A Very, Very Happy “Chocolate Overdose Cake” Birthday to Me

Yesterday was my 21st birthday, and I celebrated by going to class all day, coming home and napping, doing homework, and watching the first disc of The Tenth Kingdom. I fell asleep before 1am and didn’t even consume my first legal drink. I know, I’m SUCH a party animal. My birthday wasn’t all boring though, because the night before I went to the Hellogoodbye concert with one of my friends, and it was AMAZING.

Yes, we were on the side, but it was still great, nonetheless.

Because my week has been so hectic and short on free-time, and because I knew back in January that it would be like that, when I first went back to work I told my teacher that I would not be coming in on this date. I chose to designate this day as my “Epic 21st Birthday Cake Baking Extravaganza” day (I just named it that today). This way I could relax and actually enjoy the process, even though I didn’t know what I would be making at the time.

Enter the Chocolate Overdose Cake I found on Beantown Baker’s blog.

This cake has been by no means inexpensive for me to bake. I would not have been so bad if I already had a springform pan, but at least I have one now (although I would have liked for it to be deeper, oh well). I think I’ve spent nearly $30 on supplies for this, but I already know it will be worth every single penny.

I started this process by taping all of my ingredients/instructions/timings to the cabinet doors to keep them in sight, but out of the way. Then I cleared off the counter and moved everything to the tables. There’s so little counter space here that it just wouldn’t have been possible to make the cake with everything still out.

With my iPod playing my Damian and Keith playlist, the extravaganza began.

I started with the brownie layer, so I put some water on to simmer and sifted together the dry ingredients while waiting.

Note the green highlighter I’m using to cross out ingredients and steps on my printed out recipe. I’m so prepared.

Then I chopped up the unsweetened chocolate until it was rather fine. When they say unsweetened, they really mean unsweetened, because I got some on my fingers and tried it. No thank you. I won’t be doing that again.

Then I put the butter and chocolate into a bowl to put over the simmering water in order to melt it down and make it super smooth.

Then I added the sugar and mixed it all together. Then I prepared the springform pan to let the chocolate cool for a bit before I added the eggs.

Next came the dry ingredients.

Bit by bit I mixed it all together.

Until it looked like this and was ready for the pan.

Then it went into the oven for about 30 minutes and I commenced washing my bowls and utensils so I’d be ready to make the cake part. When I stuck a fork in them to see if they were done, I did as any normal person would do, and ate the moist brownie crumbs that came out with the fork. Oh My God. It was absolutely HEAVENLY. I cannot wait to dig into that layer of my cake. I’ll probably have to make these brownies just by themselves sometime.

I started prepping ingredients for the next part while the brownies were still in the oven.

I chopped more unsweetened chocolate.

This time into large-ish chunks.

I didn’t actually chop on top of the simmering water. This position just had better lighting and was less blurry.

Then there was more dry ingredient sifting.

Now the chocolate, cocoa and water melting/mixing could begin.

Once I added the sugar it looked much better and mixed much easier.

Then I mixed the buttermilk and vanilla and set it aside.

Out came the hand mixer so I could mix the eggs and sugar until it was all nice and fluffy.

I was amazed when I took a couple of pictures with the flash on as I was mixing because I swear the mixer is on in both of them. It doesn’t even look like the beaters are moving in the second picture. Aren’t I easily amused.

For some reason I failed to take pictures of mixing everything together, but it really just wasn’t that interesting. I added the chocolate to the eggs and sugar and alternated adding the dry ingredients and buttermilk/vanilla mixture.

Then everything went into the prepared cake pan to bake for nearly 40 minutes. The recipe said 30 minutes, but I guess my oven is colder so it took longer than expected.

After the cake was out and the dishes were washed again, it was time for a break to let everything completely cool before I started on the mousse. At this time I also put a bowl, my whisk, and the beaters in the freezer because they’re supposed to be “well-chilled.” I figured about 2 hours would be enough time in the freezer.

