party party

chocolate hazelnut birthday cake with frangelico poached prunes

There has to be something to be said for hosting a house party in your own place. Sure there is the downside of having the mess to clean when the guests do depart, but to my mind the positives far outweigh that little inconvenience. I mean there’s no need to worry about traffic or taxis or getting there on time. And with easy access to your own wardrobe you can adjust your outfit accordingly if you find that you’re too cool or too warm. Or for that matter if you happen to be like my flatmate Dr Kate and find yourself to be a little indecisive when it comes to choosing from your recent shoe purchases (8 pairs on a recent trip to San Francisco) you have the option of mixing things up with a regular shoe change.

There is also the fun of planning and transforming your home into a more open and party appropriate space. But for me the best thing about hosting a party is the buzz you get when your house is filled with that warm noise that only comes from having a lot of people laughing, chatting, drinking and generally misbehaving in a small space.

While there has been many a dinner party with the dining table maxed to 12 people in the last year since I moved into my current place. There’s been the turducken, a singles Valentine’s Day celebration and even a Bastille day cassoulet feast to name a few, but there hasn’t been a proper stand up party. The type where you clear the furniture out of the living room and get a couple of eskys filled with ice to serve as a bar.

So when the 30th Birthday of the gorgeous Dr Kate came on the horizon, we both agreed that it would be silly, if not downright negligent not to host a party. With Kate in charge of the invite list and ambience, I somewhat predictably volunteered to look after the food.

While I did initially think about baking the largest salmon I could get my hands on, the numbers quickly overtook that idea and I moved on to an old Christmas favourite for feeding a crowd: rosemary & marmalade glazed ham. With a whopping 8kg leg of prime pork, plenty of crusty bread, and a few old favourite salads I was sure we’d be able to feed as many people as we needed and still have enough for ham sandwiches during the week.

Dessert at a Birthday party was also a no-brainer: birthday cake and chocolate – a tried and true combo. I did toy with my current fav the chocolate mousse cake, I was a little worried about how it would perform on a larger scale so decided to try something a less fiddly. I’d forgotten how good and how simple Jamie Oliver’s two nuts chocolate torte was. Just whiz your nuts and chocolate in a food processor, cream butter and sugar, whip egg whites and then fold it all together and into the oven. It’s delicious on it’s own but even better when served with boozy prunes poached in frangelico and honey…Happy Birthday Dr Kate…. all good things.

 

dr kate’s 30th birthday bash
rosemary & marmalade glazed ham
smoky paprika potato salad
raw beet salad
rocket & radicchio salad
chocolate hazelnut birthday cake with frangelico poached prunes

chocolate hazelnut birthday cake with frangelico poached prunes
serves approx 24

Based on Jamie Oliver’s two nuts chocolate torte.

This is one of those great chocolate cake recipes that is really forgiving. The nuts keep it super  moist even if you do overcook it a little and they add a lovely fudgey texture. Jamie uses almonds and walnuts so feel free to experiment with your choice of nut.

If you don’t happen to be catering for a crowd feel free to halve the recipe and bake in a 24cm springform cake tin and adjust the cooking time to 40-50mins.

300g almonds
300g hazelnuts, roasted & peeled
600g dark chocolate (I use Lindt 70% cocoa solids)
500g butter
200g sugar
12 eggs, separated
pinch salt
poached prunes (recipe below) to serve
vanilla icecream, to serve

Preheat oven to 180C and grease and line a 25cm square cake tin. Whizz nuts in a food processor until finely ground, remembering that this is the main contributor to the final texture of your torte. Place ground nuts in a large mixing bowl and whizz chocolate until also finely ground and transfer to the bowl with the nuts. Beat butter and sugar in the food processor until pale and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time mixing well between each addition (I did this in 2 separate batches so as not to overload my little machine). Fold butter mixture through the nuts and chocolate.

Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until firm peaks form. Fold through chocolate mixture not being too pedantic. You want some air to lighten but not as much as you would for a soufflé. Transfer to the prepared tin and bake for 55mins to 1hr or until the center feels firm to the touch and a skewer inserted comes out mostly clean.

Allow to cool for 5mins in the tin before turning out onto a cake rack to cool completely. Decorate with poached prunes and serve with icecream and extra prunes and their cooking juice passed separately.

frangelico poached prunes
serves approx 24

These prunes are great on their own with icecream or marscapone or even as a more decadent breakfast with yoghurt and muesli.

1.5kg pitted prunes
1C (250mL) frangelico
1C (350g) honey
2C water
2 cinnamon sticks

Combine liquid ingredients in a large saucepan and add cinnamon and prunes. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10mins then allow to cool.

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