I couldn't believe it when my friend Carlos told me that his son Leo's first birthday was coming up soon. Time flies by! It feels like yesterday when I first saw pictures of Leo as a teeny tiny newborn baby.
I was absolutely delighted when I was given the honor of making a cake for the little guy's grand birthday party. Chocolate, fresh berries, hazelnuts, and some crunchy texture were what I was initially given to work with. After bouncing off some ideas and discussing it with Carlos' wife, Aiste, we came up with the perfect cake concept with raspberry mousse and crunchy hazelnut brittle topped with Italian meringue.
Now, the size. The cake was for about 20-25 people which meant that either I could make two 8" round cakes or one rectangular cake that is a quarter sheet size. When Aiste requested for one larger cake to feed everyone, I knew it was time for me to face my fear - making a LARGE RECTANGULAR CAKE!
I am scared of working with rectangular cakes for a number of reasons:
1) Our fridge is just wide enough to fit the cake but not quite wide enough to fit the cake board which meant that I have to be real creative when it comes to refrigerating the cake.
2) I still have yet to find a cake box that is tall enough and big enough to fit the cake. The boxes I find at stores are too short when they are big enough and too small when they are tall enough. So a rectangular cake meant that I had to make my own box or make some modifications to the boxes available.
3) The recipes need adjustments. Most recipes are for round cakes and with quarter sheet sized cakes being about 1.5 larger than the regular round cakes, all the recipes including the cake, frosting, and filling need tweaking.
4) And finally, the cake layers when baked in rectangular sheets are just harder to work with. They are heavy and the spatula is not enough to support the entire sheet when it needs to be lifted up while building the different layers.
When I saw the challenge ahead, I was worried and excited at the same time and absolutely determined to NOT be the one to ruin little Leo's birthday. In the end, the cake ended up turning out beautifully.
This three layer cake had its first layer covered in dark chocolate ganache sprinkled with toasted hazelnut and pieces of homemade hazelnut brittle to add some crunchy texture and nutty kick to the richness of the dark chocolate.
The second cake layer was then brushed with raspberry puree and topped with fresh raspberries and light raspberry mousse. The sweet freshness of the raspberry mousse well complemented the chocolatey goodness.
Finally, the cake was covered in silky fluffy Italian meringue cream flavored with a touch of cocoa powder and adorned with fresh raspberries, dark chocolate, and more hazelnut brittle.
I was ecstatic to hear that everyone enjoyed the cake at the party. Happy belated birthday little Leo!