It's my dear friend Will's birthday, and I (of course) volunteered to bake the cake. I always volunteer to make the cake. If I don't get to make the cake, I'm kind of grumpy.
Luckily, this time the party organizers said "sure! we hadn't even thought about cake!"
Now, I don't understand people who don't think about cake FIRST when it comes to birthdays. Birthdays=cake. But I digress.
This particular friend is allergic to tree nuts, which I've known since an ill-fated debate team trip in college when I brought along chocolate chip cookies w/ nuts. Whoops. A tree-nut-free cake is not a problem, but combine it with his sweet girlfriend's gluten allergy, and you've got a doozy of a baking challenge.
After emailing 2 baking friends, I finally stumbled upon the (rather obvious) answer: A FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE! Who doesn't love a big chunk of butter and chocolate? To make it even better, a flourless chocolate espresso cake with coffee buttercream.
How did it work?
I used this recipe from Epicurious (my mecca) as a base.
First, boil ONE POUND of butter (yes, this is a lot of butter. Only use the real stuff, though, please! No margarine. Icky.) with a cup of golden brown sugar and 1 cup of hot coffee. (The original recipe asks for espresso, but I don't have an espresso machine. Coffee works fine.)
Once it boils (and boy, will it smell AMAZING!), pour it into a waiting bowl of chopped bittersweet (4 oz) and semisweet (12 oz) chocolate:
It will smell even MORE AMAZING as you stir and the chocolate melts.
Then you add 8 eggs, beaten: (Yes: 8 eggs. 1 pound of butter. I said it was gluten-free, not healthy!)
Pour it into a waiting 9" cake pan, lined on the bottom with parchment paper. I also sprayed mine with Pam, just in case. (I needed it!) Bake for an hour at 350 in a water bath (I used a roasting pan.)
Your house will smell INCREDIBLE.
Once it's done baking, take the pan out of the water bath, cover it with aluminum foil and put it in the fridge overnight.
To take it out of the pan, be careful! It's crumbly. Run a knife around the edge, warm the pan over a warm stove eye, and pound the heck out of the bottom.
Here's where you can get creative ... I threw out the raspberry sauce idea (too cliche, Epicurious!) and decided to make a coffee buttercream:
2 sticks of room temperature butter + 2 cups of powdered sugar + some coffee grounds + splash of vanilla + splash of milk
I used a pastry bag to pipe around the outside of the cake and then smoothed it over with a paddle. The cake is SO crumbly, I didn't dare put the icing on myself.
I used a #32 tip to pipe little stars around the top edge and then put a dark-chocolate-covered espresso bean in the center of each.
Yay for a gluten-and-tree-nut free birthday cake! Rich and delicious.