This last Frday we had a most unusual dinner. It was the tail end of Hanukkah and also my Granddaughter Elena’s birthday.Ever since she was very little and tasted her first lobster dipped in melted butter, it was love at first bite. She begged my son to get lobster whenever he went to the market. He finally explained to her that lobster was expensive and therefore just for special occasions. So, every holiday or family birthday she’d ask him wistfully, is this a special occasion?
As I am her doting grandma, I make a lobster dinner every year on her birthday. That and her favorite birthday cake, the Gateau Rolla. There are usually 8 or 10 of us at the annual Lobsterfest, so I do not want to have to cut up the lobsters at the last minute as it is rather messy. ( And no one wants to be in the room when I drop them in the boiling water! ) Plus I have side dishes to prepare. So, very early in the morning I put up a huge pot of water and drive down to Monterey Fish Market and pick up the lobsters. When I get home the water has just come to a boil. I then cook the lobsters half way for about 4 to 5 minutes, remove the meat from the shells and place it in individual ramekins, spread on a tarragon shallot butter and cover them well and place in the fridge. Then all I have to do is pop them in the oven for 10 minutes at dinner time. The cake, layers of almond meringue and chocolate butter cream, is made the day before as it needs to sit overnight so it can be cut without shattering.
Which leaaves me with the annual dilemma of what to serve with the lobster. One year I did braised fennel. Another year roasted asparagus. This year I decided to honor another family request. My daughter Rachel’s birthday was in two days and she wanted latkes. So we had lobster and latkes. Sort of sacrilegious… but really good. To honor yet another birthday request, (my son in law’s birthday was also that week,) I made smoked trout pate for an appetizer while we sipped some bubbly. Then we started the meal with a lovely salad of papaya, avocado, endive and a lime and ginger dressing. After dinner we sang the birthday song to all three celebrants and ate the cake. Everyone was happy.
The Lobsterfest tradition will continue. Tune in next year.
This is the official family birthday cake for those who request cake.
It is an ideal party cake because it is best made the day before. And it uses up all the egg whites which seem to multiply in the refrigerator after an orgy of aioli and custard making. While Gateau Rolla resembles a French dacquoise, the absence of an egg yolk butter cream tells me that this could be Italian. .
This is very rich and will feed 12 people easily.
5 egg whites
pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup grated almonds
6 ounces semi sweet chocolate like Valrhona or Sharffenberger
2 tablespoons cocoa
3 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups sweet butter, softened
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Oil or butter two large baking sheets. Trace 9 inch circles onto four 10 inch squares of baker’s parchment paper. Place the paper squares on the baking sheets, pencil side down. Oil the paper lightly.
Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. Gradually beat in 3/4 cup of sugar. Beat the meringue until stiff and glossy. On low speed, beat in the vanilla and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Fold in the almonds. Spread or pipe this mixture onto the parchment, staying within the guidelines of the circles. Do not make these meringues too thick or they will not dry out easily. About 1/4 inch is ideal. Bake the meringues for about 1 hour. Carefully remove to a rack to cool. Peel off the paper. If one should break or crack, it can be patched with frosting.
Melt the chocolate and cocoa in the top of a double boiler and set aside. With a hand held electric mixer beat the egg whites until they are foamy in a bowl or a double boiler over hot water. Gradually beat in 3/4 cup of sugar, then the softened butter, a bit at a time, then the melted chocolate. Beat the frosting until smooth. Chill until firm enough to spread.
Assemble the cake by spreading layers of chocolate frosting between the layers of meringue. Then cover the top and sides with the rest of the chocolate. Refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving. Slice with a serrated knife.