I had a slight mishap while making the mousse. I didn’t look at the recipe and so I poured both pints of heavy cream into my bowl. As I was whipping it, I kept thinking “This is so much mousse for the middle of the cake.” And then I remembered that I only needed ONE pint of it. *sigh*. At least I remembered before it got completely whipped and the chocolate was added. I just took out half and put it in a bowl so I could use it for the ganache later. I also failed to photograph the mousse-making process, but it was just melting chocolate, whipping cream and adding them together.

The I assembled the cake in the springform pan, covered it in plastic wrap, and let it chill in the fridge for an hour.

The ganache came together very nicely, even given the slightly whipped consistency of the cream. Most of the air came out of it after it was brought to a boil and then taken off the heat, so thank goodness my lack of attention to detail did not have any ill effects.

I have never used to much chocolate in one day. Let’s tally it all up: 5 1-ounce Baker’s unsweetened chocolate squares, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, and 6 4-ounce bars of Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate. That’s about 30 ounces of chocolate, which is nearly 2 POUNDS! Paired with the sugar in this cake, it’s sure to be a rich chocolate coma and sweet sugar rush to remember.

Doesn’t that look SO good already? I wanted to eat it then and there, even without the ganache.

Dripping and oozing down.

Boy did I make a big mess.

I let it chill in the fridge for about an hour and a half to set up and for the ganache to harden a bit.

STRAWBERRY TIME!

I am happy with my ganache-ing skills and especially pleased that the cake is nice and flat and as straight as I could ask for. I’ll be sure to make another post detailing the demolition of this delicious-looking (and hopefully wonderful tasting) cake.

Now it’s all wrapped up to chill in the fridge until tomorrow afternoon when I can finally dig in with some friends. It’s going to be a long, long night. . . .

At this point–and before having even tasted the final product–I think I can honestly say that this is one of the creations I’m most proud of making. It may have taken me from 10am to 7:30pm, but I would happily make this again and again, as long as I do not have to rush the process. This was the best birthday-cake-making day I could have asked for.

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Celtic Thunder Boston Adventure: Part 1

Written in Boston on October 9th while sitting in the park during the matinee show:

I thought I had packed everything on my list, but boy did I forget the most important item: MY CAMERA’S MEMORY CARD! I had just picked up my tickets and was getting ready to take a picture of a CT flier on a post on the corner when I saw the tiny red 4 in the corner of my camera screen. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I did not want to be seeing that number on this of all days. But one frantic phone call to a my friend later, and she’s bringing an extra card for me to use. THANK THE CELTIC GODS! I really wish I had one now, though, because as I write this I’m sitting in a park by a large pond, and there are swans, geese, and ducks everywhere. One’s honking at me right now, as it’s swimming by. It’s very pretty here, and not at all like Washington Square Park. There’s a sense of peacefulness and serenity here that I would never be able to find there. I wish I had some sunglasses, though, because it’s very sunny where I’m sitting, but I don’t want to sit in the shade because then I’ll be too cold.

But I digress. I got to the venue around 12:30, and as I was walking up the sidewalk past the stage door and towards the box office, who do I see coming my way? RYAN! I didn’t want to stop him, so I just said a casual “looking forward to the show tonight” as I walked nearer him. He then said something along the lines of “Oh, thank you” in that gorgeous Irish accent of his, and we were off in our respective directions with a wave and a smile. I would have liked to have stopped and gotten an autograph or a new picture, but I figured I would just let him be for now and just get to him after the show.

After I picked up my tickets and realized my SD card was still in New York, I was walking back towards the stage door and saw Neil and Nicole (violinist) getting their suitcases out of the bus. At this point I was still internally freaking out, and while Neil stopped to sign and pose with fans in front of the door, I was on my phone begging my friend for help, which meant I didn’t go on over with everyone else.

