of melted chocolate down center of each waxed paper strip. Using small offset spatula, spread chocolate to cover strips evenly, allowing a little of the chocolate to extend beyond edges of wax paper strips, making sure strips are completely covered.  Using fingertips, lift strips and place on foil-lined baking sheet.  Chill until chocolate just begins to set but is still completely flexible, only about 2 minutes.

Cut around springform pan sides to release cake.  Remove pan sides from cake.  Using fingertips, lift 1 chocolate band from foil, keeping wax paper intact.   Wrap band around cake, waxed-paper side out, lining up 1 long edge with bottom of cake (band will be higher than cake).  Repeat with second band, arranging so ends just meet, pressing band onto uncovered side of cake.   If bands overlap, trim any excess paper and chocolate.  Using fingertips, press top edge of band in toward cake, forming slight ruffle.  Chill until chocolate sets, about 5 minutes.  Gently peel off waxed paper.  (Can be made 1 day ahead.  Chill.)

Vanilla Pastry Cream: In medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup milk, egg yolks, 1/3 cup sugar, and cornstarch.

Pour remaining 1 3/4 cups milk to heavy medium saucepan.   Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean.  Sprinkle remaining 1/3 cup sugar over, letting sugar sink undisturbed to bottom.  Set pan over moderate heat and bring to simmer without stirring.  Once simmering, whisk the milk mixture, then slowing whisk into egg yolk mixture in bowl.   Return to saucepan over moderate heat and cook, whisking constantly, until pastry cream simmers and thickens, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat, discard vanilla bean, and whisk cream until smooth.  Transfer to bowl and press plastic wrap directly onto surface.  Chill until cold, about 4 hours.  (Pastry cream can be made ahead and refrigerated, wrapped well with plastic wrap on surface, up to 3 days)

Immediately before serving, fold 1 cup of the pastry cream into the 1 cup whipped cream.  Fill a pastry bag with cream and pipe on top of cake, top with berries.   (Reserve remaining pastry cream for another holiday dessert, such as Caramelized Bananas and Vanilla Pastry Cream in Phyllo Cups – found at  Epicurious.com)

Serves 12

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1 Ronnie Jaap { 01.13.10 at 8:32 PM }

I was so honored to have you make this amazing — my absolute favorite birthday cake ever — cake for me. Plus you surprised me with it!! You are awesome!! The kids and I fought over the leftovers!!!

2 Ronnie Jaap { 02.15.11 at 8:21 AM }

This is the best birthday cake I’ve ever had!

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