Not a Reddi Wip Chocolate Birthday Cake!

December 1st, 2010 / Comments 7

When I was a child, a red and white aerosol can of Reddi-wip often appeared with dessert. White fluff spurted out when I pushed the nozzle. It was fun to dispense it directly from the can into my mouth, it was great ammunition in a food fight and its appearance promised that dessert would be either an ice cream sundae or a slice of pumpkin pie.

reddi wip Not a Reddi Wip Chocolate Birthday Cake!

Invented in 1948, it uses nitrous oxide as a propellant for a mixture of cream, sweeteners and stabilizers and was a definite step up from its predecessor, a cream substitute made with vegetable oil, called Sta-Whip.

The chocolate whipped-cream cake I chose from an upscale bakery for my seventh birthday was my cream epiphany. It was covered with real whipped cream, without nitrous oxide, corn syrup, artificial flavor, monoglycerides, or carrageen. I’m not implying that at seven I was an informed foodie, however, even then I knew that heavy cream, beaten until stiff with was sublime.

pink beater c egbert Not a Reddi Wip Chocolate Birthday Cake!

Since that birthday, if a chocolate cake isn’t frosted with real whipped cream, I don’t think it deserves to be called a birthday cake. As a young cook, the birthday cakes I made began as a cake mix, but as a young mother I decided that my sons deserved birthday cakes made from scratch. Our family’s traditional birthday cake is a rum infused, dark chocolate cake, slathered with whipped cream. The cream is still whipped by hand, but now I use a wire whisk instead of the hand-cranked mixer I used as a child.

Sunday will be my younger son’s birthday. If Matthew were living on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, I would make his birthday cake rather than sending this to his wife.

Dear Alison,

Here’s the recipe for Matthew’s birthday cake:

Chocolate Cake

Preheat the oven to 325º. Smear the inside of two nine inch cake pans with softened butter and line the bottom of each pan with a circle of waxed paper. Smear the waxed paper with more butter, dust the inside of each pan with a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder and tip over the pan and tap out the excess cocoa.

Sift together two cups of all-purpose flour, one teaspoon of baking soda, half a teaspoon of cayenne and a quarter of a teaspoon of kosher salt and set it aside.

Melt five ounces of dark chocolate, (my favorite chocolate is  dark also called semi-sweet Callebaut),  in a double boiler.  stir until smooth and remove from the heat. Put one quarter of a cup of instant espresso or instant coffee in a two-cup glass measure, add two tablespoons of boiling water. Stir until dissolved before adding enough cold water to fill the cup to the one and half cup mark. Add half a cup of dark rum to make a total of two cups of liquid.

Use an electric mixer to combine one cup of room temperature, unsalted butter with one and a half cups of granulated sugar and half a cup of brown sugar. Add one teaspoon of vanilla and mix until well blended and smooth. Add three eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.

Scrape down the bowl and beater before beating in the slightly cooled, melted chocolate. Use a spatula to alternately stir in a third of the flour mixture, then one cup of the coffee rum mixture, another third of the flour, the rest of the liquid and finally the remainder of the flour. Don’t worry if the batter looks curdled.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake until the tops of the cakes are springy, and a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean. (It takes about thirty-five to forty minutes in my oven.) Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for fifteen minute before tipping it out to cool completely. It’s best to remove the wax paper while the cake is still warm.

Whipped Cream

I prefer organic, heavy cream, from a local dairy. I don’t like the cooked taste of ultra-pasteurized cream and don’t use it unless regular pasteurized cream is unavailable. Other than one birthday cake I made in Singapore, I have always been able to find pasteurized cream that has not been given the ultimate treatment. Make sure that the cream, the whisk and bowl, preferable a deep metal one, are very cold. (I put everything into the freezer for ten minutes.)

Put the bowl in the kitchen sink, with a damp tea towel under it so that it is stable, add the cream to the bowl, put on your favorite music and whip like mad until the cream is stiff. Stop before it turns to butter.

To assemble the cake, put one layer in the center of a cake plate, drizzle one tablespoon of rum or coffee liquor onto the cake. Top with half of the cream, put on second cake, add another tablespoon of coffee liquor or rum and finish with the rest of the cream. Add as many candles as necessary.

If you are having guests who would rather have a cake without liquor, you can substitute sweetened, cold coffee for the liquor in the batter and use apricot jam to moisten the cake.

We look forward to a belated birthday celebration of cappuccino and cannoli with you both at the Café Minerva in Sicily.

Love, C.

Download and print cake recipe with an ingredients list here.

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