Sunday, October 01, 2006

Mauna Loa Cake

Cesare is two! My old, old friends Shar (pictured here with me & Cesare on the beach) and Jackie celebrated their son's second birthday with a Hawaiian-themed party down in Santa Cruz.

The showpiece was the Mauna Loa cake, a true group effort made by everyone in the house. A sheet of yellow cake was the base, topped with rain-forest-green cream-cheese frosting, dusted with a lava field of crushed chocolate cookies sloping down from a mountain of chocolate ice cream mixed with homemade almond praline and topped with an eruption of pink whipped cream lava and scatterings of coconut. At first, Shar questioned the presence of flamingos around a volcano, but we decided they were party flamingos (they did, after all, come from the party store), there for the celebration.

A huge hit all around. Pictured here is Cesare's cousin Eva, ensconced amid the decorative pineapples. The most delicious part was the almond praline, which was surprisingly easy to make, and super-delish when ground and mixed in with the chocolate ice cream. Toast a cup of whole almonds for 10-15 minutes in the oven at 325, until they smell toasty and are pale golden-brown when broken open. While the almonds are toasting, melt 1/2 cup of sugar with 3 TB of water in a small, heavy pot over medium heat. Cook syrup, swirling (don't stir), until copper-penny color. Stir syrup into almonds and spread out onto an oiled pan. Let cool--almonds will turn hard and glossy. Break up and grind briefly until sandy, or chop with a knife for a more pebbly texture. Let ice cream soften, then mix in praline to taste. Eat as is, or line a cone-shaped vase or flowerpot with plastic wrap. Pack ice cream into mold, freeze, unmold and decorate with as many flamingos as you can find.

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