When someone I love makes a surprise birthday party for someone we both love, before I can clamp my hand over my mouth out pops: I'll make the cake! Of course I love baking, especially for special people, but the heart-stopping part is transporting the cake. This cake was based on the Deep Chocolate Passion in Rose's Heavenly Cakes. On Friday, I baked one 12-inch layer in a Wilton 12-inch heart pan. As the pan is slightly smaller than a round 12-inch pan it was 2-inches high, instead of the usual 1-1/2-inches, which was perfect for a single layer. I removed the moist/chocolaty top crust (crumpled it over ice cream for dinner) and brushed in the ValRhona milk chocolate syrup. Then I frosted it with more ValRhona dark chocolate ganache. The weather in Hope was in the single digits and the kitchen was colder than usual, so the ganache kept setting up before it was perfectly smooth. I prayed that the dark chocolate lacquer glaze would cover any little imperfections. I placed the frosted cake into the largest styrofoam box in my collection (I have trouble ever discarding styrofoam boxes or bubble wrap) and left it in the 50˚F basement overnight with the intention of glazing it the next day in New York so as not to risk damaging the glaze in transport. I warned Elliott not to make any short stops on route 80. He said he would stop short if he had to which was not the answer I was looking for, but fortunately it was smooth sailing and the cake did not slide in the box. The glaze is so quick and easy to make but takes 4 hours to set up completely and I only had 3 hours before needing to place the chocolate perles monogram on top. This was inspired by a cake that Hector did and he advised using tweezers with rough markings at the tip to hold the perles securely. We agreed that one false step and it was over, i.e. if one perle was misplaced it would be impossible to move it on the still soft glaze so I would have to have scattered perles artfully over the entire top. Reminding myself to breathe as I placed the perles I followed Elliott's advice to make little markings in the glaze with a skewer rather than placing the perles by eye. What a sigh of relief I breathed when the last perle was in place. I've been saving some gold dust for a special occasion and this clearly was the time to bring out the "heavy artillary!" The effect was like the night sky but the gold flecks were so light they risked blowing off if exposed to the wind in front of our apartment house. What to do?! I had no box big enough to accomodate the 15-inch base on which the cake was now sitting. The solution was the largest cake pan I have which is 18-inches by 2-inches high. Now that the cake was frosted and glazed it was higher than the top of the 2-inch high pan, so I inverted a 15-inch by 3-inch cake over it and taped it in place with strapping tape, securing the top of the 15-inch pan to the sides of the 18-inch pan in several places. Pans set on my lap, hands freezing in the cold car but clamping the pans together as added security, and lifting the pans slightly with each bump in the snowy icy streets, we made it to the party all of 5 blocks away. The party was in the wine cellar and in the dim light the cake glistened but any little imperfection disappeared competely. The feedback: The general consensus was "It was the best chocolate cake I've ever had in my life!" But the best and most erudite comment was from one of the guests, my friend Bob Blumer, The Surreal Gourmet, who flew in from Los Angeles for the event. He was impressed that so light a cake could be so intensely chocolate. Yes!
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