June 21, 2018

Teenager in the house!

When June comes around, my mind is all wrapped up around my son's birthday.  Plus, June is always an exciting time - with Father's Day, the start of summer and the end of the school year.  The days are longer, and there's a different energy in the air around here.  
This year, my son's birthday was actually on Father's Day so it essentially eclipsed the holiday; of course, my husband didn't mind one bit.  And now, after the celebrations and affirmations, we officially have a teenager in the house!  It's hard to believe the infant who wouldn't nap for more than 25 minutes at a time is now nearly as tall as I am and morphing into a young man.  The same goes with his friends, many of whom we've known since kindergarten.  This growth is truly an amazing thing to witness.

I thought my son turning 10 was a big deal but at 13, it really felt like a *moment*.  Not to make it all about me...but I'm now the mom of a teenager and I approach it with equal parts trepidation and excitement.  In all seriousness, every day and every year is a gift and birthdays are a great time to celebrate a person and let them know how important they are and how much better the world is because they're in it.  
When it comes to birthday festivities, of course there's cake involved!  Why have one cake when you can have 3?  We started off with 2 ice cream cakes...because you can't beat that when it comes to kids birthdays, particularly those in the summer.  One came from a local ice cream shop and we picked another fun one from Haagen Dazs.  We cut into one during a cousins pizza party night we had at the house about a week before the birthday; we took the other one to a restaurant where we celebrated the birthday boy on the eve of his day with a few of his friends.
Finally, I had to make a cake, too, because I really wanted to.  I went with chocolate, of course.  The young fella and I are very much in sync when it comes to desserts and our preference for chocolate.  

I decided to make the fabulous Chocolate Heaven Cake from Cheryl Day.  I've adapted the recipe in the past as cupcakes and this time, I divided the original cake recipe in half to make a 6-inch round cake.  We didn't need a huge cake but I thought it would be fun to make it a tall one, 3 layers instead of the typical 2-layer I usually make.  
Having more cakes means more chances to celebrate, to sing happy birthday, and blow out birthday candles.  All the cakes were devoured and while you can never celebrate enough, hopefully the newly minted teenager felt the love in all the little ways we tried to show it.  Here's to our new teenager!  May this next chapter of his life be better and sweeter than ever.  

Speaking of birthday candles earlier...I got this idea to decorate the cake with "edible candles" from the pastry case at Whole Foods!  A few weeks ago, I spotted some cakes there decorated this way, with a chocolate stick acting the part of the candle sitting on top of a swirl of icing; a little more icing was piped at the tip to mimic the flame.  I thought it was such a cute idea.    
I thought immediately of using pirouette type wafers for the "candles" to try a similar decoration at home.  I had a red icing pen that I used for the flame and it's a good thing because my frosting likely would not have been stiff enough to pipe onto the tip and stay on.  This is a super easy way to decorate a birthday cake and I can tell you from seeing that pastry case that it's adorable on a cake with another color frosting.  It was all in good fun and my son had a good laugh over it and enjoyed blowing out the pretend candles (okay, so he was humoring me!).  

We do occasionally eat things other than cake around here!  Actually, the teen has always been a great eater...of things he likes!  We started the actual birthday morning with bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches made with homemade English muffins.  I ran out for some donuts and tater tots because they're things the birthday boy enjoys.  
Despite the heat, the teen had been requesting carnitas so I cooked up a pot for taco night (I use this Smitten Kitchen recipe for carnitas).  Nothing fancy, just messy.  We love taco night.  Somehow eating with your hands is always a fun time for everyone!
Happy first day of summer!  Hope there is plenty of sunshine, occasions to celebrate and smile about this season.

Update (Sept. 2019): I recently made this cake as a 2-layer, 9" round, cake as shown below (same recipe as listed below; the cake layers bake for about 40 minutes or so).  We just celebrated our son's first week of high school!


Chocolate Heaven Cake
Adapted from Cheryl Day from the (cupcake version: here)

- For one 3-layer, 6-inch round cake - 

For the cake:
1 1/2 cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped (Scharffen Berger brand recommended)
1 cup hot freshly brewed coffee
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature

For chocolate buttercream frosting:
4.5 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped (Scharffen Berger brand recommended)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

Make cake layers:  Grease three 6-inch round cake pans with butter.  Line the bottom of each with a round of parchment paper and butter the paper as well.  Lightly dust the pans with flour, tapping out the excess (alternatively, you can use baking spray).  Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.  Run mixer on low for 2-3 minutes to aerate the flour.  

Meanwhile, place chocolate in a medium bowl and pour the hot coffee and vanilla over it.  Let stand for about 2 minutes to melt the chocolate.  Stir thoroughly until smooth (it's going to smell amazing).

In another bowl, whisk eggs and oil together until thick and satiny, light in color. Whisk in the sour cream, being careful not to overmix (leave visible streaks of white). Pour in the melted chocolate mixture and mix until just combined.  Add this to the dry ingredients in thirds, mixing on medium speed until well blended. 

Remove the bowl from the mixer and using a rubber spatula, give the batter a good stir to incorporate any ingredients stuck to the bottom or side of the bowl.

Divide the batter equally among the 3 cake pans.  Tap the pans firmly on the counter to remove any air bubbles from the batter.  Bake until the cake springs back slightly when touched and a cake tester comes out clean, about 35 minutes or so (start checking on the cakes about 5 minutes beforehand).  The cakes should have slight cracks on top.  Let cakes cool in the pan for about 20 minutes on a cooling rack, then carefully remove them from the pan, discard the parchment paper, and set on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Make frosting: Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until chocolate is melted.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy.  Add milk, mixing until blended.  Add the cooled chocolate and mix until completely incorporated, about 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.  Add vanilla until combined.  With the mixer on low speed, gradually add 1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar, and continue beating.  Add more confectioners' sugar, as needed, to reach a creamy, silky consistency.  

Finish the cake:  Level the tops of the cake layers with a serrated knife.  Place one layer cut side down (although this depends on your preference) on a serving plate or cake stand (for easier clean up, slide strips of parchment paper under the cake while frosting and remove afterwards).  Place a big dollop of frosting on top and spread it around with an offset spatula.  Place the second cake layer cut side down and spread with another big dollop of frosting.  Place the final layer on top, and frost the top and sides, making big swirls with the spatula (or as desired).  

The cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.  You can also refrigerate it and bring the cake to room temperature before serving.  


  1. It sounds like the birthday boy had a terrific day of good eating a celebrating. Love your cake with the cute idea for the candles.

    1. I think he enjoyed his birthday, too, thank you! : )

  2. That's a delicious and wonderful celebration. Happy Birthday, Jalen. That chocolate cake looks fabulous..cool wafer candle idea :-)

    1. Thanks so much! I thought the Whole Foods candle idea was neat. ; )

  3. Happy birthday to him. The cake looks great, and I agree, 3 sounds like a good number of cakes for a birthday.

  4. Happy Birthday to your son! What a way to celebrate with this epic chocolate cake with a little caffeine zing.

  5. Happy Birthday to the new teenager! What an aptly named cake and a delicious spread.I remember his 10th birthday blog post..time does fly. He's so lucky to have a Mum who creates gorgeous cakes every year.

    1. Time really does fly, and quicker the older we get! Thanks, Sonali.

  6. Yes to three cakes! I love that! I can't believe your son is 13 ... I feel like just yesterday you were talking about his 10th birthday. Craziness.

    1. Total craziness is right! I'm trying to roll with it...it's all we can do! ; )

  7. I have bookmarked your blog, the articles are way better than other similar blogs.. thanks for a great blog! Canada



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