Ipso Fatto Instant Photo: Liam Turns Seven

August is the month of kids' birthday cakes around here. And when Liam, my friend Dorothy's son, turned seven, I used the opportunity to try a new (to me) technique -- making a multi-tiered cake.

Normally I avoid chocolate cakes for Liam's birthday because his older brother Alexander refuses to eat chocolate in any form. But this year Liam's birthday party was scheduled at a time when Alexander was away at sleepaway camp, and Liam made a specific request for chocolate cake with strawberries and blueberries. So I was happy to make a chocolate birthday cake, using Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipe for chocolate butter cake from The Cake Bible. I decided to make a two-tier cake so I baked a 9-inch tier and a 6-inch tier of chocolate cake, each consisting of two layers.

I decided it was the baker's prerogative to disregard the blueberry portion of Liam's request and I paired the cake with strawberry mousseline. I made a sweetened strawberry puree by defrosting frozen strawberries, reducing the juice, and then combining the concentrated juice with the pureed fruit, sugar, and a little lemon juice. Then I made mousseline (hot sugar syrup beaten into egg whites stabilized with cream of tartar, with cool butter beaten in), and added some Chambord and the strawberry puree. The color of the mousseline was a little streaky from the pureed fruit, but it tasted amazing.
After filling and frosting both tiers of cakes with the strawberry mousseline, I chilled them to set the buttercream and then covered them with rolled fondant that I had dyed light blue. I stacked the two tiers (using wooden dowels for support) and applied some other minimal decorations made of darker blue fondant. I didn't have a sturdy cake board so I assembled the cake on a stainless steel tray from the Alessi dressed collection. I put the assembled cake on the tray in a large corrugated cardboard box, put it in the trunk of my car, and crossed my fingers that the whole thing would stay together during the 15 minute drive to Dorothy's apartment for the party.

I didn't need to worry. The top tier was securely attached, even though there was nothing adhering it to the bottom tier -- I had just dropped the top tier (which was on a cardboard cake circle) onto the bottom fondant-covered tier. I assumed that when it came time to serve the cake, I would pull the top tier off to cut it separately, but after Liam blew out the candles, I tried to remove the top tier and couldn't. The fondant was fused to the cardboard. I cut and served the top tier in place and then used a cake lifter to scrape the cardboard round off of the fondant underneath before cutting and serving the bottom tier.

I wish I had a picture of the sliced cake -- the juxtaposition of the chocolate cake, light pink frosting, and light blue fondant was striking. And it tasted so good. The chocolate cake was fine textured and deeply flavorful and it was wonderful paired with fruity buttercream. I'm happy that Liam chose such a tasty combination!

Recipes: "Base Formula for Butter Cake (Chocolate)," "Mousseline Buttercream (Strawberry Variation)," "Strawberry Puree and Sauce (Lightly Sweetened)," and "Classic Rolled Fondant," from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum.

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