We were off on vacation last week, during which we celebrated Jonty’s birthday. It felt like a leisurely birthday week, filled with some climbing, some van work, a few nibbles around town and a craft beverage or two – all the makings of a good stay-cation.
His request for a birthday cake was remarkably similar to last year – chocolate, fruit and cream. The wheels have been turning for almost 2 weeks, trying to decide on the perfect cake, scouring my cookbooks and Pinterest for inspiration. I feel like birthdays are the one occasion per year that deserves a special cake, so the pressure is on (in my head) to make sure it’s a cake worthy of a celebration!
My thought process behind making a birthday cake is often a rambling jumble of ideas that percolate in my mind for well-over a week. Silly, perhaps, but that’s the way I roll 🙂 The thought process this year:
- Making a chocolate cake is always a given for Jonty’s birthday, but only as a single-layer cake this year. I did a double layer cake last year and, really, it’s better for a crowd.
- Strawberries are a given, as I used raspberries last year. Also, the first crop of BC strawberries are out, and they just taste so darned good!
- Jonty wants cream – should I do ice cream, whipped cream, something else?
- I want the top to look fancy. Think, Moira, think!
Perhaps it was the result of the pint of ice cream we had a few weeks ago, but the idea of a Cookies and Cream cake struck a soft spot in my tummy and I rolled with it.
So, as a result of too much over-thinking, Jonty’s birthday cake idea was born! A classic chocolate cake, smothered in a not-too-sweet mascarpone icing, and topped with local BC strawberries and crumbled cacao-nib cookies.
It sounds like a mouthful, because it is a mouthful! A very delicious mouthful 🙂
If you want to make everything from scratch, it is a 2-day process, but most of that time is passive chilling / cooling time. The cookies are simple slice-and-bake cookies, but the dough does require time to chill in the freezer (at a minimum, 30 minutes). If you want, you can also bake the cake the day before and keep it, well-covered, in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble. To keep things simple, I made the cookies and cake the night before and as a result, making the cake felt quite easy!
This Cookies and Cream cake is rich and chocolately, with sweet strawberries and the tangy mascarpone icing. If you wanted to do a super-simple version of this, the chocolate cake + sliced strawberries + a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream would be equally fantastic!
- 135 g (1 cup + 2 tbsp) all-purpose flour
- 20 g (1/4 cup) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 175 g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- 125 g (1/2 cup) warm water
- 6 g (1 tbsp) instant espresso powder
- 65 g (1/4 cup + 1 tbsp) melted coconut oil
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 175 g mascarpone cheese
- 40 g (2 tbsp) icing sugar
- 10 g (2 tbsp) Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 2 - 4 tbsp milk
- 150 g (1 cup) quartered strawberries
- 8 - 10 chocolate cacao cookies, crumbled (recipe below, or chocolate cookies of your choice)
- If you are making the cookies from scratch, make the cookie dough at least a day before you want to make the cake, as these slice-and-bake cookies require the dough to be frozen before baking. If you are using other cookies, you can just bake the cake.
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 F and line a 8-inch square pan (or 9-inch circular pan) with parchment paper. Mist lightly with a neutral cooking oil and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and sea salt.
- In a microwave-safe bowl, warm the coconut oil and water. Add the espresso powder and vanilla and mix together.
- Add the water mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until just combined.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 25 to 28 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
- Leave to cook in the pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan and cool completely on the rack.
- If you are decorating the cake on the same day, wait until the cake has cooled completely before decorating. If not, the cake can be wrapped well and stored in the fridge for a day.
- Make the icing by beating together the mascarpone cheese, icing sugar and cocoa powder.
- Add the milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until your desired consistency is achieved. I added enough to make the icing spreadable, but fairly thick.
- Once ready to decorate the cake, spread the mascarpone icing on the cake. Break the cookies into pieces and scatter across the icing. Add the sliced fresh strawberries.
- 120 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- 30 g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
- 45 g (1.5 oz) cream cheese, softened
- 65 g (1/4 cup + 1 tbsp) sugar
- ½ tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 50 g (1/4 cup) cacao nibs or mini chocolate chips
- Whisk together the flour and salt.
- Cream together the butter and cream cheese for a few minutes, until light.
- Add the sugar and vanilla until incorporated. Add the flour mixture and mix until combined.
- Shape the dough into a log shape and wrap in parchment paper. Freeze at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 weeks.
- When you are ready to bake the cookies, pre-heat the oven to 350 F and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Remove the cookie dough from its wrapping and slice into 5 mm thick discs. Press the cacao nibs onto each side of the cookies before baking.
- Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, on a parchment-lined tray, until golden at the edges.
- Let cool completely before using on the cake.
Happy Birthday, Jonty!