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Chocolate-Raspberry (Birthday) Cake

December 15, 2011

I will let you in on a little secret.

Since waxing poetic two posts ago about the merits of growing up (euphemism for getting old?), my attitude has encroached on negative territory a few times.  I still stand behind all I said two weeks ago.  My angst about approaching this milestone day, dare I say, was borne more out of superficial concerns than any deep regrets for leaving behind a chapter in my life.  I remember feeling this way when I turned 30 and 10 years later…hello, déjà vu.  This week, I found myself fixating on that silly number–40–and a word that has popped into mind more than a few times as I considered a theme for this post…


I found it strange, this whole experience.  I have never been one to measure the value of a person based on his age wherein older equals less attractive (or less important).  Very early in my career I developed relationships with clients much older than I was.  In my network of friends, I stand in the middle of the age spectrum.  My husband and I have some years between us.  In all these situations the number attached to the individual has never been a factor in my decision to connect with them.  So why did I feel, well, less, when I thought about turning 40?  Why would I think I’d be less of a person in other people’s eyes for being older? For a silly number?

Let’s face it.  By society’s standards I have just turned the ripe old age of vintage and I would be dishonest if I didn’t admit that vanity tried to spoil my party.  It’s different when it’s about you.  Just being honest.

I see the fine lines creeping in, the silver strands beginning to crown my head.  I tease about my face resembling more a giant dumpling than something more refined.  Gravity’s pull becomes a bit stronger each day.  I will never forget my late grandfather telling me, “Jean, you’re not getting any younger.  You should think about getting married.”  I was 24.  He was one of my favorite people in the world and I knew he was old school but his words stuck.  If 24 was not so young anymore, what about 40?

In an attempt to face this aging thing head on, I tried to be present during the last few moments of my thirties.  I thought I might bid it a proper adieu; it was a great decade, after all.  Alas, I only lasted until 11:15.  But what did I expect, really?  Was I afraid that the proverbial carriage would turn into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight?  Maybe.

It is now 4:30 am.  I am 40.  The truth?  I feel no different.  I am still happy.  I have concluded that if these little things really mattered to me I would have done something about them already.  I could consider never leaving the house without makeup to camouflage the fine lines but that would encroach on my extra sleep time.  I could have covered the gray at the first sign of an outcropping but that requires more maintenance than I have patience for.  As for the dumpling cheeks?  They’ll always be chubby and frankly I love cakes and pies too much for this to ever change–I have accepted this.

In short, I will not look a gift horse in the mouth.  If this is what it feels like to be “vintage”, I embrace it.  I have been given the gift of a wonderful 40 years of life–anything beyond this would be icing on the cake.

And speaking of cake.  I have one for you.

This is not your traditional birthday cake–it was baked in a loaf pan.  But I have been in love with it since first spotting it last year.  It consists of a chocolate génoise, an Italian sponge cake, drenched in raspberry liqueur-infused simple syrup, layered with raspberry jam and finally, a raspberry-liqueur infused whipped ganache.  In François Payard’s book, this cake is elegance epitomized–the whipped ganache is smooth and polished.  As you can see my version is irregular, rustic in appearance, but the taste is equally worthy of a celebration.

Champagne & Chambord

Chocolate-Raspberry (Birthday) Cake

from François Payard’s Simply Sensational Desserts

For the Chocolate Génoise

  • 3/4 cup (56 grams) sifted unsweetened
  • alkalized cocoa powder
  • Scant 1 cup (120 grams cake flour, sifted
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup (200 grams) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter,
  • melted and cooled
For the Raspberry Syrup

  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) eau-de-framboise or
  • other raspberry liqueur
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) Simple Syrup
For the Whipped Chocolate Ganache

  • 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) bittersweet chocolate,
  • finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (116 grams) heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) eau-de-framboise or
  • other raspberry liqueur
  • 11 tablespoons (156 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam
Someone has kindly shared the recipe here.  

Just had to share this. My husband's idea of helping me with the photo shoot.

39 Comments leave one →
  1. December 15, 2011 9:21 AM

    Happy Birthday, Jean! Embrace the next decade as you have the past four 🙂 I’ll share the mantra I rec’d yesterday at Canyon Ranch Spa – “If you change the way you see the world, you change the way the world sees you.” I know all about dumpling cheeks – you just have to buy sunglasses with the adjustable nose piece 😉 Now pass the cake and champagne!

