My Guide for Garnishing Your Own Birthday Cake
Only when someone asked you especially do you need to bake your own cake, unless you want to. No one needs to know that the base was shop bought. See it as an exercise in creativity, not in raw baking skill. Let’s face it, by the time you finally decide to invite a group of friends over to celebrate your birthday, it’s all a bit last-minute from there. My suggestion is to keep it simple. Steer clear of square meals and stick to snacks – things you can “put together” rather than cook from scratch. And because no birthday party is complete without a cake, opt for something chocolatey. It’s classic, delicious, and goes with so many different things. All you need to do is keep in mind these three rules of thumb.
Sometimes, we have a certain vision in mind when considering our ideal birthday cake, which very rarely involves something low and flat. It’s ok, you’re allowed to want a showpiece. This is about you. My suggestion is to go with something plain, like the Forage and Feast Ebony and Ivory Cake, a layered delight that starts with a moist chocolate sponge, followed by a tier of white chocolate mousse under a dark chocolate mousse layer, topped with a biscuit crunch.
By hollowing out the centre, you can fill it with a surprise element (Happy Birthday, Mr President) – chocolate ice cream in this case – while using the hollowed-out centre to add height to your creation.
When adding additional elements to a chocolate cake, you’d be surprised by all the options at your disposal. Chocolate on chocolate is always a good idea (think death by chocolate and triple chocolate). Beyond that, add things that enhance the flavour. Berry and orange flavours are classic choices, whereas salt enhances the chocolate’s sweetness. Unless you’re allergic, nuts are always a good idea and very complementary to chocolate, especially when toasted, when they prevent the chocolate from becoming too overpowering.
For a more surprising, discerning element, consider one of chocolate’s more unusual pairings, like cauliflower (I know, but trust me on this one), beetroot, goat’s cheese, rosemary or tomato.
With all the groundwork done, you can start to have fun! After choosing your flavours, garnishing adds texture to your creation. Most people think of crunch when they hear the word texture, but it’s also about how crunch, crispiness, crumbliness, lumpy chewiness, velvety smoothness and grittiness come together to create that satisfying full mouth feel.
To bring all the elements together on the cake, I used a good quality melted chocolate that hardens as it cools. Then, I topped the cake with strawberries, a firm, crispy texture, juicy blueberries, peanut butter fudge and pretzel clusters in milk chocolate and milk chocolate coated hazelnuts, and lined the cake on one side with alternating panels of dark chocolate with salted caramel and 30% milk chocolate.
When garnishing a cake with excellent quality elements like these, it means you can eat them straight off the cake (although I wouldn’t want to spoil it like that). Whatever you choose, don’t let the garnishes overpower the cake. They should only embellish it, not steal the show. It’s still about the cake, after all.