Thoughts on the Year End, a Wedding Anniversary & a Black Forest Cake

31 Dec

Wow! We are nearing the end now, only to begin something new. This cycle never felt this surreal before.

May be it is an age thing.

I haven’t yet settled into my 30’s . It worries me to see the little changes that are happening every single day that mark a little deterioration. A grey hair, that slowing down of pace, that need to sit down a second after a 30 minute run, that dejection at the discovery that my favourite stores do not have my current dress size, the increasing responsibilities and the inability to relax. 2 years ago I did not feel this way. As 2012 approaches at a neck-break speed, I want to hold on to 2011 a little longer only to realize how futile it is.  Until 2 years ago, I embraced each year with the such furor and excitement that it would have felt a little short of  being annoying.

Yes it is definitely an age thing. 

2012 makes me jittery as there are many things that worry me. I do my best to push them back since I know everything will settle itself the way it does, on its own. I hope it does. Even pray.

2011 was a blessed year for me. It was a year that let me settle in this new country as I found new friends and interests. It offered me the luxury of time to engage with my creative side through writing, blogging, cooking, baking, photography and so much more. I know for a fact that this investment will not go in waste. While I worry about how 2012 is going to treat me, I also feel content in many ways that eluded me for so long. For long, I tried to find my calling but got no answers inspite of much contemplation. But life, in its funny little way, showed me my calling, silently, slowly and without warning. That I understand what my calling is now, is also may be because I am certain age now. I am settling down, my thoughts are settling down, my life is settling down.

So it is an age thing after all. 

Who knew there would be such grace in deterioration!

But as I age, other things in my life only improve; my marriage and my understanding of how to balance everything in life. My hubby and I celebrated our 6th Wedding Anniversary and it was a quiet affair. No party, no excess of any sort was required. Just us.

We felt thankful about how our life had shaped, that we have each other and we have Mimi. We realized that inspite of  the incredible comfort that we share, we will never take each other for granted. We also reminded ourselves that despite the little ups and downs, we shared a friendship that is true and rare – and that we are safe in this marriage we have built and are building every day.

So now the age thing isn’t so bad. 

The Wedding Anniversary celebration was marked by the cutting of our favourite – The Black Forest Cake. A few hours of toil in the kitchen paid off when it was well received and savored.

Recipe for the Black Forest Cake

Adapted from here

Ingredients

For the chocolate sponge

7 eggs

250g caster sugar

200g plain flour

50g cocoa powder

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

 For the cherry compote

1/3 cup caster sugar

600g pitted fresh cherries, halved

1 tbs rum

For the cherry sugar syrup

90g caster sugar

¼ cup cherry juice

For the chocolate hazelnut praline mousse

½ cup caster sugar

½ cup hazelnuts, toasted lightly and skinned

300g chopped dark chocolate

3 egg yolks

300ml thickened cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the mascarpone cream

500g mascarpone

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

2 tbs icing sugar

For the dark chocolate ganache

150ml cream

200g chopped dark chocolate

shaved chocolate – to decorate

fresh cherries- to decorate

Preparation

1. For the chocolate sponge, preheat oven to 160°C . Grease and line 2 x 20cm springform cake pans.

2. Add eggs and sugar to a heatproof bowl of an electric mixer, and set over a saucepan of simmering water over very low heat. Whisk the mixture until 37°C. Remove the bowl from the heat and beat with an electric mixer on a medium-low speed for 5-8 minutes or until the mixture has cooled and thickened to a mousse-like consistency. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together twice. Using a large metal spoon, fold the dry mixture into the egg mixture in 3 batches until combined, adding the vanilla extract with the first dry batch.

3. Pour the mixture into the lined cake pans and smooth surface. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until sponge springs back when lightly touched. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then turn out onto wire racks until cake has cooled completely.

4. For the cherry compote, add the sugar to a non-stick saucepan and place over medium heat. Once the sugar begins to dissolve add the cherries and cook until they start to release their juices. Add the rum and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the liquid has reduced and thickened. Strain, reserving liquor.

5.  For the cherry syrup, heat 170ml water and the sugar in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in the reserved cherry juice and compote liquor. Allow to cool.

6. For the chocolate hazelnut praline mousse, line a baking sheet. In a dry heavy-based saucepan, cook sugar over medium heat, stirring, until melted. Once melted, cook without stirring, swirling pan, until lightly golden. Add hazelnuts, stirring until well coated. Immediately pour mixture onto the baking sheet and cool completely. Break praline into pieces. Place into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Set aside.

7. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk the egg yolks in a small heatproof bowl. Heat 250ml of the cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir through half of the hot cream into the egg yolks. Return the mixture to the saucepan over low heat and stir until thickened. Strain into a clean bowl. Stir the melted chocolate into the hot custard. Add the vanilla and allow to cool. Whisk the remaining cream until stiff peaks form. Fold into the chocolate mixture with the praline, until just combined. Set aside.

9. For the mascarpone cream, beat the mascarpone, vanilla and sugar in a bowl until smooth and slightly thicker in volume.

10. For the chocolate ganache, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Set aside. Bring the cream to just below boiling point in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat, then add the melted chocolate and stir until smooth. Allow to cool until thick but still pouring consistency.

11. To assemble the cake, slice both cakes into thirds. Place the base of 1 cake onto a serving plate and brush with some of the cherry syrup. Spread over half of the chocolate praline mousse.

12. Place the next layer of cake onto a board, and brush with cherry syrup. Spread over half of the mascarpone cream. Divide the cherries into two parts for two separate layers. Place cherries around the border of the cake, 5mm from its edge and scatter remaining in the middle. Carefully remove layer from the board and place on top of the first layer. Repeat each layering process on the board (you will have 1 spare slice of cake), starting with the praline mousse and ending with the cherries on the mascarpone cream.

13. Place the final layer of the cake on a wire rack sitting over a baking tray. Evenly pour the ganache over the cake, ensuring it is completely coated. When the ganache has set, place on top of the layered cake. Decorate with shaved chocolate and  fresh cherries.

This is a perfect special occasion cake and the flavours are simply fantastic. All the layers blend beautifully and each mouthful is like  Christmas in your mouth. So that was how we toasted our marriage and celebrated being together.

But this post wouldn’t quite be complete if I were not to mention that the Black Forest assembling was a tough task since I haven’t yet perfected the art of slicing the cake in threes or twos. As I assembled one layer over the other, it started to tilt on one side because of the irregularity in the slices. I was angry and disappointed about how I ruined so many hours of work by my careless slicing. I went ahead with the final pruning and kept it in the refrigerator for chilling, checking it time and again to see if the layers hadn’t slid down. All of sudden, I just felt I should just let it be. Nobody was judging me and I knew what a sincere effort I had put into making this fabulous cake.  An hour in the chiller and the cake looked perfect ( atleast in my eyes) inspite of its imperfection because it was a labor of love. That was the moment when I had an important insight.

Based on that insight, for the first time in years, I have decided not to make any resolutions for the New Year. This comes from a realization that in order to grow, improve and learn, I will have to let go. I know how difficult it is for me to relinquish control and just let things be.

So 2012 will be the year of ‘Just Being’.

Wishing each one of you a Sparkling New Year, full of joy, luck and prosperity. God Bless!!

39 Responses to “Thoughts on the Year End, a Wedding Anniversary & a Black Forest Cake”

  1. a spoonful of yumm December 31, 2011 at 1:13 am #

    belated anniversary wishes to you :) the cake looks gorgeous…
    hope you have a prosperous, joyful year ahead !

  2. Ankur December 31, 2011 at 1:24 am #

    I have no idea how every post of urs get me engrossed… & the cake seriously its just soo soo deliciously gorgeous :) …. Wish you a fabulous year ahead ….. :)

  3. AARON MAREE December 31, 2011 at 4:30 am #

    Sometimes things which look perhaps, “shabby” to some are just pure bliss to others.. Your black forest cake is indeed a work or resplendent perfection. I see freedom,artistic vision and deliciousness within the photos. It just looks like a cake which you want to dive in to. Black Forest cake has never been a favorite of mine ,even after 30 years in the kitchen because it always looks so boringly perfect, that you know there is little substance to it. In your photos it looks absolutely amazing and exactly as I would want it to, chocolatey, with the flavor of cherries and made from the heart. The fact that is was all this and your anniversary cake, just tells me that you truly made it from passion. And that is the key to good cooking. Forget the rules, the text books and the chefs, without passion nothing tastes or looks delicious, your cake is everything a chef aspires from there food.

