A party

It is Alex's birthday today.

We celebrated yesterday, with our friends Tracy and Swede and our two nieces and a whole lot of apples and pears. Tracy had just bought a new cider press, and a friend had an orchard full of fruit. We picked up the drops and filled a few baskets from the trees, and then brought the fruit back to crank and crush and press and strain.

I had made cider once before, at our friend Rebecca's when I was maybe about ten, and then again last year, and it's no small under-taking. It's the type of thing you almost have to make into a party, because otherwise, it would simply be too much work. Even yesterday, with Tracy picking out apples and me and Bella on the crank and Lili weighing down the pressing table and Swede handing out chocolate and wine and Alex manning the press, it took us two hours to put out about three gallons.

At least, for the apple cider it did.

Later in the afternoon, when the girls got tired and the requests for another turn at cranking turned to requests for bathroom breaks and more chocolate, we tried the pears. They were ripe, and soft, and unlike the apples, they cranked through the cutting blades in about five minutes flat. They were juicier than the apples, too, and sweeter, and the juice that came out when we pressed them was slightly thicker, but also more delicate. I liked both the ciders, but I think if in the future I get to choose—based both on pressing and on taste—from now on I'll pick pear. Alex liked a mix, and that was good too, although I think you lose the flavor of both a little bit.

Either way, for now, we have plenty of both flavors to spare. We're taking it easy today—in honor of Alex, and September, and the fact that it's a beautiful, blustery day—but pretty soon, I think we'll get energized enough at least to eat some cake. And then to wash it down with some cider—a swig of apple, then a swig of pear.


I can't very well give you a recipe for cider—all you need is fruit, and a press, and a good arm to turn the crank—but here's the recipe for Alex's birthday cake. It comes from one of my favorite books—The Modern Baker, by Nick Malgieri—which I like for its simplicity and creativity.

Malgieri calls this cake "both homey and festive," and I agree; it's as pretty as it is good. Just be sure to read through the whole recipe before you begin as there are a few steps—like melting the chocolate and softening the butter—that need to be taken care of first.

for the base batter:
2 and 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 and 2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 sticks butter, softened
7 eggs
3 tablespoons dark rum (I used Gosling's Bermuda Black Rum)

for the chocolate batter:
2 tablespoons dark rum
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
2 cups base batter (see above)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a Bundt pan and coat it with flour or very fine, dry bread crumbs. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and beat for a minute or two, until the batter forms a thick, heavy paste.

Whisk the eggs and rum together in a small bowl. Add this mixture to the butter and flour mixture in thirds, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula after each addition. Use the spatula to give the batter a final mix.

In another bowl, combine the rum, milk and baking soda and whisk well. Add the chocolate and whisk well again. Add 2 cups of the base batter to the chocolate mixture and mix with the spatula until smooth and well-combined.

Spoon half of the remaining base batter into the prepared pan. Use a small spatula to smooth out the top of the batter, taking care to make sure it is very even on top. Spoon the chocolate batter in over top; and again use the spatula to smooth the top of the batter. Finally, spoon the remaining base batter over the chocolate batter. Don't worry about smoothing this top layer out; it will even as it bakes and you risk mottling the marbling underneath.

Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. As the cake rises, you may be able to see some chocolate through the lighter base batter—this is fine. Serve at room temperature, plain—or with vanilla ice cream and a little pour of rum.


Laurie said...

I'm hoping to make pear cider this year. I'm happy to know it was your favorite!

Anonymous said...

Wow, did that cake taste as good as it looks?! Happy Birthday to our wonderful son-in-law the fishmonger! xo, Liz & Jan

PS: We hope that masterpiece is safely out of Fisher's reach!

andrea said...

Happy birthday Alex! My guy's birthday was yesterday, but we went the beach and margarita's route instead. :)

Elspeth said...


You should! I really adored it—it was so different than apple cider, and so sweet. Last night we mixed it with some Reed's ginger beer (non-alcoholic, although the full strength version would probably also be good) and a splash of soda water and that was delicious, too! Enjoy & good luck.

Liz & Jan, Thank you! It did taste as good as it looked, I think, and was even better with homemade vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of a friend's homemade kahlua on top! And yes, it is safe from Fisher, too. xoxo

Andrea, thank you and happy birthday on your end, too! Beach and margaritas sound like an excellent choice...although it was so blustery here yesterday I'm not sure we would have made it down the dune!

Thank you all for your well wishes and I'll see you soon,

All the best,

Stacy Cacciatore said...

I love your blog! That recipe looks yummy, I'm going to have to give that a try! I'm also embracing the locavore lifestyle and I'm encourging others to explore this as well. I linked to your blog from my blog to encourage my followers to check out your awesome blog. I'm blogging about 150 of the Healthiest Foods on Earth at http://stacia222.wordpress.com. Would love for you to check it out and let me know what you think. Thanks for the great post, I'll be back!

Elspeth said...

Hi Stacy,

Thanks so much for stopping by! It's always nice to meet new people here, and I had a great time checking out your blog this afternoon. I certainly agree with the merits of an apple a day!

All the best,

Bie said...

The birthday cake sounds heavenly. Pear ider is new to me but I think I would like. Thought of our b'day boy Monday.xoxobiee


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