I’ve heard them all… mostly from the little voice in my head. “Lauriebot…”, I’ve sternly said to myself, “You’ve neglected your bloggie duties for over two weeks and it simply will not do. Get off your keister and get back to work.”

So I’m doing just that. But, in my own defense, I did just start a new job a few weeks ago and it takes a while to get back into the rhythm of life when I’ve had the luxury (for the past year and a half) and doing things on my own time whenever I feel like. So now it’s back to reality, back to the work-5-days-off-2-days cycle, and back to the importance of time management.

I’ll kick it off with a bang… my ambitious birthday cake, the recipe for which I stumbled across on Poires au Chocolat – a beautiful blog written by a very, VERY talented young lady. Seriously, my cake pales in comparison to the gorgeous confection she created, but I had my heart set and knew that I needed this cake in my life for my birthday.

So settle in for the long haul, this post is FULL of piccies because there are about 8,371 steps to this cake! For clarity’s sake, I’ve written out the ingredients and quantities (converted from UK measurements to US) at the end… otherwise, things would just get way too confusing!

Without further ado… my Dark Chocolate & Whiskey birthday cake…

First I made the cake – started out with 8.5 oz of delicious 70% dark chocolate plus 1 oz each of 60% dark and unsweetened chocolate. Chopped it all up and melted it over a double boiler before setting it aside to cool.

Then the flour… Due to budgetary concerns, I made my own self-rising flour (which is criminally easy). You just add 1.5 tsp baking powder and .5 tsp salt to 1 cup regular unbleached flour. Sift it together and bam… self-rising flour! For this recipe I only needed 3/4 cup of self-rising flour, so I took that and added it to 1 cup unbleached flour.

Then I took a shocking amount of butter at room temp and added brown sugar. Beat it until fluffy and then added each of the eggs along with 1 tbsp of flour, making sure each egg was fully incorporated before adding the next.

Mixed in the chocolate and added the rest of the flour.

Divided the chocolate batter evenly between two 6″x3″ buttered cake pans and baked for 1 hour and some change at 300F.

While the cakes were baking, I prepared the whiskey sugar syrup.

Boiled 3.5 oz (100 ml) of whiskey and reduced it by one half. Removed it from the heat and topped it up to 3.5 oz (100 ml) with coolish water.

Returned the watery whisky mixture to the heat and added 1/2 cup golden caster sugar. Now, it’s generally pretty tricky to find golden caster sugar in the US, so, using my ingenuity, I made it myself! Ran turbinado sugar (demerara, whatever you want to call it) through an [evil] food processor for about a minute and TADA! Golden caster sugar! Reduced it until I got an amber syrup. Once it cooled, I added a bit more whiskey to taste. 🙂

By this point, the cakes should be about done! Remove them from the oven, spike the top of cake and brush with whiskey syrup. Let cool.

Divided each cake in half.

And drizzled each section with more whiskey syrup!

Time to make the ganache! Brought just over 4 oz heavy cream (would have been better with double cream, but I didn’t have time to scour the city for it!) to a simmer. Poured the hot cream over 3.5 oz chopped dark chocolate and let it sit for a minute or so to melt. Mixed it all up until the chocolate was velvety smooth and let stand to thicken.

Then I got down to assembling the cake – spreading 1/3 of ganache between each layer.

Using a silicone spatula, smooth the edges so it’s a perfect cylinder… no gaps!

Chill in the fridge while you tackle the buttercream. 2.5 egg whites, 10 tbsp superfine sugar, and a little less than 1 stick o’ butter. Gently warm the egg whites to 160F over a double boiler.

Removed the bowl from the heat and whisked/beat them until stiff peaks form. Lowered the speed and added butter, few chunks at a time, fully incorporating each portion before adding more. It looked pretty gross, but I just kept on keepin’ on.

Continued to beat the buttercream for about 5 minutes, added 1 tsp vanilla and… Whew!

Pulled the cake outta the fridge and, using 1/4 of buttercream, made a light crumb coat.

Popped it back in the fridge for another half hour or so to firm up.

Scooped all the rest of the buttercream on top and smoothed it all down over the edges to completely cover the cake.

Smooth as possible! It was my first time icing a cake… and it showed! But I’m determined to get better… determined.

Back in the fridge it went while I went to work on the evil, evil chocolate piping. Drew out my design in 6 inch sections and piped melted chocolate onto sheets of wax paper placed over the design. The next part is much simpler in theory. You’re supposed to shape the chocolate over something with a similar curve to the cake (I used my electric kettle), pop it into the fridge/freezer to firm up, then carefully remove the paper from the chocolate and press it into the sides of the cake.

Needed a little help getting that bastard onto the cake.

By this time, it was 9pm, the time at which I told people to start arriving. The apt was still messy, I obviously hadn’t showered and the dog hadn’t been walked in hours. Essentially, I was a mess and practically ready to throw up my hands and damn this cake to hell. S swooped in, suggested I go shower and handle the rat of poufy hair atop my head and took care of it.

A few short hours later, everyone had arrived and was in high spirits (both emotionally and boozily). It was time to present my masterpiece… the fruit of about 12 hours or labor…

My Beautiful & The Damned birthday cake.

It may not be as expertly crafted as Ms. Poires au Chocolat (and of course I never expected it to be!), but it did garner no fewer than three marriage proposals and my very first slow clap.

Happy Birthday to me!

Ingredients List…

For the chocolate cake:
2 sticks + 1.5 tbsp Unsalted butter
1.5 cups soft brown sugar
1 cup plain flour
Just over 3/4 cup (or 7 oz) self-rising flour
5 eggs
10.5 oz dark chocolate (85%)

For the whiskey sugar syrup:
3.5 oz whiskey
Just over .5 cup (8.5 tbsp) golden caster sugar

For the whiskey dark chocolate ganache:
3.5 oz dark chocolate (85%)
Just over 4 oz double cream
2-4 tbsp whiskey

For the vanilla swiss meringue buttercream:
2.5 egg whites
10 tbsp caster sugar (superfine)
pinch of salt
15.5 tbsp (1 stick – .5 tbsp) butter (room temp)
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the chocolate piping:
Easy-melt dark chocolate that doesn’t need tempering (I used milk chocolate because I couldn’t find dark… {sadface})