    • December 17, 2011 8:35 AM

      Thanks, Priscilla! I really do believe what you said–it’s so true! And I will have to look for those sunglasses with the adjustable nose piece! 🙂

  2. December 15, 2011 9:21 AM

    Wow delicious! I like the move to add raspberry liquer – very enticing!

  3. December 15, 2011 9:28 AM

    Gorgeous birthday cake Jean! I love all the photos both serious and playful. I remember turning 40, feeling the passage of time and the milestone. My husband surprised me with a dinner party and looking back on the pictures, It’s hard to believe I felt old, lol!
    Life is good no matter what age and I think you know that from reading your post.
    Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and many more birthday cakes;-)

    • December 17, 2011 8:39 AM

      Thank you so much, Patty. 🙂 Overall, I feel great about 40–I just had to be honest about the few anxious moments I had as I approached the day. Life is still good–besides, can’t do anything about it. Moving forward with it and will have fun along the way! 🙂

  4. December 15, 2011 9:35 AM

    Happy brirthday you are delicious! GREG

  5. December 15, 2011 9:55 AM

    These pictures are amazing…I love raspberries and chocolate together!

  6. December 15, 2011 10:06 AM

    Happy Birthday! I’ll be turning vintage in 8 1 /2 months, but whos counting? Your birthday cake looks wonderful, so decandant sweet and beautiful. The added eau-de-frambois is perfect, I would love this cake! The combination of raspeberries and chocolate is unbelievable. My wedding cake was chocolate with raspberries and it was the best cake I ever ate, and now I see yours, I need to find a special occasion to make it. Maybe celebrating life in general, age doesn’t matter it’s who you are and how you feel. Have a wonderful birthday!!! Sending you birthday wishes!

    • December 17, 2011 8:41 AM

      Jennifer, I think celebrating life in general would be a great reason to make this cake. Obviously you already love the chocolate-raspberry combination–I think you will be happy with this one. I bet your wedding cake was fab!

      Thanks so much for the well wishes! 🙂

  7. December 15, 2011 10:07 AM

    Wow, what a perfectly layered, clean looking cake! And so, so decadent looking 🙂 I love the fresh raspberries.

  8. December 15, 2011 10:09 AM

    Chocolate cake & Chambord & Champagne? You know how to celebrate! Happy, happy birthday!!

  9. December 15, 2011 10:28 AM

    Just stunning! This would disappear quickly at my house! HAPPY BIRTHDAY! You would look young next to me 🙂

  10. December 15, 2011 10:53 AM

    Happy birthday! I’m not quite 40 yet, but with the last few years racing by as quickly as they have, I’m getting there pretty darn fast. 😛 Besides, if turning 40 means I have an excuse to eat one of these cakes (preferably without sharing with anyone else), I can’t wait for it to be my turn. 🙂

  11. December 15, 2011 1:09 PM

    Absolutely gorgeous photos! Growing up, my grandmother always brought us chocolate-raspberry cakes from a local French bakery. I must confess that while chocolate-raspberry is not my favorite flavor combination, your cake may convince me to reconsider!

  12. December 15, 2011 3:04 PM

    I REFUSE to believe you’re 40!!! I thought you were my age or younger wow!!! You have an amazing spirit that many should inherit as well! What an inspiration and of course- what a cake!!! Loves ridiculously delicious! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!

  13. December 15, 2011 4:40 PM

    Happy birthday!! Remember, age is just a number 😉 think how much you’ve grown and learned. Sometimes I think of my age and feel “old” too but I really don’t want to be 16 or 21 again… I am so much wiser and happier now.

    Love all your pics and that gorgeous cake! Smile, enjoy life and eat dessert 😀

  14. December 15, 2011 6:26 PM

    I so love that little bucket!

  15. December 15, 2011 6:38 PM

    Happy Birthday! I’m not usually a huge fan of fruit and chocolate, but since this has fresh fruit I could make an exception.

  16. December 15, 2011 7:11 PM

    Happy Birthday!!! I love your pictures, stunning!!!
    40 really is the new 30 – so live it up!