I just noticed the carousel on the other side of the street, how cute. So the next sighting us insane Thunderheads had was DAMIAN AND KEITH, at about 1:45, 45 minutes before the matinee was to start. What those lads were doing on their bus while we were all waiting for them, I have no idea. I have a feeling they were just trying to kill time so they wouldn’t have to spend too much time out in the cold with us. Either that, or they were too caught up in the video games someone said they were playing. (Keith later revealed in a tweet that he was sleeping.) When they stepped off the bus, Damo came first and Keith quickly followed, with a hand on each of Damo’s shoulders from behind, as if he was steering him to the door so he wouldn’t stop. According to Keith, they were headed to the sound check, and after that I thought it was the end of sightings. I must say, though, I very much enjoyed Keith’s hairstyle for the day. He had the front part of his hair pulled back off his face and secured with an elastic near the top of the back of his head, and there was no evidence of hair gel on his wonderful head (YAY!). He definitely got an intense coloring, with some highlights/lowlights/whatever thrown in so that his hair now has a few different shades in it that I couldn’t see after Radio City or in pictures/videos. I think the gel just makes his hair look a lot darker too, so the colors aren’t as easy to see when he’s all gelled up (sad!). I’m finally coming around to his new hair, but it would be so much easier if he would just get rid of the gel altogether, simple as that. But my opinion doesn’t matter to him, and neither does anyone else’s, so oh well.

Where I was standing between the stage door and the buses was the perfect location. I could see just inside the stage door to the window in there, which had a view of the stairs inside. The first time I noticed this was when I saw Keith going downstairs a few minutes after he went inside. Then Ryan, George, Neil, Paul (and probably Damo) followed him soon after. But I have to say the best moment was when I saw Neil going down the stairs the second time: He had a smile that reached his eyes, scrunched them up, and seemed to give them a little twinkle, which absolutely lit up his entire face. I saw teeth, and I rarely see teeth in pictures of him. That was a glorious moment. I wish I had known what caused such a reaction, because I just adore seeing him so happy. He’s such a wonderful man, and he deserves all the happiness in the world. Amazing.

I was also able to say hello to Declan, but I wished he could have signed my picture of the two of us from last year. Maybe tonight. I hope. Sharon and Phil really hit it out of the park in finding such talented, kind-hearted (not to mention good-looking) lads. I think I really just need to find an Irishman to call my own. All of a sudden I would really love a Declan hug, I don’t know why, but I NEED to get one tonight. Maybe it’s because it’s getting even colder out now and I want him to warm me up ;).

Just when we all thought it was really over for the afternoon, out came Keith to fetch his suitcase from under the bus. It was around 2:00, and the show was starting in 30 MINUTES. Keith was neither dressed nor gelled, so I was wondering what was up with that. He didn’t stop at all this time either, but I think karma got him good, because the wheel on his suitcase BROKE OFF as he was going inside. I wanted to ask the man who was picking up the pieces if I could have them, but I figured he would look at me like I was a crazy person and say no, so I resisted.

A few minutes later, DAMO also came out, went on the bus, and then got his suitcase. My goodness, these lads leave everything to the last second, don’t they? This time around, Damo was kind enough to stop for a couple of pictures and autographs, but I just wasn’t pushy enough to get a chance at him. Hopefully tonight *crosses fingers*. I really just want a proper picture with him, since I got his autograph last year. However, I would like to get him to sign the poster I’m getting for another friend, since he’s her absolute favorite and she couldn’t come because she’s sick at the moment. Even if I can’t maneuver the poster in a way to be easy to sign, a signature on anything would be wonderful.

The actual end to this pre-show fun was when George finally made an appearance outside. He was bringing Carrie (his wife) and Sarah (his daughter) out to the bus, and oh my GOSH! Sarah’s so big now! She’s growing up so quickly, I think she’s about 8 or 9 now. When he came out of the bus (alone) a woman I was waiting with kindly asked for his autograph for her niece, since he’s her favorite, and he obliged (but said something like “I’m on in twenty minutes! *laugh*) and asked if the woman was going to the show. She wasn’t, but I said I was going to the 8 o’clock one, and he said to wave so he’s know where I was. Like that would help him any, haha, since I’m in the balcony and glo-stick-less. I might just break down and buy a CT one for $5. I felt almost naked without mine at Radio City, and these ones have “Celtic Thunder” written on them, so why not? So I guess my purchasing list is the glo-stick, Damo poster, and the very pretty Claddagh necklace with “CT” on the heart. I don’t think it will break the bank *too* badly. I hope they still have the necklace though, since there is the matinee show today, and all. PLEASE don’t run out *begs*.

