Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Real Reason to Celebrate

Things have been going really well lately in the busy life of Hannah.  I finally have a complete schedule that I am happy with, I'm getting to see my friends more this semester, I have a grad school interview in San Francisco at the end of the week, my birthday is on Thursday, and my first Zumba® class of the semester is today.  I really don't think my life could be any better right now.

Of course, when things are going so well, I tend to get very appreciative and emotional.  I've been so happy I could cry, and in fact, I have, several times this week, actually.  One of the things that I have been so happy about is being at Wes.  As hard as I try to not think about my impending graduation in 111 days (but who's counting?), the beautiful weather and all the fun I'm having with the people I love is making me think about how much I'm going to miss this place.

One of the things I love most about Wesleyan is the people, and how everyone supports one another.  My friend, Joe, and I met through Active Minds last semester, and despite not knowing each other super well, we have somehow become each others' mental health supports.  He is an incredible individual with so much passion for life and helping others, and I truly admire him.  He lays his issues out on the table for everyone to see, in the hopes that it will help others come forward with their problems as well.

Last night, Joe threw a party to celebrate a very important accomplishment.  Joe is a recovered alcoholic, and this month is the one-year anniversary of his sobriety.  I am so incredibly proud of him for this, and I asked him to have the honor of making his cake.

Now, what cake could one possibly make that would encapsulate all of the feelings associated with this kind of event?  I wanted something innocent and whimsical that represented how we used to enjoy ourselves as kids, before alcohol became the supposed prerequisite for a good time.  The first thing that popped into my head was a root beer float.  Ding, ding, ding!  We have a winner.  I decided to turn a root beer float into a cake.  So, without further ado, I present to you, Joe's 1-Year Sobriety Cake.

Root Beer Float Ice Cream Cake
Cake recipe adapted from Joy the Baker

2 cups root beer (don’t use diet)
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs

Put cocoa powder, butter, and root beer in a small saucepan over medium heat
Gently whisk or stir until the butter is melted.  Stir in the sugars until dissolved.  Remove from heat.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder and salt
In another small bowl, beat together eggs
Slowly stir the eggs into the chocolate mixture until incorporated
Gently fold in the dry ingredients until combined
Batter will be lumpy, do not try to get rid of the lumps, or you'll end up with a rock-hard cake
Cut parchment paper circles to fit the bottom of 2 9" round cake pans, grease and dust the sides with cocoa
Bake at 325°F for 35-35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean
Cool in pans on wire racks for 15 minutes, then remove from pans and continue cooling
My oven, and possibly my entire kitchen, is crooked, and causes my cakes to tilt to one side every single time I bake.  Oh gravity...

Only when they are 100% completely cool, begin assembly.  Because they are so uneven, I always have to cut them.  I prefer to use a very long, serrated bread knife
I mixed half a pint of Ben & Jerry's vanilla ice cream with 3 Tbs root beer until it had a soft serve consistency.  Spread over one layer of cake, place the other layer on top, and then freeze immediately for at least 2-3 hours.
Make your frosting.  I'm sorry I didn't take pictures.  I was in a rush to finish the cake, and when I got home, my kitchen was taken over by my housemates having a dinner party.  I didn't have much time or room to work with, so I just threw things together.
Whipped Cream Frosting Ingredients
1 stick unsalted butter (softened)
3 cups confectioners' sugar
2 Tbs root beer
1 cup heavy cream

Beat butter until soft, add confectioners' sugar until a stiff frosting forms.  Add root beer.  In a separate bowl, whip heavy cream until semi-stiff peaks form.  Then carefully fold the buttercream into the whipped cream to create a frothy, whipped cream-style frosting.

The frosting was really soft/runny (because it's mostly whipped cream), so you kind of just throw it on the cake and hope for the best.  Put it in the freezer immediately for another 2-3 hours.  Remove from freezer and let sit approximately 5-10 minutes before serving.

It won't be perfect, but how many root beer floats have you seen that are?  Despite its appearance, I am so proud of this cake.  It is my first attempt at an ice cream cake, and I think all the flavors were spot-on.

I would like to congratulate myself on this cake, but more importantly, I would like to congratulate the person with real cause to celebrate, Joe.  Congrats, kid, we are all so proud of you.  And thank you for continuing to support everyone else while fighting your own battles.

Love and cookies,

1 comment:

  1. Hannah, you're incredible and I'm so lucky to have you as a friend! Beautiful cake, heartfelt post, and rocking Zumba class! I'm looking forward to cherishing these next 111 days with you--to more nature walks, everyday meditation and spiritual experiences, and "wounded healing"!