    I love that in “2012” you are “just being”, it shows maturity, not age, but that you have learnt to love the person within, as well as those around you and that whatever may come, may come, but you are content. Congrats on everything Anita, I admire your writing, your cooking and your 6 year anniversary…..If only the world had it all like you.
    Oh and by the way…stop the 30 minute running- less grey hair that way ha ha ha
    My love to you, your husband and Mimi.
    Happy New Year

  4. Raj Shankar December 31, 2011 at 6:39 am #

    Amazing post Anita! Lovely thoughts! It made me go back in time. Thanks for sharing these thoughts…

  5. yummychunklet December 31, 2011 at 7:06 am #

    Wonderful post and fantastic anniversary cake! Here’s to 2012 and nothing but promise and happiness to you!

  6. Buls December 31, 2011 at 7:25 am #

    Happy new year… I was thinking of making a black forest cake but that looks very complicated. Kudos on a good job done…

  7. bhuvana December 31, 2011 at 8:11 am #

    As always ur post is remarkable Anita…..and the cake looks so much more beautiful because of the efforts you have put in…..hope 2012 brings in lots n lots of cheer, contentment and happiness to u, Amit and Mimi…..

  8. anamika December 31, 2011 at 8:15 am #

    Beautiful post..heartfelt..wish yo discover and enjoy just being youtself…Wishing all three of you a great year ahead!!

  9. anamika December 31, 2011 at 8:20 am #

    oh and I re-read the post for recipe and wow that was lot of work..with so many elements!! I can imagine the love behind all the delicate layers now..and BTW I think these pics are your best of the blog and the topsy layers makes it look even more indulgent & laden with goodies :)

  10. Dr. Gonzo December 31, 2011 at 9:24 am #

    Loved this post. The way you mix yourself in your cooking is brilliant. Each post is a dish in itself.

    Heart you when I read about the calling.

    I SO know what you mean. This incessant question in the background that keeps niggling. Whether this is it? This is what I am supposed to do? It has been an irritant for so long, that voice.

    But then I guess,

    http://www.bartleby.com/106/71.html

    You are turning into an amazing person at your age too. When young, we believe (at least I did) that we’re destined for greatness, we just have to stand up, reach out and pluck it. I could feel it in my bones. That this is just age. Greatness, success, fulfillment, happiness, joy, by whichever name you call it, was definitely only a matter of time. That I am definitely different from all these “unhappy/unrealized” people around.

    Age brings a grudging perspective. In that all those people around were not dumb, as I had earlier thought. Their fears, their decisions, their meekness seems more understandable now.

    And that self critique voice gets more mature. Mine used to be brutal, now it gives me a lot of space.

    Maybe we all ARE still different, perhaps that IS the magic.

    I have seen a different, with a much more confident voice, and bettering with age – mellowing, discovering, deepening Anu in 2011.

    If this is coming out of all that toil in the kitchen (figuratively speaking), it’s mighty well worth it!

    Wish you a happy and peaceful new year ahead, Anita.

    Discover more. Dazzle us more.

  11. Anubha December 31, 2011 at 11:40 am #

    it’s always been a treat for me to go through ur posts…!! really really liked it

  12. La @ FoodSlice December 31, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    Anita, Here’s wishing that the year of ‘just being’ will bring you lots of contentment, happiness and fulfillment.
    And i simply can’t believe you made a cake that had so many layers and so many types of fillings. I will never have the patience for so much work. I am already thinking ‘never say never’, but at this stage it is never for me. Happy New Year, Anita and i am happy to have made your acquaintance this year :)

  13. matchsoul December 31, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

    An riveting discussion is worth annotate. I consider that you should compose much on this subject, it strength not be a bias somebody but generally fill are not enough to communicate on such topics. To the succeeding. Cheers ……………………………

  14. Akshata December 31, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

    Anita, very well said! This little insight you share with us is easier said than done. A realization of it is half way there. Sometimes we are too hard on ourselves and so much self judgemental, we lose the big picture. Let me as a third person tell you one thing, you’re an inspiration to me and so many of us. We see thru this blog how beautifully you flourish.
    I’m sure 2012 will have beautiful surprises waiting for you. Much love and happiness

  15. Bikram December 31, 2011 at 3:58 pm #

    Age is just an excuse :) got nothing to do with AGE he he he he

    and yeah as time goes by we do become mature an settle down for sure :)

    I love that black forest yummmyyyyyyyyyyyy

    Heres wishing you and family a very happy new year .. and wishing all that you dream of comes true :)

  16. karensbooth December 31, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

    Happy Hogmanay, Happy New Year, Bonne année et bonne santé!
    Karen
    XXXXXXXXXXXX

  17. ♡ The Tale Of My Heart ♡ January 1, 2012 at 12:17 am #

    Happy New Year 2012,,,, have fun :)

  18. Devina Divecha (FooDee) January 1, 2012 at 12:58 am #

    Congratulations on your sixth anniversary…here’s to many more to come :)
    And that cake looks absolutely decadent. Which is an excellent thing when it comes to cakes and desserts, don’t you think?
    Have a great 2012.

