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This Stephanie Alexander creation has become my go-to recipe for celebration-worthy cake. So far it has been made for a friend’s baby blessingway, my mum and cousins’ birthdays and even my own birthday (that’s right, I make my own cake, does that make me lame or totally awesome?). This flourless cake is rich and dense, covered with chocolate ganache and looks complete topped with some fresh strawberries. The grated chocolate is a labour of love, but the end result is completely worth it.

Ingredients
150g bittersweet chocolate grated
150g ground almonds (almond meal)
130g unsalted butter
130g caster sugar
7 egg yolks
9 egg whites

for the chocolate ganache
375g bittersweet chocolate chopped (melting pieces work well too)
1 cup of cream
(this makes a lot of ganache and I nearly always have about a third left over, which isn’t so bad as chilled and scooped into little balls, it makes lovely chocolate truffles)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 180c.
Butter and line a 20cm round cake tin.
Combine chocolate and almonds.
Cream butter and sugar until pale, then add yolks one at a time.
Add chocolate mixture.
Beat whites to creamy peaks and fold into mixture.
Pour into prepared tin.
Stand tin in baking dish and fill dish with hot water to come two-thirds up sides of tin.
Bake for 45-60 minutes until cake tests clean.
Cool in tin before turning out.

To make ganache, put chocolate and cream into a saucepan and heat gently.
Stir until chocolate has melted and mixture is quite smooth.
Transfer to a bowl of an electric mixer and beat until cool and thick.
Spread over cake and allow to set before cutting.

Serve with strawberries and ice-cream or cream.

*Recipe from The Cook’s Companion by Stephanie Alexander.

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For as long as can remember my parents have entertained. Weekends were for lunches, dinner parties or casual barbeques. With family, and friends old or new. And these gatherings of people, with food and wine and music are always days to be remembered. Saturday was one such day. We celebrated my mum’s and cousins’ birthdays (HAPPY BIRTHDAY), my parents 28th Wedding Anniversary (CONGRATULATIONS!), and just being together.

We ate Vichyssoise, buttery fennel and mushroom risotto and my favourite chocolate cake*. Candles were blown out, wine glasses filled and in the excitement of it all The Monster fell asleep at the table. As the afternoon wore on records were played and danced to by young and old (from Lachie to his great-grandma). And finally when the winter sun faded over the river we watched the dark creep in, together.

The monster may be closer to two than he is to one but I still wanted to share with you the wonderful day that was his first birthday. I’ll admit now that I love to plan. So for the months leading up to the party I wrote lists, collected ideas (thank you Pinterest), and generally daydreamed about all the totally awesome things I would make for my baby boys birthday. I successfully accomplished about two of those things. Wa-waaah. Not that it mattered in the end.

We had the people, the food, the drinks, the music and of course our darling baby boy. Lachie was fortunate enough to have two parents, four grandparents, four great-grandparents, two aunties, one uncle, two cousins and a whole stack of friends there to celebrate his first year (and our survival of that crazy first year of parenthood). In my head I had planned a banquet of sweet and savoury treats, complete with the brilliant theme-ing that would make Martha proud. In real life about one in three of my baking adventures end in the bin. We ended up putting on a simple barbeque with some delicious salads made by my mum. Troy’s mum also saved the day with plates of fairy bread. Not sure how i could have forgotten about that one.

Then there was the cake. I had my heart set on making the monster this beautiful rainbow cake along with a ‘smash cake’ just for him. Well aware of my baking short-comings I did a practice run a few days before the party. Yup, the amazing multicoloured masterpiece ended in the bin. So I frantically visited the local bakery and ordered fifty cupcakes topped with butter cream icing. Now I just had to manage a cake that’s only purpose was to be smashed by a small child. By eleven the night before the party I had finally relented to the packet mix and the cake was made, iced and ready in the fridge for the next day. As the party drew to the end we laid out the plastic sheet and presented the monster with his very own birthday cake and permission to get messy. Tentative at first, looking at us suspiciously as if maybe it was sugar-coated trap, he eventually put one chubby little hand on the blue icing. And it didn’t move. It was solid as a rock. Yeah, that’s how awesome I am at baking I didn’t know that icing goes hard in the fridge.

Despite the cake-disaster it was a really special day. We ate, and drank, and talked, and the kids played nicely for the most part, you know, except for the coat-hangering and fish-hooking (boys will be boys, even at one!). I only wish Lachie would be able to remember the day we all got together to celebrate him in his newly-walking wobbly-legged gorgeousness. At least he will have these beautiful photos (by Tuscany Gray) to look through and ‘reminisce’ the day he turned one.

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