I suspect that you can tell a lot about a child by the birthday cake he chooses.
Big … or enormous – because sometimes size ABSOLUTELY matters.
An old favourite or a surprise.
Flashy or blingy – we live in Dubai after all …
Know the child and you’ll know the right cake.
By the end of January, it’s true to say that we have birthday cake fatigue. Correction – I have the fatigue … I’m not sure children ever tire of cake. #1 teenage son celebrates his birthday on the 18th and then 4 days later it’s the turn of #2 teenage son to have his big day – his 14th birthday.
And cake is a BIG deal for him. So what is his birthday cake of choice? Something delicious – that goes without saying. But never a classic. Never an old favourite. Always something new, something different. Maybe a bit novelty. Probably a little clever. Oh and big – definitely BIG. He likes a wild card cake and that fits with his personality – perfectly.
And thinking about this year’s cake, made us both a little nostalgic about cakes of years gone by.
There’s the cake that you make for your child’s first birthday. And it takes you hours and you take loads of photos of it because he WILL remember it.
The fondant icing theme continued with a scary snake. The thing about fondant icing, though, is that nobody actually wants to eat it. Shame.
For birthday number 3, I guess somebody wanted to help with the decorating. And what a party hat too.
Not sure what happened to birthday number 4, but number 5 was all about embracing #2 teenage son’s love of strawberries and cream. Especially the cream. The strawberries were merely the garnish in his 5 year old world.
6 and 7 must have passed without photos, but year 8 was the year of football. Don’t look too closely at the detail of the pitch – it’s not my area of strength. But I could maybe have a go at explaining the off side rule.
Birthday number 9 was my signature bake. You may have seen it before here.
And for his 10th birthday, he celebrated reaching double digits with an experimental ‘different’ chocolate cake. Don’t remember much about it, so I guess it wasn’t wildly successful. I suppose that’s the risk of trying something new.
Year 11 was a blur, but the next year was #2 teenage son’s personal favourite – an arctic roll. How very retro. I wasn’t mad keen, especially as the production aftermath was akin to an explosion in an ice cream factory.
Birthday number 13 embraced all his favourite flavours – chocolate, pears, caramel, cream (of course) – with this chocolate meringue, topped with cream and pears and drizzled with caramel and melted chocolate. Not really a looker, but Gorgeous – with a capital G.
And for this year, inspired by #2 teenage son pointing out that we hadn’t had these BEST EVER Chocolate Brownies for ages, I built on that and made these Salted Caramel and Chocolate Brownies … with a pretzel crust. A salty pretzel base, a squidgy centre, a chocolate crust and then drizzled with melted chocolate and caramel. Lush.
I found the recipe on Bakers Royale – a great destination for occasion cakes and desserts but the instructions were a little confusing and had me jumping between multiple recipes, so I’ve simplified it for you + I tweaked it a little. And oh, it’s good. Really good.
Birthday gifts this year were themed around embracing #2 teenage son’s new found love of iPhone photography –
- a lifeproof phone case – essential when your’e on the clumsy spectrum and spend a lot of time near water
- a remote control – to prevent camera shake
- an inspiring book on Social Photography
- a mini tripod – to help with those clever arty shots.
So back to those brownies ….
Why do I think you might love these Salted Caramel and Chocolate Brownies too?
- They’re a bit different – And the bonus is that I’ve already tried them out for you, so there’s no risk of ‘different’ being code for really rather unpleasant.
- That salt thing in a brownie is delicious … as well as being all the rage – It takes me back to the school playground and tipping a packet of Smarties into a bag of Ready Salted crisps. Or maybe that was just me.
- They look rather fancy – That’ll be the chocolate and caramel drizzling, and it’s really easy to do too.
- They make a great dessert – Think ice cream, cream, crème fraîche. Or all of the above.
- They keep well for a couple of days – Unlikely though.
So go on … invent an occasion and get baking and don’t forget to share if you bake these. You can use the hashtag #marmaladeandme so we can all see your masterpiece.
- Pretzel crust -
- 75g (½ cup/3oz) plain flour
- 75g (3oz) salted pretzels, finely crushed (I put them in a plastic bag and used a rolling pin to do the crushing)
- 75g (½ cup/3oz) soft light brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 110g (4oz) butter, melted
- Chocolate brownie -
- 200g (7oz) dark chocolate, roughly chopped
- 175g (6oz) butter
- 55ml (¼ cup/2floz) water
- 225g (1 cup/8oz) caster sugar
- 110g (¾ cup/4oz) light brown soft sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 200g (1¹/3 cup/7oz) plain flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- To decorate -
- 50g (2oz) dark chocolate, melted
- 10 pieces of soft fudge, gently melted in the microwave with a splash or two of water (you may need to experiment with the amount of water depending on how hard the fudges are)
- a sprinkling of crunchy salt (something like fleur de sel)
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F (gas mark 4)
- Line a 23 x 33 x 5 cm (9 x 13 x 2 inch) tin with baking parchment.
- First make the pretzel crust by combining the plain flour, salted pretzels, soft light brown sugar and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl. Now add the melted butter and mix thoroughly. Pat the mixture gently into an even layer in the bottom of the tin and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
- Now make the brownie mix by gently melting the dark chocolate, butter and water in a large bowl in the microwave. Make sure there are no lumps of chocolate remaining.
- Next add the caster sugar and light brown sugar and mix well.
- Stir the eggs and vanilla extract into the mixture and then finally, mix in the plain flour and salt.
- Spread the brownie mixture over the pretzel base and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes (or until a sharp knife inserted near the centre of the tin comes out clean).
- Allow to cool in the tin on a wire rack.
- To decorate, you could simply dust with icing sugar but you can take it to the next level by using a small spoon to drizzle the melted chocolate and melted fudge sweets over the top of the brownie. You will need to work quickly with the melted fudge sweets before they cool too much.
- While the chocolate and melted fudge sweets are still wet, sprinkle lightly with a little crunchy salt.
- Find your sharpest knife to cut the brownies into 18 pieces.