Grattis På Födelsedagen

November 2010

Ideally, when you spend at least forty hours a week with someone, you become good friends.  You develop phrases and eye rolls that mean nothing to the outside world but seal a special bond between the two of you.  Such is the case with “Justie Justig Justenson,” as exhibited by the fact that Justie Justig Justenson is not even his real name beyond the workplace walls.

Aside from sharing an office space, we share an appreciation for the bling that barely fits on Lil P-Nut’s baby-fat wrists and for the way “välkommen tillbaka, Blomquist” sounds.  We started “learning” Swedish one afternoon with great hopes of a secret communication system that is also quite entertaining to roll off the tongue.  We didn’t make it very far in the linguistic challenge.  For Justin’s special day, the best I could muster (and by “muster,” I mean translate via Google) was Grattis På Födelsedagen Justie!

In discussing my new-to-me cappuccino machine, I mentioned how I once asked an interviewee if he could make designs in steamed milk based on the barista section of his resume.  His confirmation had a big hand in his hiring (but his personality was the bigger persuasion)!  That interviewee was Justie!  I thought his birthday cake deserved an accent of coffee.  The bossman told me it was the best thing I’ve made so far!

Coffee Cream Cake

Cream/Icing Ingredients

2 cups heavy cream
3 large, free-range, egg yolks
1/3 cup pure cane sugar
Pinch salt
6 teaspoons cornstarch
2 Tablespoons cold, Amish butter, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons instant coffee

Cake Ingredients

1 ¾ cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup pure cane sugar
12 Tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) butter, softened but still cool, cut into pieces
3 large, free-range eggs
¾ cup milk
½ cup Agave syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the Pastry Cream/Icing

Whisk the yolks, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl.  Whisk in the cornstarch until the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 15 seconds.

Bring 1 ½ cups of the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Add the instant coffee.

When the cream reaches a full simmer, remove the saucepan from heat and whisk in the egg yolk mixture.  Return to medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened.

Remove the mixture from heat.  Add the butter and vanilla.  Cover and refrigerate.

After the cream has cooled and thickened slightly, add another ½ cup of heavy cream.  Use a hand mixer to beat the mixture until light peaks form.  Set aside in a cooler place (ie:  my entire apartment in the winter).

For the Cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a rectangular, glass, baking pan (8”x11”) and line with unbleached wax paper.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl.  Add the butter and combine until the mixture resembles coarse sand.

Using a mixer to blend, add the eggs, one at a time and mix until well combined, scraping the bowl with a spatula.

Add the milk, agave syrup and vanilla and increase the speed of the mixer.  Mix until light, fluffy and no lumps remain, about 3 minutes.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Allow to cool.

Final Touches

Remove the cake from the pan.  Cut the cake in half.  Remove the wax paper and transfer one half of the cake to a plate.

Add a layer of the pastry cream/icing.

Add the second layer of cake.

Cover the sides and top of the layered cake with the rest of the pastry cream/icing.

Sing the song, slice, serve, eat, enjoy!

PS:  Those beautiful wood grains were the work of the carpenter.  Reclaimed lumber from a gutted home in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh were born again as a beautiful conference room table top.

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