‘La Vie en Rose’, a perfect epithet for a celebration cake. But one for my father-in-law on his 77th birthday? Pale pink for man? A rose-tinted glasses kind of cake, but at 77, a nostalgic look back down the years is by far the best way to celebrate another year younger, don’t you agree? There’s more than the pink icing to the name.
We celebrated Willie’s birthday at my very creative, talented sister-in-law’s house; the usual family gathering venue. A few year’s ago, Charlotte took on the extremely challenging role of Edith Piaf, a part that saw her full-time on stage for 2.5 hours singing her heart out. Intimidating a role too as who doesn’t know Piaf and what she sounded like? Not an easy one to pull off, but she was amazing in the part. ‘La Vie en Rose’, after the Piaf film, seemed the right name to baptise this take on a Black Forest Cherry Cake but one with far less hassle than its looks might suggest.
The cake is easy peasy to make. A base chocolate cake with masses of cocoa and with a spring to each bite as it’s whipped up with a meringue folded in. Even with my dodgy oven (minus part of the door and temps all over the place), it rose to the occasion. The icing isn’t butter and icing sugar but fairly healthy mix of cherry yoghurt, ricotta and marscarpone. Just whisk up, plonk it one, fork it up messily piling cherries or any other dark berry fruits on top, to dress it to impress. This chocolate cake is not the kind of celebration cake that needs precision. I would be useless at those. I have full admiration for the maestros of cake-decoration, but while I love making sweets (probably more than savouries), I also like them to look totally approachable and user-friendly, and not quite so prim and proper as those in a French pastisserie.
Unbelievably, this cake does keep its three-tiered shape when cut, precipitous as it may look. It also survived the car journey which although a mere village hop away does mean going over around 20 traffic humps, not all of which my husband noticed and slowed for! So, all that remains of the day, the cake and to say, is ‘Happy Birthday Willie’! And here’s to an even larger tiered cake for your 78th!
All images © Liz Ayling 2014
- 300g plain flour
- 300g caster sugar
- 100g cocoa powder
- 4 tsps baking powder
- 2 tsps baking soda
- 200ml warm water
- 200ml sunflower vegetable oil
- 8 egg yolks
- 4 egg whites
- 2 tsps vanilla extract
- FILLING & TOPPING
- 400g marscarpone
- 200g ricotta
- 150ml cherry yoghurt
- 2 tbsp icing sugar, sieved
- cherry jam or conserve – a good half-3/4 jar
- 3 tbsps Kirsch (cherry liqueur or cherry brandy) – optional
- chocolate flake bars
- fresh cherries, pitted for filling plus some whole for the topping
- Preheat oven to 175°C
- Sieve together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl; at this stage just use 220g sugar leaving the rest to add later in the merigue stage below.
- Beat up the sunflower oil, water, vanilla essence and egg yolks in another bowl. Then, whisk the dry ingredients into the wet, adding a third at a time. If the mix is too stiff, add a little more water. The mixture should be firm dropping consistency.
- In a clean bowl (scrupulously clean and wiped out with a lemon segment), whisk up the egg whites until foamy. Then, add around 80 g caster sugar and continue to whisk until they form stiff, glossy peaks. Don’t overbeat though as the meringue will flop.
- Take around a quarter of the meringue and using a large spoon and deep scooping motions, carefully fold in the meringue to loosen the cake mix. Add another third, and the last third in stages folding in gently to ensure you retain the bubbles but incorporate all the white into the chocolate mix.
- Pour mix into the moulds/tins and bake for around 30-35 mins until risen and springy. Don’t over cook them. Test with a skewer. Leave to cool in the tins for around 15 mins then turn out. If making the day before eating, pour around 1 tbsp cherry brandy into the base of each tier. Store in airtight tins til next day.
- Icing & Making up the Cake
- Whisk together all the ingredients adding the yoghurt as you go so you don’t make the icing too runny. Add more icing sugar if it is too loose. Spread the bottom tier with a generous amount of cherry conserve or jam, then dollop on a good layer of the marscarpone filling. Repeat on tier two.
- Decorate the top with a filling, whole cherries and chocolate flake or shavings of dark chocolate. Dust with sieved icing sugar.
- Serving: You’ll need a very long knife, and a cake slice but it’s possible to retain the three-tiers without mishap! Store in the fridge, covered. It will keep two days.