It's Zach's birthday this week and on Friday evening we threw a party for friends at our apartment. It was a fun evening, spent in the backyard (at least, when it wasn't raining).
Here's a look at the food we made for the party, along with what may now be our all-time favorite cake. If you're thinking of holding a gathering this fall, hopefully you'll find some inspiration here.
For the party, we wanted to have ample food that could feed a crowd, but because it was a special occasion, we wanted to make most of the food ourselves. So we looked for a variety of recipes that could be mostly be made the day of the party (the cakes were baked several days beforehand) and easily assembled as guests were arriving.
We selected nine dishes to make (excluding dessert) and ended up making and serving seven of them:
- Honey Spiced Almonds -- A great snack, these nuts are a flavorful mixture of sweet and spicy thanks to hefty doses of paprika, cinnamon, cumin and cayenne. (recipe here)
- Blue Cheese with with Rosemary Honey on Crackers -- We loved these little sweet and savory bites. They're exceedingly easy to make and the infused honey really comes through. (recipe here)
- Chickpea, Mine & Parsley Spread -- This was fine but guests barely touched it. It's a good spread with basic flavors. (recipe here)
- Spicy-and-Sweet Popcorn -- We had the idea to do an Indian spiced popcorn, using garam masala, which we bought to make Tandoori chicken. We found this recipe that uses the spice along with brown sugar and cayenne. We loved the combination, but ended up using far more spice than called for. Incidentally, this was also the first time we had ever made popcorn in a stovetop pan, which turned out very nicely. (recipe here)
- Deviled Eggs -- We made two kinds of deviled eggs, a classic using Dijon, shallot and hot sauce, and one with rice vinegar and wasabi. We loved both. (classic recipe here and wasabi recipe here)
- Spicy Asian Brittle -- If you're looking for a unique snack for a party, look no further than this mix of nuts, wasabi peas and sesame sticks in a sweet brittle. The flavors were good, but we would make it spicier next time. (recipe here)
- Chicken-Liver Pate with Sauteed Maple Syrup Apples -- We had never made a pate and were pleased with how this one turned out. A decadent taste of the pate combined with the sweet apples on crusty bread was phenomenal. (recipe here)
Besides these dishes, we also had a party tray from Chick-Fil-A as a surprise (we're not-so-secret Chick fanatics) and two cakes.
The first was an Apple Stack Cake, a recipe from Zach's grandmother that we've featured before. We think of Apple Stack as the ultimate fall cake -- delicious and a definite crowd-pleaser.
But the dish that we were most enthralled by was this chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting. Several guests emailed the next morning to ask for the recipe and we knew that we had found our new favorite birthday cake.
Long-time readers of The Bitten Word have already heard us rhapsodize about Chocolate Stout Cake. It's hands-down our favorite chocolate cake. If you've never made it, we think you need to see the error of your ways and make a chocolate cake this week.
For the party, we decided to skip the chocolate icing and instead do a peanut butter icing, because Zach is a peanut butter addict.
We love this cake with chocolate icing, but it's even better with peanut butter. The salty peanut butter icing with the rich chocolate cake left us nearly breathless.
As proof, before we leave you with the recipes, here's what the cake looks like now:
2 cups stout (such as Guinness)
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
4 cups all purpose flour
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups sour cream
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Line with parchment paper. Butter paper. Bring 2 cups stout and 2 cups butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack; cool 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack and cool completely.
Prepare Icing (recipe below).
Place 1 cake layer on plate. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with second cake layer. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with third cake layer. Spread remaining icing over top and sides of cake.
Kathleen's Peanut Butter Icing
The Barefoot Contessa
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
Place the confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.