Whimsical Chocolate Easter Cake

S.Kenney 2011

Easter brings so many special memories to mind.  When my children were 3 and 5, we decided to take a trip to Italy during the Easter holiday.  I know what many of you are saying... Italy?  TransAtlantic flight?  With 2 toddlers?  

I know.  And...Guess what...

S.Kenney 2011

We went on this trip to Italy with 2 toddlers and my IN-LAWS!

S.Kenney 2011

It was all fabulous.  We had a wonderful trip.  It was hectic.  It was crazy at times.  Finding diapers between 2:00pm and 4:00pm in the afternoon was an interesting predicament on one day.  All stores close for "nap time"!

S.Kenney 2011

We stayed on a family run olive oil farm in Tarvarnelle Val di Pesa.  The farm is named "Sovigliano".  We were actually only 20 minutes from Florence but it felt like everything you imagine the Italian countryside should look like.  Outside our  shuttered windows grew the largest rosemary bushes I had ever seen.

S.Kenney 2011

So many memories.  But, one of our fondest is when we went to the local church of this tiniest of tiny Italian villages for Easter Sunday mass.  The owners of our farm told us to listen for the church bells and begin walking in that direction to find the location.


Incredible.  The bells were beautiful.  We started walking...

S.Kenney 2011

I had dressed my little toddlers in their carefully thought-out Easter attire.  Madeleine had a pale pink linen dress with white crocheted collar (huge pink bow in her hair of course).  Riley, I dressed in a pale lemon linen sailor jumper with little canvas white tennis shoes.  (He even had a yellow sailor cap)

**I must interrupt this visit to my memories of Easter past for a moment.  I just have to comment on these chocolate curls.  The incredible blog "Sprinkle Bakes" posted an absolutely gorgeous cheesecake that she made for The Cheesecake Factory.  Yes, The Cheesecake Factory.  She is that good...and her photography is incredible.  She made these chocolate curls and posted a video "tutorial".  I loved it.  I had to try it.  So, these are my chocolate curls.

...Back to small Italian village reminiscing...

We had been encouraged by our farm hosts to purchase little woven baskets for the children, line them with white linen napkins, and fill them with simply decorated boiled eggs.  During mass on Easter, the children are invited to walk up to the altar and place their baskets there to be blessed.  With some prodding and coaxing, we hoped that  our wee ones would participate in this little procession.

What we weren't prepared for, however, was to undoubtedly become the town spectacle the minute we entered the tiny chapel.  There we were:  My in-laws, husband, 2 toddlers and me!  We were dressed in our typical Easter pastel outfits just like our children.

S.Kenney 2011

No kidding when I say this...every pair of eyes was turned on us as we attempted to look as casual as possible filing into an empty pew.  It was evident within minutes that our dress was making us into quite the local spectacle.  The other little children were completely turned around in their seats staring open-eyed at my children.

S.Kenney 2011

It was at this moment that  I discreetly took off my son's sailor cap and tucked it into my purse.

That must be it...

the sailor cap was too much and it was drawing attention.

My colorful floral silk scarf now felt rather garish and loud.  My husband's yellow Ralph Lauren button-down even seemed too bright.

S.Kenney 2011

After sweeping our eyes over the local dress on this Easter Sunday, we couldn't help but notice that Americans (that would be...us) definitely dress brighter and a bit...um... "louder" than do the Italians.  The Italian people in that little chapel dressed beautifully, don't get me wrong.  I'm not being insulting.  Honest!  Its just one of those wonderful cultural opportunities to truly notice the differences between cultural styles.  Their dress was more somber, quiet, natural, and fresh.  I loved it.

S.Kenney 2011

Everything about Italy was somber, fresh, beautiful and under-stated.  Try as we might, there was no way we were going to slip in anywhere and not be undoubtedly cast as Americans.

We dubbed our children the "lolli-pop" kids the rest of the trip.  We had many good laughs remembering the shy glances as well as the overt stares that we received traveling through this stunning country with my Gymboree attired "lolli-pops".

The Lollipop Kids chasing pigeons in Florence, Italy
Alas...no sailor cap

Aren't these experiences, and chuckles, and memories what make traveling the world so wonderful?  Easter will always be filled with these adorable memories for our family.

So, about this cake?  Do you think its a tad bit over the top?  I'm thinking the majority will say "YES".  Oh dear, so American.  
So sugary. 
So chocolate-y.  
So Froo-Froo!

(Cake adapted from Martha Stewart magazine)


For The Cake
Unsalted butter, room temperature, for pans
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, plus more for pans
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup dark rum
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

For The Frosting
4 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
18 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 1/2 cups sour cream

For The Garnish
1 thick 16-ounce block bittersweet chocolate, room temperature
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)
Phyllo nest
Small candy-coated chocolate eggs

For The Nest
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for mold
1/2 ounce ( 1/2 cup) kataifi (a type of phyllo), thawed (Snippet's note:  I used regular phyllo dough and cut it in thin strips.  I couldn't find this kataifi variety)
Cocoa powder, for dusting


Make the nest: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly brush a 1/3-cup-capacity round silicone mold with butter. In a bowl, gently toss butter and kataifi to combine. (Snippet's note:  butter made my phyllo dough all soggy so I just left it out...)

Lift kataifi out of bowl, gently stretching strands to form a loose rope. Lay 1 end in the cupped fingers of 1 hand. Gently spiral rope to shape into a nest.

Fit nest into mold, pulling up edges to rest over rim. Place on a baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely in mold on a wire rack. Unmold. Dust with cocoa.

Make the cake: Butter two 10-by-2-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment cut to fit, and butter parchment. Dust with cocoa, and tap out excess. Sift flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a mixer. Add remaining ingredients. Mix on low speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Divide batter among prepared pans.

Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until a toothpick inserted into centers of cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool in pans on wire racks for 45 minutes. Run a knife around edges of cakes to loosen, and turn onto racks. Remove parchment, turn cakes right side up, and let cool completely.

Make the frosting: Sift confectioners' sugar, cocoa, and salt into a bowl. In the bowl of a mixer, beat cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add sugar mixture, beating until combined. Beat in melted chocolate and sour cream until combined.

Make the garnish: Using a vegetable peeler, scrape chocolate at a 45-degree angle. Using a spatula, transfer curls to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (or up to 4 days). (Snippet's Note:  I used the chocolate curls found on SprinkleBakes's blog.)

To assemble: Using a serrated knife, trim tops of cakes to create level surfaces. Reserve trimmings. Place 1 cake, cut side up, on a cake stand. Spread 2 cups frosting over top. Top with remaining cake, cut side up. (Snippet's note:  My cakes were unbelievably flat.  So I crushed chocolate graham crackers for the top) Spread remaining frosting over top and sides. Finely grind cake trimmings in a food processor. Sprinkle crumbs over top of cake.

Using tweezers, gently press chocolate curls to sides of cake. Dust top with confectioners' sugar if desired. Decorate with nest, chocolate eggs, and flowers.  (Snippet's Note:  Get one big glass of milk because this is one killer chocolate cake!!)

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