I had plans to make some sort of pecan cheesecake this year, because of the huge bag of pecans I scored at Costco, but once I saw the picture of this cake, I knew I had to make it happen. This is one of the desserts I took along to Christmas Eve dinner this year (alongside pumpkin gingerbread trifle, tiger tea cakes, and drunk blondies) and I started on the process several days in advance.
Throwing all my plans to keep things simple to the wind, I knew I had to make sure I could source some things first. I found the trees at my local dollar store in the Christmas village accessories section and the white moose at Loblaw Superstore (it was originally an ornament). The recipe called for three layers of cake baked in a 6″ round pans. I didn’t have them so I ordered two 6″ x 3″ pans thinking the 3″ height would make up for the lack of three layers. In hindsight, I should have used three 6″ x 2″ pans but it didn’t end up being a big deal. Thanks to Amazon Prime, the cake pans arrived swiftly and all that was left was the white candy melts and brown food colouring that I didn’t have in hand.
Several years ago, I likely would have used white chocolate instead of candy melts but don’t be tempted. The candy melts and spreads beautifully and you only need one bag (even though I bought three, just in case. To find how to make the bark, follow the link here.
Using a couple of thin paintbrushes, I painted the stripes, dots and knots of a tree to mimic birch bark. It’s at this stage of the game that you need to take it slowly. Don’t make the mistake of skipping the fridge step, you need the chocolate to chill properly before spreading the white candy melts over top.
With that said, make sure the melted white candy is indeed room temperature before spreading it over top the chocolate pattern. If it’s slightly warm the chocolate pattern will spread and smudge.
Once it’s been in the fridge for about 10 minutes, you can break the bark by hand into the shards you’ll need to cover the cake.
I iced the cake using Brenda’s Bakery Buttercream as suggested by the recipe above. You can find the recipe for the buttercream here. Originally I was skeptical about using this buttercream because I was going to use another recipe for the cake layers but it turned out wonderfully. I think this might be the best buttercream for frosting a cake I’ve ever used. I don’t say this lightly. I made it in advance and it came to room temperature just as I hoped and held its consistency and shape just as it was meant to.
This brings me to the cake layers. I recently purchased the book “Sweet” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh and I’ve already made several desserts from it; this one is called Take Home Chocolate Cake which has also been called “World’s Best Chocolate Cake” and “Best Chocolate Cake (Ever)” on the web. Typically “best ever” headlines make me cringe and I’m being a bit free-handed with my superlatives here but this may just be the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made. I think it’s the inclusion of coffee but it rocked my world. You can find the recipe here, but honestly? You should buy the book. Because I also made the brownies among other decadent desserts and, yup, best ever.
None, really except for some of the decorations. I had considered making my own meringue mushrooms instead of the gumpaste ones used in the original recipe but in the interest of keeping things simple, I didn’t. As outlined above, though, I might try to make this a three-layer cake in future if only because I had a lot of birch bark left over and the height will add some drama.
I had considered using the chocolate ganache recipe from my tiger tea cakes to layer the cake but I’m glad I didn’t because the white buttercream against the chocolate cake was striking. Also, with all the other desserts on offer, it might have been too rich a flavour combination that night.
Would I make this again?
Not any time soon because this took me several days and the better part of Christmas Eve day but… it’s too beautiful not to.
It’s a bit difficult to grade this since I used different recipes to come up with my own version of the cake, so you’ll have to tell me, how’d I do?