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.