This last weekend was my birthday, and I have to say it was one of my most memorable ones, despite the fact that I practically forgot about it until it was upon me. I had a lot of other things on my plate like Isabelle’s red egg and ginger party, and getting ready to go back to work. However, my family didn’t forget, including Isabelle! She slept through the night for the first time, the night before my birthday – almost 9 hours! I woke up on my birthday morning both refreshed and very confused as to why I felt so refreshed.
Lunch at Delfina Pizzeria. I loved the Gricia – guanciale, spring onion, panna, and black pepper. From the look on Snickers’ face, she agreed with how tasty it smelled.
BiRite Creamery after lunch – strawberry balsamic for me, malted vanilla for Mike. Here’s Snickers continuing to beg for a bite. She’s pretty much the world’s fanciest, most gourmet dog.
We had a very San Francisco sort of day: lunch at Delfina Pizzeria, ice cream at BiRite, and then an afternoon of ridiculously lovely weather (maybe that part wasn’t so San Francisco, but we weren’t about to complain). Then in the evening, another parenting milestone: Isabelle’s first time with a babysitter let Mike and me have dinner at Rich Table. We almost felt like a young couple again!
So excited to be able to have oysters again! These are Malpeques with crushed wildflower mignonette.
Rich Table serves up creative, whimsical dishes in a rustic, casual setting – pretty much the epitome of SF dining right now. We had the chef’s tasting menu, which included this fantastic array of small bites. Clockwise from bottom left: Mimolette cheese cracker with chickpea salsa verde; scallop chip with pickled green strawberries and yogurt; the house Douglas fir levain with cultured butter; dried porcini doughnuts with raclette; sardine chips with horseradish (if you look closely you can see a whole sardine embedded in each chip!)
The menu is very seasonal and subject to the chefs’ whims. There was clearly a flower theme for this evening: see this absolutely gorgeous presentation of richilini with sepia, ramps, and black onion oil.
The second pasta dish, of tajarin (a tagliatelle-like pasta) with beeswax confit lamb and dandelion greens.
I love me some perfectly cooked salmon, and this was a fantastic one with some smoked tomatoes and sauce gribiche.
Another contender for prettiest dish: charcoal grilled New York strip steak with chimichurri and flowering greens.
A palate cleanser before dessert: what they dub the “California Creamsicle”, essentially a cucumber granita with yogurt on top.
Dessert! The staff very sweetly put a candle on my dish of mint chocolate cream, milk ice cream, and salted chocolate cookies. Perfect mix of flavors and textures.
With all the excitement of the birthday weekend, it took me a while to get around to making a birthday cake for me. I already had some pretty amazing ice cream and dessert on my day, so cake wasn’t really necessary, but it’s a fun tradition for this blog I like to keep up. Since I had quite a bit of passion fruit puree left over from making Isabelle’s cupcakes I decided to put it to good use. For my birthday cake I combined two of my favorite flavors: passion fruit and mango. This is also a nod to those whipped cream and fresh fruit cakes you see in Chinese bakeries, and that my mom would often get for my birthdays when I was a kid. Even today a mango mousse cake says, “Birthday” to me.
I played around with a few sponge cake recipes I have; I wasn’t entirely happy with the one I made – you can see the texture is a little spongier and coarser than I wanted, so I’ve given my basic standby genoise recipe. You want thinner layers for this cake, since you’re building it in a cake pan. I like to use a pan like this pan with a removable bottom so it’s easy to unmold the cake. You can also make this in a round pan as well.
I kept the passion fruit curd because I like its intense, puckery punch – it’s a nice exclamation point after the creamy sweetness of the mango mousse. You can use either fresh fruit or frozen purees for this recipe, although with fresh mango coming available it’d be a shame not to take advantage of them. This light, fluffy, not-too-sweet cake takes me right back to my childhood birthday parties. Maybe in a few years I’ll be making one for Isabelle!
Vanilla Genoise Sponge
- 2/3 cup (133 g) sugar
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 2/3 cup (80 g) cake flour
- 3 tablespoons (43 g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 1/2 cup (125 g) passionfruit puree
- 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 5 tablespoons (70 g) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-in pieces
- 2 teaspoons (4.5 g) gelatin powder
- 1 cup (250 g) mango puree
- 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
- 1 cup (250 g) heavy cream
- 1/4 cup (58 g) heavy cream
- 4 teaspoons (10 g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 cup (120 g) sour cream
For the cake:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8" square pan (I like the kind with a removable bottom) and line with a piece of parchment paper.
- Whisk eggs and sugar together in a metal bowl. Place over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk until mixture is warm (the eggs will whip up with more volume if they are warm, but you don't want to cook them).
- Pour eggs into bowl of a stand mixer. Whip with whisk attachment on high speed for several minutes until very thick and ribbons of batter fall back into bowl when you lift the whisk up.
- Sift flour over batter and carefully fold in with a rubber spatula.
- Combine butter and vanilla together in a small bowl. Pour a bit of the batter into the butter and stir together. Pour butter back into main batter and fold to combine.
- Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes until top is golden brown and springs back when you press it lightly.
- Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack for about 10 minutes before unmolding. Let finish cooling on wire rack.
For the curd:
- Whisk passionfruit puree, sugar and eggs together in a metal bowl. Place over saucepan of simmering water.
- Cook for about 6 minutes, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens and coats back of a spoon.
- Remove from heat. Add butter several pieces at a time and stir until fully combined. Pour curd into a container and press piece of plastic wrap against surface. Cover and chill until ready to use.
For the mousse:
- Make the mousse right before you are ready to assemble the cake. Sprinkle gelatin powder evenly over 6 teaspoons (30 g) of water in a small bowl. Let bloom for about 5 minutes until it is a solid mass.
- Combine half of mango puree and sugar in a saucepan. Add gelatin. Cook on medium heat until gelatin is melted and incorporated into puree.
- Pour mixture back into remaining puree and stir to combine. Let cool but don't let the mixture set.
- Whip heavy cream to soft peaks. Fold about a third of the cream into the mango mixture to lighten. Fold in remainder of whipped cream.
To assemble the cake:
- Slice the cake horizontally into two layers. Line an 8" square pan (again, I like one with a removable bottom so it's easier to unmold the cake) with a piece of plastic wrap so that the edges hang over the pan edges (you may need two pieces, one for each direction).
- Place one layer of cake in bottom of pan. Spread a layer of passion fruit curd over the cake layer. Top with second layer of cake.
- Pour mango mousse over top of cake layer and spread evenly. Place in refrigerator to set, about an hour.
For the topping:
- Combine cream, sugar, and sour cream in a mixer bowl. Whip until combined and thick. Pour over top of cake and spread evenly. Chill in refrigerator until set, about half an hour.