South Africa, Namibia, Turkey, Russia, Columbia and as a last resort racking up my mountain bike to the back of my car and road tripping to and through the places of Utah I’ve not yet explored – all of these were on my birthday trip ideas list. Then there was SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19.
I still got outdoors on my birthday and the weekend after, to my favorite places. Ocean, mountains, desert. A California girl’s spirit can’t be locked down. Stay home; these places are Home, the first place I ever felt “home”.
But since those weren’t going to be new places to explore as I had hoped, I asked friends to help me out, explore new terrain. But, with the twist of a challenge. Here was my text:
Polling people for ideas! Since my birthday plans A, B and C now can’t happen, I’m hoping plan Z mostly can: making a decadent dessert. Please send a recipe or idea, with these parameters in mind: I have less than 2 weeks to find all the ingredients; I’m not going to increase my potential exposure by standing in a condensed, stagnant 50 person line at Trader Joe’s (people really think that’s safer?!); and the goal is that 85% of the ingredients might actually be procurable with the other 5-15% improvisable.
I received so many recipes, I decided to make it Birthday Dessert Month. And, interestingly, nearly all of the recipes I received were chocolate related. What does that say about me?
- Molten Lava Cake
- Pomegranate and Chocolate Shortbread Tart
- Loacker Chocolat Fondente Wafers
- French Strawberry Cake
- Milk Bar Pie – by Milk Bar in NYC
Molten Lava Cake
My brother’s idea. He and my sister-in-law had introduced me to Hot Cakes in Seattle (the only place I’ll buy a $10 milkshake). My brother sent me a link to a NY Times recipe, which I couldn’t access, so I found this recipe. I don’t own proper bake ware, so instead of ramekins, used a muffin tin.
Attempt 1: No lava.
Attempt 2: Well there WAS lava…
Attempt 3: SUCCESS.
The sweet spot: oven at 425 degrees, 7 minute bake time in the muffin tin. Use a knife to separate the cake edges from the tin before flipping over and plopping out the little cake. And it does work to refrigerate the dough for another day or two, and whether you’re patient enough or not to bring it back to room temperature before cooking – it still bakes well at the same numbers and tastes divine.
Pomegranate and Chocolate Shortbread Tart
This recipe was first brought into the office by one of my coworkers on Pi Day (March 14 – 3.14 for the slow-to-connect-the-dots/non-nerd people reading this). This coworker and another gave me a slew of seductive recipes when I put out my request, which included in the mix this one. This is the recipe used for the main part; and this recipe for the crust, only with my coworker’s modification of shortbread cookies instead of oatmeal cookies.
Quick (besides the setting wait time), easy, simple goodness. Adding cinnamon or cardamom to the chocolate could be a fun flavor twist.
Loacker Chocolat Fondente Wafers
“Go to a Middle Eastern grocery store, look for Loacker Chocolat wafers.” I made it to one such market in the lockdown, but no Loacker wafers. It was so important to my friend to get me these wafers – that he stole one from his family’s stash and mailed a package to me. I like wafers – who doesn’t – but these really were special. Which is why I’m mentioning them here.
French Strawberry Cake
Not sure why this recipe is titled “French” Strawberry Cake when, after you scroll for ages (why do bloggers think we care about their 5 goddamn pages of blathering before they get to the actual recipe?) – it says: “Cuisine: American”. Regardless of being confused about the cake’s national identity, the cake itself is a wonderful cake texture at the edges, and gets progressively more “custard”-like at the center. The verdict across the board was we’re never going back to strawberry shortcake, this is amazing, and would be a delightful dessert in summertime.
Notes: The accidental use of the extra 1/4 cup of sugar in the dough instead of on top I will make intentional in the future. It is still nice to sprinkle sugar on top in addition. And, the cake seems to still bake as it cools out of the oven, so I would have removed it slightly earlier to retain an even more custard like texture in the middle.
Milk Bar Pie
My brother and sister-in-law love introducing me to new, decadent desserts for my birthday. Just moved to NYC, they mailed from that hot spot one of Milk Bar’s extravagantly sweet and incredible desserts: the Milk Bar Pie, apparently “formerly known as Crack Pie”. It’s reminiscent of the dense, caramel-like-gooey bars that are sometimes made at Christmas with condense milk. Addictive in the way that you could keep eating the whole pie, by yourself. For the intrepid, Milk Bar even posts the recipe.
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There were many more recipes, and maybe when I get to them, I’ll update this list. It’s a good thing that I’m getting outside every day during this lockdown to run or bicycle, whether on trail or on road. THANK YOU to my friends for playing along, sending some of your favorite recipes, and joining in to help celebrate my birthday!