Today is Shakespeare’s Birthday – as well as the day he died – April 23rd. So in honor of the Bard I’m including a few of his food and wine quotations at the end of this piece.
But first, let’s celebrate a couple of birthdays of the next generation – the Little Lefebvres with cake and fried chicken. I can’t believe they are already one – but they are. Yesterday was their first birthday party and I had the honor of making the cake. Let’s just say there’s always a lot of pressure cooking for any chef – but how about cooking le gateau for a French chef’s twins first birthday when you know he can cook anything 100 times better than you! Krissy Lefebvre chose a theme – with a little help from Minty telling her the need for such a thing and then she sent over two cute monkey pics for me to copy for the cake…
For the actual cake I went to my tried and trusted favorite flourless chocolate cake recipe and made up two large slabs. These were sandwiched together with whipped cream scattered with strawberries and raspberries. For the frosting on top – much needed because the top cake cracked as I was placing it – shhh my little secret! – I used a basic buttercream recipe with lots of vanilla. Personally this was way too sweet for me and if I were to do it again I would probably have added orange zest and flavor – but I was nervous this would make the frosting break and this was no time to start experimenting and making mistakes. We were already running late for the party and I was hungry for some fried chicken!
The party was a huge success – with the food provided by the Ludotruck – oh yes we all got to eat some of that wonderful Ludo fried chicken. On the drive to the party Rémy wasn’t sure he wanted fried chicken – “But Ludo is famous for his fried chicken!” explained Minty.
We sat on Ludo’s lawn and enjoyed buttermilk fried chicken. Minty asked Ludo what was his secret – he replied “Brine the chicken.” So there you have it folks – salty water! Another excellent Ludo recipe happens to be the duck fat fried chicken that graces the cover of Made in America. Rémy whispered to me “I want what your friend in the black dress is eating.” I looked over to see MyLastBite Jo enjoying popcorn chicken. And then there are those lavender biscuits…. [insert singing angels here!] Drizzled with honey…
For my birthday I want lavender biscuits for my cake – seriously.
Monkey Cake for the Little Lefebvres
8 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate melted and then cooled to room temperature.
8 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 cup baker’s sugar, divided
Makes one slab cake – you need two – I made up two cakes, one after the other – I find this is always much easier for the homecook than doubling the recipe up and getting into trouble with overfilled bowls and worse still an overflowing electric stand mixer!
1. Preheat the over to 350 F. Line a large shallow baking pan with parchment paper, let paper hang over the ends and sides.
2. Whisk the egg whites until you get soft peaks. Add half the sugar (1/2 cup) and beat until you get stiff silky peaks – take care not to over beat. Set aside.
3. Beat the egg yolks with remaining half of the sugar until thick and pale yellow, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the melted chocolate and stir until incorporated.
5. Fold in one third of the beaten egg whites to lighten mixture then fold in the remaining two thirds being extremely gentle.
6. Spread cake batter into the baking pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 15 – 20 minutes, until the cake has puffed up and the top is dry.
7. Transfer to a rack and cool completely. [I keep the paper on to help move cake later]
For the filling
3 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
3 teaspoons vanilla
Fresh strawberries and raspberries
1. Whisk cream with confectioners sugar and vanilla until it holds stiff peaks. Spread half of the whipped cream over the first cake.
2. Spread the berries out over the cream and then carefully place the second cake on top of the first – I found using a wooden board helped and then I slid the cake off it.
For the frosting and decorations
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons heavy cream
3 teaspoons vanilla
1 pack black ready made fondant
1 pack dark brown ready made fondant
1 pack natural pink ready made fondant
1 pack neon orange ready made fondant
1. Cream the butter until white and fluffy in the electric mixer.
2. Sift the powdered sugar and slowly add to the butter.
3. Add the cream and the vanilla and beat until light and fluffy.
4. Spread across the top of the cake in a thin layer.
5. Mix some of the black fondant with the dark brown fondant to get a rich dark brown color and roll out to a thickness of about 1/8th of an inch.
6. Print out the monkeys and cut each one out to use as templates. Place the monkey template on top of the rolled out fondant and with a sharp pointed knife cut out. Do the same for the face and belly with the natural pink fondant. Gentle remove the paper template and place the face and belly in place. Add eyes, nose and ears and the arm across the top of the pink tummy.
7. Roll out the orange fondant and cut out the HAPPY BIRTHDAY and the names. Using the small sharp knife cut out two bows – one for the hair and one as a bow tie and place on the monkeys. Finally cut out a branch from the dark brown fondant and then two orange leaves.
8. Carefully place the monkeys and letters on the cake.
And back to that other birthday being celebrated today – Shakespeare – I hope these quotations inspire you – to chop onions, eat pastries with dates and quinces, eat less beef (bad for the wit), refrain from garlic breath, eat wild roasted boar for breakfast, lick your fingers or use wine well… cheers!
They call for dates and quinces in the pastry.
Romeo and Juliet Act 4, Scene 4
Mine eyes smell onions; I shall weep anon.
All’s Well That Ends Well Act 5, Scene 3
I am a great eater of beef and I believe that does harm to my wit.
Twelfth Night Act 1, Scene 3
Do you think because you are virtuous, that there shall be no more cakes and ale?
Twelfth Night: Act 2, Scene 3
My lord of Ely, when I was last in Holborn I saw good strawberries in your garden there; I do beseech you send for some of them.
Richard III Act 3, Scene 4
Good wine is a good familiar creature, if it be well used
Othello Act 2, Scene 3
I pray you, do not fall in love with me,
For I am falser than vows made in wine.
As You Like It Act 3, Scene 5
A man cannot make him laugh – but that’s no marvel; he drinks no wine.
Henry IV Part II Act 2, Scene 4
And, most dear actors, eat no onions or garlic,
for we are to utter sweet breath; and I do not doubt but to hear them say,
it is a sweet comedy.
No more words: Away! Go, away!
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Act 4, Scene 2
Eight wild boars roasted whole at breakfast, but twelve persons there
Antony and Cleopatra Act 2, scene 1
Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers.
Romeo and Juliet Act 4, scene 2
He hath eaten me out of house and home; he hath put all my substance into that fat belly of his.
King Henry IV part 1 Act 2, scene 1
Duke Orsino’s words that open Twelfth Night:
If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
Twelfth Night Act 1, scene 1