Birthday Cakes and Bass Guitars

Mini Layer Cakes
Not too long ago, someone asked me if I had any kids and while the answer is "no," there was that slight moment when I hesitated and thought of Mr. B. I often joke with him and say that he's my teenage son--and for good reason.

At one time, he was a formidable drummer. He'd been begging me for a drum set for years and years and I managed to put him off. After all, the man has an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar, bongo drums, a flute, and a harmonica--all of which he plays pretty well--but a drum set? It seemed to me that to give in meant giving away the last of my peace and quiet.

But every smart married woman knows she's only living on borrowed time. One Saturday not too long ago, Mr. B had just left for his walk when I was pulling out of the driveway and noticed that the neighbor--who just happens to be a drummer--was having a yard sale, and lo and behold, right in the middle of his yard was a shiny used drum set. I hesitated at the top of the driveway, the engine idling, and as I looked across the yard, I knew that drum set would be in my garage by the time I got home. So I did what any self-respecting 40-something year old woman would do when she realized she was getting in bed with a drummer that night--I hit the gas and let the gravel fly.

Sure enough, when I returned home, Mr. B had his drums set up and the sticks were flying and I'm not going to lie, he was a bit rusty at first. But surprisingly, by the 3rd day, he sounded so good that a few of the neighbors stopped by to stare on in awe. The next week he picked up a set of brushes and by the following week, he'd perfected his New Orleans funk; if I closed my eyes, I was transported to a smoky lounge on the edge of the Quarter.

Last week, Mr. B rolled into another birthday and as usual, he wanted his favorite cake--homemade yellow cake with chocolate butter cream icing. But I had no clue what he wanted for his birthday so I tracked him down; he was drumming away. "What do you want for your birthday," I shouted. Slowly, he brought the tempo down and gently tapped away; he was thinking, but I could see by the twinkle in his eyes that he'd already made up his mind. He eyed me defiantly, as if he really were a teenager and he was getting ready to test me. "You know," he said, "what I really, really, really want is...a bass guitar." And he slammed the cymbals for good measure.

I stared back at him, my face expressionless; if I was going to be married to a musician, I'd have to practice my nonchalance; my coolness. I let the silence hang just long enough, then I gave him a smile and said, "Sure," before I turned to go. I was going to make him a birthday cake, but first, I was going to dig out my leather motorcycle jacket.

*This is a dense yellow cake--not at all like the boxed cakes from the supermarket. It's quick to whip up and even better when the layers are sandwiched with molten ganache and whipped chocolate butter cream. Oh, and the big surprise--I make the batter in a food processor!

Homemade Yellow Cake
1 stick of butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon of vanilla
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
pinch of salt

chocolate ganache
chocolate butter cream

1. In the food processor, cream the butter and sugar until smooth,
2. Add the eggs one at a time, processing well after each addition.
3. Add the vanilla and mix well.
4. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
5. Add 1/3 cup of the flour mixture to the creamed butter and process; gradually add some of the milk. Continue to alternate between the flour and the milk until the batter is thick.
6. Spray a muffin top pan, or a whoopie pie pan with non-stick spray and divide the batter between 12 wells.
7. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the cakes comes out clean; let cool.

1/2 bag of good quality chocolate chips
1/4 cup of heavy cream

1. Combine chocolate and cream in a microwave safe glass measuring cup and microwave in 30 second intervals until the chocolate is melted and is easily combined with the hot cream. Use immediately.

Chocolate Butter Cream
1 recipe of slightly cooled ganace
1 pint of heavy whipping cream

1. Pour the cooled ganache into a mixing bowl.
2. Add the heavy cream.
3. Beat until mixture is thick and spreadable.

To assemble cakes:
1. Pour warm ganache onto cakes and sandwich into 3-layers.
2. With the handle of a wooden spoon, poke a hole into the center of the stacked cakes and pour in an ample dose of the ganache.
3. Let cakes sit for 10 minutes and then frost with chocolate butter cream and top with sprinkles.
4. Refrigerate any leftovers.


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