Birthday and Cake

May 4th, 2009


One always hopes for nice weather on one's birthday – that's natural, don't you think? I imagine for those born in the months of winter, perhaps a picturesque fall of snow might be more appropriate, but since my birthday is in May, I always thought that sunny skies on my birthday wasn't too unreasonable a wish.

However, I'm not sure since my birthday falls right at the beginning of May, that sunshine always seem to be a 50/50 proposition. Perhaps it's all those April showers still carrying over – I recall a equal number of beautifully blue-skied birthdays as well as overcast, drizzly ones.

Mother Nature has decided to make it suspenseful for me this year by sending a spate of rainy, windy weather through the weekend. By the time most of you read this, I'm sure it will be Monday morning and I'll be peeking outside the window to see whether I'll be wearing birthday galoshes or not.

Regardless of weather, I've already been treated to a very nice pre-birthday dinner – I might review this place in a later post because I enjoyed it so much, and I got to enjoy the company of dear friends, which is always the most precious of birthday presents to me.

And, I have to admit that gloomy weather has made it easier to stay indoors and work on kitchen projects – my own little birthday cake to myself has been an experiment I've been working on since my last trip to Hong Kong. It's not quite perfect but it's in a pretty tasty stage right now – a little more tweaking and hopefully I'll reach what I'm envisioning in my dreams.


This cake is inspired by one of my favorite teas, jasmine, infusing a base of milk and whipped cream. It's meant to be airy, delicate, floral, and sweet – just like spring. For taste and texture contrast I made a layer of chocolate cake – almost genoise like in texture, and spread with a layer of melted chocolate and feuilletine.


For those of you who haven't used feuilletine, it's made of thin cookie-like sheets of butter, sugar, and flour, crushed into tiny flakes that resemble corn flakes. Feuilletine adds an intriguing, delightful crunchiness to desserts – it's usually mixed with ganache or sprinkled as a layer in cakes, to provide a surprising contrast. It's especially effective in mousse cakes like this jasmine cake, because the cream is so smooth and creamy, that the crunch of the feuilletine provides a fabulous extra dimension to an otherwise homegenously-textured dessert.

You can find feuilletine online, or you can also substitute Rice Krispies – that was what Pierre Herme used in his home recipe for his famous Plaisir Sucre in his Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme book, and it works beautifully.

The chocolate cake is rich, earthy, and grounds the ethereally-light jasmine cream without overpowering it. The feuilletine adds a nice crisp touch. The first few times I made the jasmine cream, the flavor came out too light, so be sure to taste the infused milk before you use it – if it seems too subtle, let it steep a little longer. When I can taste the jasmine against the chocolate, it's tastebud-tingling happiness.

Well, whether it's sunny, rainy, or cloudy, I'm looking forward to another sweet year. Thanks to all of you for keeping me company on this journey – you're the best!


Jasmine Chocolate Cake

makes (6) 2 1/2 cakes

Chocolate Cake

1/4 cup cocoa powder

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs

3 tablespoons buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper.

Sift cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.

In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add in eggs, one at a time, mixing to combine thoroughly.

Add in vanilla and mix to combine.

Combine buttermilk and vanilla together in a small cup.

Add in flour mixture and buttermilk to batter in 5 alternating additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix after each addition just to combine. The batter should be very liquidy.

Pour batter into prepared pan and spread out evenly.

Bake in oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool on wire rack.

Feuilletine Layer

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup feuilletine or Rice Krispies

Combine chocolate and butter in a metal bowl and place over a pot of simmering water to melt. Let chocolate butter and melt together, stirring to combine.

Remove bowl from heat and stir in feuilletine until combined.

Spread the mixture in a thin layer over the top of the cooled chocolate cake layer. Let set for about 30 minutes.

Place six 2 1/2 diameter cake rings on a baking sheet. Line the rings with acetate strips on the inside for easier removal of the cakes.

Cut out circles from the chocolate cake layer and place into the cake rings, fitting them snugly into the bottom. (Prepare the rings with the cake layers before you make the jasmine cream).

Jasmine Cream

3/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup jasmine tea

1 tablespoon powdered gelatin

1 1/2 cup whipping cream

Combine milk and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.

Remove from heat and add in vanilla and jasmine tea. Cover saucepan and let steep for 15 to 20 minutes.

Combine gelatin with 2 1/2 tablespoons of water in another small bowl.

Strain out jasmine tea from milk. Bring milk back to a boil.

Add in gelatin and stir until it is fully melted and combined.

Remove from stove and let mixture cool to room temperature (do not let it completely cool and start setting up).

In a stand mixer with whisk attachment, whip cream until it holds soft peaks.

Add in jasmine milk mixture a little at a time, folding it into the whipped cream carefully until it becomes a liquidy mixture.

Divide the jasmine cream among the prepared cake rings, filling them to the top. Smooth out the tops and chill cakes in refrigerator overnight to let the cream set. Remove cakes from rings before serving.


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