Surprise Anna!

October 2009

This is beautiful Anna in blue and green, just like the colors of our impromptu girls’ garden party.

We had sunshine, snacks, champagne and laughs.  It was a really indulgent and pleasant summer afternoon.

Then the leaves began to change, and that meant Anna’s birthday was right around the corner.

On a night in October, Anna’s friends arrived at the home of one of her band mates (Anna plays a mean violin), bearing foods to share.  I placed a season-inspired, sweet potato, swirl cake on the table and took my place in the kitchen.  When all the coordination transpired as planned, Anna entered the kitchen to find us all waiting with one special announcement, “SURPRISE!!!!!!!!!”  Then the festivities really began!  Food.  Music.  Merriment.  Dessert!

The Recipe:  Sweet Potato Surprise!
Birthday Cake for Anna’s Surprise Party

Brownie Batter Ingredients

1 ½ cups butter, melted
1 c pure cane sugar
1 c local honey
2 Tbs organic vanilla extract
4 local, free range eggs
1 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 c carob powder
½ tsp salt
3 heaping tsps cinnamon
Chocolate chips

Cheesecake Batter Ingredients

16 oz cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 cup pure cane sugar
½ cup whole-wheat, pastry flour
2 cups local sweet potato (boiled and pureed)
½ tsp organic vanilla extract
½ tsp ginger
1 Tbs rum
1 Tbs whiskey

Icing Ingredients

(Caramel Ingredients)
2 cups pure cane sugar
½ cup water
1 ½ Tbs brown rice syrup
½ cup heavy cream + 1 Tbs
1 tsp organic vanilla extract
2 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature

(Chocolate Ingredients)
4 oz bittersweet chocolate
½ heavy cream
3 Tbs brown rice syrup

Directions for the Icing Components


Put the sugar, water and rice syrup in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan.

Stir just to combine the ingredients, and then put the pan over medium-high heat.

Heat without stirring, until the caramel turns deep amber (5-10 minutes)

Take the pan off the heat and carefully add the cream and butter.

Stir to calm the caramel and dissolve any lumps.

Add in the vanilla and whisk until smooth.

Set aside to cool.


Melt the chocolate over a pan of simmering water (a Maria bath).

Meanwhile, bring the cream to a boil in a small sauce pan.

Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir gently until the mixture is smooth and shiny.

Stir in the rice syrup.

Allow to cool.

For the Cake

Preheat oven to 350F

Beat together melted butter, sugar and vanilla.

Beat in eggs, one at a time.

Combine dry ingredients and gradually stir them into the butter mixture.

In a separate bowl, beat together the cheesecake ingredients.

Spread chocolate chips on bottom of greased pan.

Spread about 2/3 of carob batter over the chocolate chips, then spoon the cheesecake batter on top.  Dollop remaining carob batter over the cheesecake batter.  Swirl the batters together with a butter knife.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until center is set.

Cool completely on a wire rack.

Finishing Touch

Mix the caramel and chocolate icings.  Pipe onto the cake.


Bring to surprise party and add to the table of potluck provisions.

Hide in the kitchen until the fateful moment, and then, yell, “Surprise!!!!”

Allow the shock to settle and the savory foods to dwindle.

Light the candles.

Queue the singing.

Birthday wishes and then divide and conquer that cake!

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