Strawberry Cookies and Cream Cake

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!

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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.

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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 🙂

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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!

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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!

Strawberry Cookies and Cream Cake
 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
The cake was adapted from this Joy the Baker recipe.
Ingredients
For the cake:
  • 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
For the decoration:
  • 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)
Instructions
  1. 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.
For the cake:
  1. 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.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and sea salt.
  3. In a microwave-safe bowl, warm the coconut oil and water. Add the espresso powder and vanilla and mix together.
  4. Add the water mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until just combined.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
For the decoration:
  1. Make the icing by beating together the mascarpone cheese, icing sugar and cocoa powder.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
Notes
We do not like our icing very sweet. Feel free to increase the amount of icing sugar, if you prefer a sweeter icing. Keep in mind, however, that your fruit should already be quite sweet.

Cacao Nib Cookies
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
The cookie recipe was modified from this Rachel Cooks recipe.
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. Whisk together the flour and salt.
  2. Cream together the butter and cream cheese for a few minutes, until light.
  3. Add the sugar and vanilla until incorporated. Add the flour mixture and mix until combined.
  4. Shape the dough into a log shape and wrap in parchment paper. Freeze at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 weeks.
  5. When you are ready to bake the cookies, pre-heat the oven to 350 F and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  6. 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.
  7. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, on a parchment-lined tray, until golden at the edges.
  8. Let cool completely before using on the cake.
Notes
The cookie dough can be stored in the freezer for up to 2 weeks before baking.

Happy Birthday, Jonty!

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Eton Mess-Ing in the Summer

Back when Jonty and I were young whippersnappers, we did the looong-distance dating thing (Saskatchewan to Yorkshire) for the first few years. To make things easier, I moved to the UK for a few multi-month stints. On one of those occasions, we lived with Jonty’s parents to save money. I realized one Pearson trait very quickly – Jonty’s family loves food. They live food. They talk about food while they’re eating food! I must not have found it very odd, because I soon joined in on the conversation, and have been talking about it ever since! It was during that period of my life when I think I finally started to get over many of my picky-eating habits (thank goodness!).

I discovered steamed puddings (oh, the treacle sponge!), fish pie, roast lamb with mint sauce, flapjack biscuits, cheese, glorious cheese, proper fish and chips, and so many other foods this prairie girl wasn’t used to. Everything was always made from scratch and, if you could elbow your way through 4 boys, seconds were encouraged.

The first time I had Eton Mess, was that summer. The second time I had Eton Mess, was 3 days later, because it was so fantastic, that everyone demanded that Jonty’s mom made it again (she may not remember this, but I do 🙂 ). I think it was one of the only times I experienced silence at the Pearson table – everyone was completely engaged in this dessert. And for good reason! Chewy meringue, local ripe-strawberries, homemade raspberry puree and whipped cream – it was fantastic!

Jonty, the Meringue Master, was mulling over making Eton Mess as a pre-birthday Birthday dessert for me a few weeks ago. What did I think? No complaints from me!

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It was everything I remembered this dessert to be.

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The only downside?

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There wasn’t more of it!!

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Eton mess

Eton Mess-Ing in the Summer
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 2 - 3 servings
  • Serving size: ⅓ recipe
  • Calories: 402
  • Fat: 13.4 g
  • Saturated fat: 8.1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 71.1 g
  • Sugar: 65.5 g
  • Sodium: 34.2 mg
  • Fiber: 4.6 g
  • Protein: 3 g
  • Cholesterol: 46.3 mg
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
For the Meringue:
  • 3 egg whites, room temperature
  • 180 g superfine sugar (ratio of 1.5 sugar to 1 egg white, by weight)
  • ¼ tsp distilled white vinegar
For the fruit and cream:
  • 125 mL whipping cream
  • 5 - 6 good-sized strawberries, sliced
  • 1½ cups raspberries (fresh or frozen)
  • ½ tsp good-quality balsamic vinegar
Instructions
To make the meringue:
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 300°F and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. In a stand mixer, mix the egg whites on medium speed for 1 minute, to get a good froth. Add the white vinegar (or cream of tartar), it acts as a stabilizer.
  3. Keep the mixer running on medium-high and add the sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, mixing for 30 seconds or so in between each sugar addition (Jonty leaves our kitchen timer running, and just watches the time).
  4. When all the sugar has been added, mix on high for ~8 minutes (Jonty does 2-3 minutes per egg white), until the egg whites form stiff, highly-glossy peaks. The entire process takes about 15 minutes. This recipe makes about 12 (6-cm) meringues.
  5. Note: Depending on the size you make the meringues, you may have more or less than this, but they are great to munch on their own 🙂
  6. Using a metal spoon, drop the meringues onto the parchment-lined tray and place into the oven for 1 hour, until the meringues are crisp on the outside, and soft in the centre. Leave the meringues to cool completely before assembling the Eton Mess.
To assemble the Eton Mess:
  1. Whip the cream until you have soft peaks. Set aside. Slice the strawberries and set aside.
  2. Make the raspberry puree by placing the raspberries in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add the balsamic vinegar and let the raspberries simmer, mashing them down a bit as they cook. Once they start to thicken (about 10 minutes), remove from the heat and leave to cool.
  3. Eton Mess can be assembled in individual glasses (as Jonty did here) or into one large bowl (like my mother-in-law did!). Break up the meringue into chunks and mix the whipped cream with the strawberries and a bit of the raspberry puree. Layer the glasses: meringue pieces, strawberry-whipped cream, raspberry puree (try to get two layers).
  4. Serve immediately, before the meringues soften.
Notes
When making the meringue:
Use a stainless steel mixing-bowl (no plastic!), it should be immaculately clean and completely dry!
Also, it's better if the egg whites are at room temperature (so this requires a bit of planning ahead)
Sugar and egg white ratio can be varied, this is the one we like the best!
If you don't have white vinegar, cream of tartar also works, or it can be skipped all together
Different cooking times will result in different style meringues, google can help if you're interested 🙂

