Cape Birthday

My sister Anna’s birthday is on September 4th. Every year we celebrate on or around Labor Day with a big dinner and party at the Cape. By big dinner and party, I mean pretty much a regular Cape meal but with extra cocktails, cake and gifts.

For the past several years Anna has requested Mexican for her birthday dinner, but since we’ve already had Mexican a few times this summer, she decided to go back to her birthday dinner roots and have steak.

We started the evening with Anna’s favorite drink, a sidecar, made by Shane. And a virgin sugar-rimmed drink for me.

For appetizers we had shrimp cocktail with homemade cocktail sauce in lovely little yard sale-acquired martini glasses. Rose pointed out that shrimp cocktail was not an adequate dinner if we were all planning to have cake and homemade marshmallows afterwards. We assured her there was (much) more to come.

For the main event, Wayne grilled up some nice tender New York Strip steaks. My mom and Ann made iceberg wedges topped with blue cheese dressing, minced chives & tomaotes and bacon bits, loosely based on this recipe. And for a starch, we had local corn from Cotiut (the town next door).

Dessert was a masterpiece of  a cake from Sweetapolita, a 4 Layer Chocolate Cake with Whipped Birthday Cake Filling and Malted Belgian Chocolate Frosting.

The cake is really supposed to be 6 layers and feature multi-colored sprinkles but I had to improvise a bit due to poor piping skills and inadequate baking pans here on the Cape. Nevertheless, everyone said it might have been one of the best cakes I’ve ever made, and I have to concur.

The frosting had a whole bunch of Ovaltine in it, which gave it a delicious malty flavor. The whipped cream filling is made extra birthday-cakey with a (this is weird) heaping tablespoon of white cake mix. The recipe is at the link above and also below with my notes.

After dinner we had a bonfire on the beach and toasted homemade marshmallows.

• Chocolate Layer Cake with Whipped Cream Filling and Malted Chocolate Frosting•
from Sweetapolita
note: original recipe calls for colored sprinkles, this is the simpler, non-sprinkle version

For the Chocolate Layer Cake:
2-1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon (330 g) all-purpose flour
3 cups (600 g) granulated sugar
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (135 g) Cacao Barry Extra Brute Cocoa Powder (I used regular old Hershey’s cocoa powder with great results)
1 tablespoon (15 g) baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons (7.5 g) baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons (12 g) salt
3 eggs, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups (360 mL) buttermilk, room temperature
1-1/2 cups (360 mL) strong black coffee, hot
1/2 cup (120 mL) vegetable oil
1-1/2 tablespoons (22.5 mL) pure vanilla extract

For the Whipped Birthday Cake Filling:
3 tablespoons (45 ml) cold water
1 tablespoons (15 ml) unflavoured gelatin (such as Knox brand)
2 cups (500 ml) whipping cream (35-37% fat), cold, divided
1/2 cup (63 g) confectioner’s sugar
1 heaping tablespoon (15 g) white cake mix (don’t leave this out, it sounds weird but really makes the flavor)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

For the Malted Belgian Chocolate Frosting:
1 lb butter (2 cups)(454 g), at room temperature
4 cups (500 g) icing sugar (confectioners’ or powdered), sifted
3/4 cup (75 g) Ovaltine Classic (brown in colour)
1 tablespoon (15 mL) pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
8 oz (250 g) quality Belgian chocolate, chopped, melted and cooled (I used Ghirardelli chips instead, with great results)
1/2 cup (120 mL) whipping (35% fat) cream

For the Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare three (for 6 layers) or 4 (for 4 layers) 8-inch round cake pans (butter, line bottom with parchment paper, butter paper, dust with flour).
  2. In bowl of electric mixer, sift all dry ingredients, including sugar. Combine eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla in a measuring cup and beat lightly with a fork.
  3. Add milk mixture to the dry ingredients mix for 2 minutes on medium speed (you may need the plastic splash-guard that comes with mixer). Divide batter evenly among prepared pans. (Batter will be thin.)
  4. Bake for 20 minutes and rotate pans in oven. Continue to bake until toothpick or skewer comes almost clean (a few crumbs), about 12 more minutes. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes then gently invert onto greased racks until completely cool. The cake will be very fragile, handle with care.

For the Whipped Birthday Cake Filling:

  1. In a small bowl, place the cold water and sprinkle with the gelatin. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. In a small saucepan, bring 1/3 cup of the cream just to a simmer, then stir into the gelatin mixture. Refrigerate, stirring frequently, until cool but not set, about 8 minutes. You really need to stir this a lot, if there are lumps, you will have gelatinous lumps in your filling.
  2. In a small bowl, sift together the icing sugar and cake mix.
  3. In a chilled stainless steel bowl with a chilled whisk attachment (for stand mixer), beat the remaining whipping cream, icing sugar/cake mix, vanilla and salt until it thickens just slightly and soft peaks begin to form, about 1 minute. Very gradually add the gelatin mixture and continue beating until medium-firm peaks form (should be thick enough to spread). Keep covered and chilled until ready to use.

For the Malted Belgian Chocolate Frosting:

  1. In a bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine the icing sugar and butter and beat on low speed for about 1 minute.
  2. Add malt powder, vanilla and salt, and beat on low until well combined. Add the melted chocolate and beat on medium speed until smooth (about 2 minutes).
  3. Add whipping cream and beat on med-high speed for another minute.
  4. Mix and “work in” with rubber spatula right before applying to cake (to rid of air bubbles).