  17. December 15, 2011 7:18 PM

    Wishing you a very happy birthday! I hear you about the age thing, it’s hard to accept certain numbers isn’t it? I think you’ve got the right attitude though, now rub some of it off on me will ya and pass me a piece of that cake will you’re at it.

  18. December 15, 2011 10:11 PM

    Lovely cake! Happy growing up! Rememeber that age is just a number and being young is an attitude. Keep posting…I’ll look forward to more awesome recipes =)

  19. December 16, 2011 11:11 AM

    Happy birthday my friend:) your cake looks gorgeous!! i am so in love with the flavors! i cant wait to try it out. thank you for sharing this.

  20. December 16, 2011 11:44 AM

    40? I don’t remember that age. Oh yes, for me the fun was discovering how life could be lived when kids are older and you are free of daily child-rearing, free to explore the world as you see fit, there are so many advantages to getting older; society is full of nonsensical notions (like how great being young is or how marriage is a wonderful thing) that we don’t question until we get older and realize what the important things are.
    This cake sounds fantastic, I love a génoise with a good ganache and the flavor of raspberry with chocolate

  21. December 16, 2011 6:45 PM

    Looks delicious. Would love for you to share your pictures with us over at

  22. December 17, 2011 6:12 AM

    A very happy birthday…. and as someone who is (ahem * cough * cough) ten years older, each milestone is that much more astonishing yet we brace ourselves and shrug. Nothing at all we can do except accept it and be happy. And if someone bakes me a luscious, gorgeous birthday cake like this on my next birthday I’ll be more than satisfied.

  23. December 17, 2011 6:12 AM

    Happy belated birthday Jean! I wouldn’t have guessed you were turning 40. I hardly think of it as vintage. It is an age that I embrace for knowing more about yourself and life.

  24. December 18, 2011 8:48 AM

    Happy Happy Birthday! This cake looks so decadent and delicious. I absolutely love your photos too. Beautiful!

  25. December 18, 2011 6:30 PM

    Happy Birthday! We are almost birthday sisters. And I know that this new decade will be a beautiful one for you…so many people I know say that their 40s were the best years of their life. I’m exited to see all that these years bring you. I hope you are having a relaxing Sunday, my friend. I’m about to begin a week of baking, traveling and celebrating with family. Much love and many blessings.

  26. December 19, 2011 5:13 AM

    Happy Birthday Jean! If i hadn’t had read your previous post I would have never thought you turning 40. You look way much younger!
    Wonderful cake, guess it’s a little too late to ask for a slice ..

  27. December 19, 2011 10:52 AM

    Happy, Happy Birthday Jean! Beleive me – it get’s better and better as we age. Being 40 is like a fine bottle of wine, with age we become better, and wiser, and much more comfortable in our own skin. You certainly look MUCH younger. 🙂 Loved your post and I hope you had a wonderful day on your birthday. Glad to call you my friend and I hope this year brings you much happiness, joy and wonderfulness!!!

  28. December 20, 2011 7:46 PM

    This cake looks so yummy! I hope it looks as good when I try to make it. Happy b-day!

  29. December 20, 2011 7:47 PM

    This cake looks soooo good! Hope it looks as good when I try to make it. Happy b-day!

  30. December 21, 2011 8:33 AM

    Dearest Jean: Happy belated birthday. I loved your post and very well put. You and I have much in common. What an absolutely gorgeous birthday cake and every one of your images are just stunning!!

    I hope your milestone day was a memorable one full of good memories and love from those you care about. 🙂

  31. December 21, 2011 8:39 AM

    Thank you all so much for the lovely birthday greetings! It was a great day indeed!

  32. December 23, 2011 5:29 PM

    I am rather late to wish you a Happy Birthday. Im sorry! The images in this post are simply stunning.I hope that you had a wonderful birthday. Im not sure what to say about being vintage though, I think 40 is still very very young. ><

    Happy Holidays as well (sorry to combine that with your birthday post)!!

  33. December 30, 2011 10:28 AM

    Happy Late Birthday! What a beautiful post! Delicious in every way. Congrats on making it to this day! You photos from Hawaii are beautiful as well… just lovely. Amazing cake….I love the moistening syrup – keep up the beautiful writing and posts….enjoy your new years!

  34. January 1, 2012 8:39 PM

    Happy belated birthday! This looks like a great way to ring in a new year.

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