  19. Indu January 1, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

    Wow, looks super good and so exotic!

    Are you using some hi-fi camera? Love the way this pic is taken, wondering if such effects are possible with regular point and shoot.

    • Anita Menon January 2, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

      Thanks Indu for your kind comments.
      I have a DSLR. A Nikon 3100 D.
      I am sure you can get amazing results with your point and shoot camera too. I know wonderful food bloggers who take simply amazing photos with their point and shoot.

  20. Gayathri January 1, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

    Amazing post, Anu…very well written…I am one of the lucky few to have tasted this sinful indulgence…every bite was sheer ecstasy…wishing you a very new year..hugs and lotsa love…

  21. Gayathri Ramdas Sreekanth January 1, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

    I absolutely adore the honesty and the effort you put in to write each of your posts..The sincerity reflects ! You need to give yourself a good treat and pat on the back for all what you ve achieved in the past one year..! :) And this as I said before couldn’t be perfect than what it looked like..Loved the use of the cherries and congrats on being tastespotted :)

  22. Joyti January 1, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

    Wise thoughts. Yes, some things do get better as we get older.
    Happy anniversary to you and your lucky hubby. And happy New Year to you both too.

  23. Anita Menon January 2, 2012 at 12:38 am #

    Thank you one and all for your thoughtful comments. Puts so many things in perspective apart from being so encouraging.

    Wishing all of you a brilliant New Year.
    Cheers!

  24. Only Fish Recipes January 2, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

    hey …nice post dear….this is my first time in ur space… i went thru some of ur posts n i adore the passion u put in those posts….loved ur blog dear…also a belated anniversary to u…the cake looks gorgeous…I’m ur new follower now…do visit my space sometime ….wishing u n ur family a very happy new year :-)

  25. I Live in a Frying Pan January 2, 2012 at 4:00 pm #

    I LOVE THE PICTURES!! The style is totally different that your other posts, and absolutely jaw-droppingly stunning.

    Congrats on your anniversary, and have a lovely 2012 darling…worry not about age. In your heart and in your words, there’s energy and youth, and that’s all you need to continue soaring in the new year.

  26. SinFoodie January 2, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

    Wow, That’s a really gorgeous Cake. And the pictures are soooo good !!! Belated Happy Anniversary !! Lots of happiness to you :) And a very happy new year too!

  27. Rose of Magpies Recipes January 2, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    The cake looks delicious Anita!

  28. Cassandra @foodmyfriend January 4, 2012 at 2:39 am #

    Congratulations Anita! You guys are so sweet! With age comes many beautiful things, knowledge, a past and present with your beautiful family and obviously wisdom!

  29. ThirtySumting January 5, 2012 at 12:17 am #

    Your pictures are truly stunning. Happy Anniversary and happy new year to u. I love the idea of “just being” in 2012!!!

  30. Rosa May (@RosasYummyYums) January 5, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

    A beautiful cake! Happy belated wedding anniversary.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  31. Katie January 5, 2012 at 9:24 pm #

    Cake looks delicious! I must try it! Xoxo

  32. Deeps @ Naughty Curry January 13, 2012 at 9:30 am #

    ur pics have such a beautiful hauntinf quality about them… this cake looks awesome! a tad complicated but special occasions call for a lil hard work ;) that hazelnut praline mousse intrests me much gonna try it :)

  33. Cinnamin January 27, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    This picture is just gorgeous. I’m sure the cake tasted even better! This looks just like the cake they had to make in one of the challenges in MasterChef Australia. Not like the flaky stuff you find in so many bakeries. This looks so decadent!

  34. Muneera Mohammed Ali February 13, 2012 at 3:44 pm #

    Wow, Anita! How did you manage to make something so complicated? I love cooking and baking too but I’m too scared of disappointment to try anything complicated. I just make the tried and tested easy ones. Your blog has given me the feeling that I’m not alone in worrying about the passage of time. Some times I feel so happy and confident that I’m ready to tackle any problem. Other times, I’m too worried about what people think. Anyway, the cake looks like a great way to overcome depression. By the way, how do you keep fit after all the calorie intake? I’d love to know but I guess you are busy at your brother’s wedding. Enjoy!

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