Enjoy!

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Chocolate Cherry Cake… and Another Year Older!

It was my birthday this past week. Jonty and I both took the day off work, as it fell mid-week, and we both believe that nobody should have to work on their birthday! It was a beautiful day, and it was filled with many of my favourite things: we started with an early-morning climbing session at Porteau Cove, and were back in town by 1pm, just in time to trundle down on our bikes for a little mid-afternoon food-truck snack and a celebratory beverage (or two!). The evening was filled with birthday cake, tasty snacks, and Sprinter planning. All in all, a most enjoyable day!

Jonty made my birthday cake the night before, so I was able to snap a few pictures before we demolished it over the following days – a chocolate sponge cake, layered with toasted almonds and a cherry reduction, and topped with whipped cream, chocolate shavings and more toasted almonds. It was fantastic!!

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ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Chocolate cherry cake with toasted almonds

I felt very loved on my birthday, and look forward to all the exciting adventures of the coming year, who knows where we’ll be in a years time!!

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Layered Chocolate Cherry Cake
 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 1 - 8" layered cake
  • Serving size: ⅛th cake
  • Calories: 476
  • Fat: 29.4 g
  • Saturated fat: 16.9 g
  • Carbohydrates: 48.3 g
  • Sugar: 27 4 g
  • Sodium: 90 mg
  • Fiber: 1.8 g
  • Protein: 7.8 g
  • Cholesterol: 164.1 mg
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
The recipe Jonty uses is for a basic sponge cake, using the ratio of 1:1:1:1 for eggs, sugar, flour and butter. So if you have a scale, this recipe becomes very easy to make.
Ingredients
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 200 g caster (extra-fine granulated) sugar
  • 200 g all-purpose flour, minus 2 tbsp
  • 200 g butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp (scant) baking powder
  • 125 mL whipping cream
  • 10 - 15 cherries, pitted and chopped
  • ¼ cup almonds, coarsely chopped and toasted
  • Good-quality dark chocolate (we used Lindt 70% Madagascar Dark Chocolate)
Instructions
  1. Directions:
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F and line two 8-inch circular baking tins with parchment paper (this recipe also works with one 9-inch square pan).
  3. Place the eggs and sugar in a stand mixer and let them come to room temperature so the sugar desolves. Whisk on high for 6 minutes (less time than this may not give enough leavening to the cake).
  4. Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder.
  5. In two rounds, gently fold the flour mixture into to the egg mixture.
  6. In two rounds, add the melted (and cooled) butter and fold gently in.
  7. Divide the batter evenly into the two prepared cake tins and bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes (for one 9-inch square pan, bake for 35 minutes).
  8. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove the cake from the pan and cool completely.
  9. While the cake is baking, pit and chop the cherries, place into a small pan with a drop of water and simmer on low until they have reduced and thickened (10-15 minutes). Remove from the heat and set aside.
  10. Chop and toast the almonds (toaster oven works well here!) and whip the cream (additional sugar is not needed here - the cherries and sponge cake are sweet enough!).
  11. To assemble the cake, sandwich the cherries and half the almonds between the two cake layers and spread the whipped cream over the entire cake (top and sides). Use a microplane to shave chocolate onto the top of the cake, and sprinkle with the remaining almonds.
  12. While this cake tastes best the day you make it, it does hold up (covered) in the fridge for up to three days.

Enjoy!

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