Assembly of the (4 or) 6-Layer Chocolate Sprinkle Cake:

  1. On an 8-inch round cake board (or cake plate), put a small dollop of frosting. Cut your 3 cake layers each once horizontally with a long, serrated knife, so you have a total of 6 layers. Skip this step if you baked 4 layers, for the 4-layer version.
  2. Place your first layer face-up on the board (or plate) and cover with 1/5 of the Whipped Birthday Cake leaving about 1/2″ around the edge.
  3. Repeat until you come to your final layer, which you will place face-down. If you find the cake too soft and unstable, put in refrigerator for a few moments to firm it up, then resume.
  4. Frost entire outside of cake with a thin layer of Malted Belgian Chocolate Frosting to seal in crumbs. Chill until firm. Repeat with another, thick layer of frosting. Chill until firm.
  5. Serve cake at room temperature, but keep refrigerated if not serving the day it’s made.

End of summer Cape: Day 7

3Kinds_PastaIt was raucous tonight! Everyone was in a party mood (see video here). We had two kinds of pasta, with clam sauce and with sausage and tomato sauce. Also garlic bread and two salads which I forgot to photograph.

Alicia, Amelia and Cathy made bunny cookies and apple pie for dessert. We closed it down by the fire pit, with lanterns on the beach. Magical.

End of Summer Cape: Day 6

Soups&Sannys_IMG_9083It was cold and rainy today. The post-breakfast conversation was all about dinner, naturally. We settled on 3 kinds of soup, several kinds of grilled cheese and broccoli.

The soups were oyster and clam bisque, kale and white bean, and kale and white bean with sausages. I don’t even know what kinds of grilled cheese we had. One platter was labeled “hot” and one “not hot.” The cheeses were, jalapeno jack, cheddar, mozzarella and manchego. The extras were, tomato, scallions, avocado, bacon and prosciutto. There were a variety of breads.

For dessert, we devoured Britta’s brownies (see photo), with ice cream. Yum.

Jamaica Night @ Coonamessett Farm

CoonamessetFarm_IMG_9062Dinner at Coonamessett Farm on Jamaica Night has become an annual tradition. It’s exorbitantly expensive for what you get—unless you’re one of those folks who can really take advantage and pack it in at an all you can eat—but we do it for the experience.

Last night was kind of buggy and duck-poop smelly. Perhaps not our best Jamaica night, but we had a good time anyhow.

It’s a lovely farm with pick-your-own veggies, lots of animals to visit, wagons to wheel, an ice cream stand and, of course, Jamaican food and live music on Wednesdays.



End of summer Cape: Day 4

It was a man’s world, or more specifically, a man’s kitchen, tonight. The scene: Three big guys, classic Police, shots of Patron, deep frying, and an unbelievable mess.

The result: Oyster Po-Boys (scallop for ole preggers here – thanks dudes), tater tots, cole slaw with raw ramen noodles & cashews, fresh corn, tomato and cuke salad, fresh-caught bluefish, and three different creamy hot sauces ranging in spice from mild to ring-stinger.

Everyone wanted me to tell you that the boys ran out of cornmeal and had to put tortilla chips into the Vitamix blender for the final batch of oyster-frying batter. It worked brilliantly.

For dessert we had homemade peach shortcake (peaches, with sweet biscuits and whipped cream) by Cathy.

See photo captions for more details.

End of summer Cape: Day 3

Holy moly! The Alexanders went all out tonight. Ian and Britta wanted to commandeer dinner. Everyone around here gets that having four (!) kids (including newborn twins) excuses you from dinner duty. But they insisted, and we’re glad they did, because it was friggin’ delicious.

Every available surface in the kitchen, mud room and on the porch was taken over to create one of our best Mexican meals yet.

On the menu: Grilled beef and fish for tacos and/or burritos, a variety of shaved and shredded cheeses for topping, Ronni’s guacamole, Jenya’s new cooked hot salsa, chipotle sauce with mayo and sour cream, mashed yams with cumin, corn and flour tortillas, black rice, grilled portobellos, peppers, beets and dandelion greens, cucumber and tomato salad, shredded cabbage and chopped scallions, corn with butter, lime, Old Bay seasoning and parmesan. I think that’s it.

It was SO good. And did I mention we had 22 for dinner?


End of Summer Cape: Day 2

Tonight’s was Drew’s night with a little help from Rita. Drew made a tremendous volume of delicious grilled salmon with cilantro sauce/marinade, garden-fresh zucchini & quinoa tabbouleh salad.

For appetizers, Britta put to use her 1970’s plastic mushroom canape server. She got it at a yard sale this morning—it was the score of the day— and we all had a good chuckle over the language on the box which promises to hold “scads of canapes, relishes, snacks, olives…(etc.)”

Rita had the brilliant idea to put the kids at a kids table. The 6 kids had a fantastic time on their own, and the grown-up table was so much more manageable with twelve instead of 18. Note to selves.

End of summer Cape: Day 1

Our friends Ian & Britta are finally here for their annual visit, with their four (!) children. After assembling/bouncing on/watching the bouncing on Rose’s new trampoline, most of us were very hungry.

Wayne did most of the cooking, with help from Ronni, Drew, Ian & Rita (I think that’s everyone). On the menu, chili-garlic grilled chicken, roasted purple potatoes, fire beans (spicy string beans with black olives), and a tomato, basil & mozzarella salad.

A tasty beginning to what I hope will be a delightful last true summer week on the Cape.

Quick! We need some dinner

Tomato_Ginger_Salsa_IMG_8882We dillied and dallied this evening. Big time. It was nearly 8:00 by the time anyone even thought about dinner.

To get a meal on the table as quickly as possible, I made just one incredibly delicious thing: Pasta with Tomato Ginger Salsa & Creme Fraiche. It may not look like much but it sure is satisfying and plate-licking good. It’s an all-time favorite of mine. You really should try it next time you’re in a pinch, or right now.

And because my daughter has been so good and helpful lately, here is the photo she requested I post: