Happy Birthday!

So, I'm celebrating my 25th birthday with friends Saturday night (though my actual birthday isn't until the 26th) and, while I'm making a Peach Melba Cake for myself, I'm also making my Cioccolato-Mangiare Cake, as a surprise for my best friend, Megan, whose birthday is 15 days before mine, but who has no plans to celebrate!

I've made both of these cakes previously--in fact, I made the Peach Melba last year for my 24th, but forgot to serve it until the end of the night when only three people were left! It was absolutely delicious, though, and I believe I actually did finish the whole thing off myself by the end of that week. Scary...but oh-so good ;)

It was a white cake with buttercream frosting (my aunt's personal recipe), raspberry sauce, and whole raspberries/poached peaches. The peaches were too wet to fill the cake layers (the liquid kept penetrating the buttercream and creating leaks!), so I diced them up instead and served them, with extra sauce, as a topping on each individual slice. The only thing that could have made it even better was vanilla ice cream :)

The Cioccolato-Mangiare Cake is a concept I came up with for my mom's birthday. Usually, we each provide our own dessert (or she makes mine, but I've never made hers). This year, though, she suggested we make each others! I requested Magnolia Bakery's Red Velvet Cake (one of my absolute favorites!), while she requested a chocolate version of a Boston Creme Pie. The version below was for someone at work; it was the perfect opportunity to practice for my mom!

This one is actually a box mix chocolate cake because my mom requested it, specifically (I think mostly to spite my hatred of box mixes, haha). It's filled with a chocolate version of biancomangiare (a white pudding often found in cannolis, in place of sweetened ricotta), which roughly translates to "white food," hence the new name Cioccolato-Mangiare. Then, I covered it in hot fudge and decorated it with toffee bits and chocolate curls. The one problem I found is that, since the cake has to be refrigerated because of the pudding, the hot fudge stiffens into a chocolate shell that's difficult to slice. The flavor is so worth it in the end, though! 

Peach Melba Cake

Old-Fashioned White Cake (recipe from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large egg whites
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Magnolia's recipe says to grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with waxed paper; this is the most reliable method to ensure a cake doesn't stick to the pan. Because I use spring-form pans, though, I only butter and flour; I don't use wax paper because I find the bottom of the pan is very easy to remove. 

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter, at medium speed, until smooth. Add the sugar, gradually, and beat until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the flour in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla, beating well after each addition. In a separate bowl, at high speed, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter, making sure no streaks of whites are showing. Divide the batter between your two pans and bake for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes before removing them from the pans to cool on a wire rack; always cool completely before frosting.

Aunt Ann's Buttercream Frosting
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk or heavy cream
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
The choice between milk and heavy cream is yours. My aunt's original recipe uses milk; however, sometimes I want a creamier, fluffier buttercream, in which case I use heavy cream because it will create more volume than milk, once whipped.

Dissolve the sugar in the milk just as you would a simple syrup. Because milk burns easily, you'll have to keep careful watch; I recommend a lower heat setting (such as medium) and occasional stirring. Now, I'm a quite impatient person and find it tedious cooking the milk at a lower heat, waiting for the sugar to finally dissolve, so I've tried multiple methods to make it faster. One method, which I feel I use most often now, is to heat the milk first and then gradually pour the sugar in, while stirring. I can't say for certain if it takes less time, but it makes me feel that way! 

Another difficulty with this is that you can't physically see if the sugar has dissolved, as you can in a water-based simple syrup. My mom gave me a tip to scrape the back of a spoon across the bottom of the pan; if some sugar hasn't dissolved, you'll feel the granules between the spoon and pan. Also, when you pull the spoon out, you'll likely see some on the back of the spoon. If you've recently stirred the mixture, though, make sure you allow it to settle for a moment before using the spoon test because the granules need to fall back to the bottom. If you're wondering why it's so important to makes sure the sugar's dissolved, it's because nobody likes a grainy frosting. At least, I don't think they do! Haha.

Once the sugar has dissolved, remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to fully cool. I like to refrigerate it so that I'm working with the coldest mixture possible for my buttercream. 

Once cooled, beat the butter with the paddle attachment, on medium-high speed, until smooth. While still beating, very gradually pour in the sweetened milk. You don't want to pour it in too quickly or it will never fully incorporate correctly with the butter. I would, at the most, stick with pouring a quarter of a cup at a time, very slowly, and waiting until the milk is clearly incorporated before slowly pouring in the next. After fully incorporating all the milk, add the vanilla and beat until frosting is smooth. If you want something a bit sweeter, fluffier, and/or less buttery, add a bit of powdered sugar until you've achieved the results you're looking for. I tend to add at least a few tablespoons to expand the volume of my frosting along with giving it a touch extra sweetness. To me, it's the perfect combination of sweet and buttery, once I do this.

If you want to color the frosting, make sure it's a gel food coloring specifying, on the packaging, that it doesn't liquify frosting. I've ruined many a batch by accidentally using a food color that liquifies the entire thing, turning it into the cottage cheese of frostings. It is never a happy moment!

Raspberry Sauce
  • 3 cups raspberries
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
Using a blender or food processor, mix together all the ingredients; the raspberries should completely liquify. Pour the mixture into a sieve (held over a bowl to gather the sauce!) to strain out the seeds. Depending on the size of your sieve, you may have to do this in multiple batches, as there will be a lot of seeds.

Poached Peaches
  • 3 cups water
  • 3.5 cups sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod, split lengthwise
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 8 peaches

Put the water, sugar, vanilla pod, and lemon juice into a large, wide saucepan and heat to dissolve the sugar; treat this like a simple syrup. In the meantime, slice the peaches in half and remove the pits. This can be a very tedious task as a lot of peaches don't want to pull apart easily and a lot of pits don't want to detach easily. You may end up using your knife to finagle everything apart. If you can't manage full halves, don't worry, you'll be further slicing up the peaches later, for serving. 

Once the peaches are sliced and pits removed, place them in the sugar syrup, lowered to a simmer, and poach 2 to 3 minutes, on each side, depending upon the ripeness of the fruit. You want soft, delicate peaches, in the end. Once properly softened, gently remove the peaches to a plate using a slotted spoon.

Then, carefully remove the skins; the peaches will be hot, so you may prefer to use tongs, but they're more difficult to handle than your fingers. Just be careful to really only touch the skin rather than the fruit!

If you're making this ahead of time, let the syrup cool and store it with the peaches; otherwise, feel free to freeze the syrup to use in the future to poach any range of fruits. 


Because it was a year ago, I can't be certain if this is correct, but I believe I left the cake in two layers. Of course, if you like, you can divide the two layers so that there are four. You may or may not need to adjust the amount of buttercream made, though.

First, frost the top of your bottom layer, place the second on top, and then frost the top and sides. If you like, you can cover the cake in a crumb coating first, which you may prefer because white cake can be very crumbly. Simply frost the tops and sides with a very thin layer of buttercream; don't worry about getting crumbs in this layer, that's generally the point because the crumbs will be encased in this thin layer of frosting, unable to sneak into your final layer of buttercream. Make sure to leave some for piping the top, though, especially if you plan to add the raspberry sauce because it needs a border of frosting to act as a dam.

Once the cake is frosted, pipe a border around the top. If you're going to pour raspberry sauce into the center, make sure there are no openings in the piping from which the sauce can escape. Finish off your cake by covering the sides in a tidy layer of fresh raspberries and floating the sauce over the top (and around the cake, if it's on a nice platter!). You may also want to add a few decorative slices of peach to show what the cake's really about :)

Slice up the remaining poached peaches and set them aside with the raspberry sauce, in two separate dishes, to spoon over the top of each slice.

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