Heather's Birthday Lunch and Cake
As you may have read, we had an interesting dinner at Next Door Bar & Grill for Heather's birthday last week. That wasn't the only eating we did that day. We also had a wonderful lunch on our deck and a fun cake when we got home that evening.
I had the big idea of making her a grilled sandwich for lunch. Sadly, I failed at trying to do this as a surprise, and thanks to a stressful week prior at work, had to defer to her to both pick the sandwich and shop for the ingredients. She picked awesomely though. Partially inspired by the prosciutto used in my new recipe for the month, she selected Giada's Prosciutto and Melon Panino.
The two most complicated parts of the sandwich construction were slicing the cheese and stacking the sandwich. I did my best to help with the cheese slicing. Thankfully we just had to smear it on the bread anyway, so the fact that I mangled it made little difference. Heather did a masterful job of stacking the prosciutto, arugula, and melon. While it appeared precarious, it all held together well.
Sadly, we realized just as we were firing up the grill that we had precious little propane left in our tank. We made the best of the bit that was left though and used our big saute pan to weigh the sandwiches down as they grilled. The end result was a deliciously cheesey sandwich. Melon, pig, and cheese isn't a combination that the average person thinks of. I'm very thankful that Giada did it on her show and Heather got the inspiration to try it. Sandwiches like these are something I want to make and enjoy more of.
The next step was to make her cake. Back in early July Heather spotted a Confetti Pancake Cake in the August issue of Rachael Ray's magazine. She immediately announced that that was to be her birthday cake this year, so we set out as a team to make it. I know. It's her birthday. I should make her her cake. This bothered me, but after making the cake I know one thing. Had I attempted it on my own it would not have been near as good.
We started out by mixing up a boxed yellow cake, substituting coconut oil for butter. When it was mixed nicely, we added a bunch of sprinkles for the confetti look. Two ladles went into a nonstick pan and it cooked away. We waited patiently for the top to start bubbling. This is what should have told us to flip the pancake. Here's where Heather's great ingenuity kicked in. Well before the pancake was able to be flipped, smoke started coming out around the edges. At this point I would have panicked and probably massacred the whole thing in a failed flipping attempt. Heather was quick on her feet though and in a Chopped-like moment, she flicked on the broiler and stuck it in the oven. This got the top to solidify enough to allow flipping. The first cake was done. We learned a lot and one side was just a bit overdone.
Heather slowly perfected her burner-to-broiler-to-burner technique. The rest of the batter went almost flawlessly. We only accidentally broke one of the pancakes in half. When they were done we set them aside to cool and mixed up the simple icing for the top. Heather taught me a cool trick here. Powdered sugar, water, and a hint of vanilla. Mix it up, adjusting the water amount to match your desired consistency, and you've got yourself an icing.
After the cakes were cool, we started stacking. Between each layer we alternately spread Nutella and raspberry jam. Heather had the great idea of cutting some nice hearts out of the mangled pancake. They made a great addition to the top after we dumped the icing on. The heart toppers reminded me of a Valentine's cake I attempted to make her a few years ago. What a story that was. I'll save it for another time.
We had a very nice day of experimenting together, the food was fun to make and eat!
Mike on August 29, 2011 at 10:40pm EDT
Topic(s): home cooking