I guess this is it for now. I can’t wait for the show tonight and to see my friend, whom I haven’t seen since August.

The Thunder Was Certainly ROLLING

Written October 2nd: Oh goodness. Where do I even start. Last night was AMAZING. Celtic Thunder at Radio City Music Hall absolutely blew me away.

I had wanted to spend some time up around the venue before the show, but unfortunately Mother Nature foiled my plans by making it rain all day, which essentially meant that the lads most likely would NOT be hanging around outside at all during the day. Alas, when I got there around 6:30 (an no rain by this time, *snarky thanks to MN*, there was already a long line of people waiting for the doors to open at 7:00. As soon as I got inside I scooted over to the merchandise table, and I must say I was *slightly* disappointed by the quality of the program, calendar, and poster I purchased for the following reasons: there were at least four different typos in the program; whenever the lads were listed for group songs, Ryan was listed twice and DAMIAN’S name was no where to be found except for his solos; Damo’s “new face” was Photoshopped onto his teenier body instead of taking a new picture in the program and on the group poster (I knew about the poster one, but the program surprised me. Damo sure seems to be getting the short end of the stick here, huh?); the calendar spelled summer as “s-u-m-e-r”, isn’t something missing??; and finally I just expected to have a lot more newer photos in the program, rather than recycling older ones. Thank goodness only the merchandise was *slightly* disappointing, but the show completely made up for those nit-picky points that my proof-reading eye caught.

I think I’m just going to get all my sadness out of the way right now, so here we go. I’m still mourning the loss of: KEITH’S “BUSHY BUSHY BLOND HAIRDO”; Neil’s goatee and eyebrow piercing; Ruth and Joyce O’Leary (I know  they’re doing great musical things here in the city, but it’s just sad they’re not with CT anymore); ZARA (I also know she’s doing great back in Ireland with her own Irish dancing school and new show, but I still miss her.); Megan playing the cello; intense kilt twirling (COME ON! It’s no longer illegal for me to gawk at and enjoy Damo doing that, and Paul was always an amazing twirler. So sad.); “Danny Boy” (It was in the program, why didn’t you sing it?); “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” (KEITH! WHY DIDN’T YOU SING IT???????? Please sing it in Boston or Montclair, and then I won’t be mad at you anymore.); “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” (I know it would have cost too much to bring those six dancers on tour, but it was such a cool number. At least it’s on the It’s Entertainment DVD forever.); and finally, Damo’s hat in “Standing on the Corner” (I know a lot of people disliked it, but I actually liked it). They also didn’t have any dancers at all, so Keith’s and Damo’s respective elation at each having a girl to leave with at the end of the show has been thoroughly squashed. However, I’m kind of glad that Damo’s and Ryan’s dancers weren’t there because I just wasn’t in love with them. I mean, they were good dancers and such, but I was otherwise “meh” about them. On the other hand, I was sad that Keith’s was excluded because I’m IN LOVE with her dress and wanted to see it in person, I really thought the two were a good fit, and I wanted to see “Just Like Jesse James” be performed so I could see Keith’s and Damo’s hilarious reactions in it (I know she was miming the song on the DVD and another woman was singing, so it would most likely have been mimed here, but I honestly wouldn’t have cared. It was all about Keith and Damo at the beginning of the song for me.).

Okay, now on to the HAPPY!

I was very happy when I got inside and saw how close my seat actually was. Even though I was in row RR (about 21 rows back *3 pit rows and 18 orch rows back*), I was pretty much dead center and had a great view of everything. It also didn’t hurt that there was no one on my right side, so I had plenty of room to properly react to the songs without hurting anyone.

Good spot, huh? I guess I didn’t really need that row CCC pit seat that was available on Ticketmaster the other day (but was snatched up the next day when I checked again).This is the scenery for Act I: Heritage. The stairs are made to look old and wooden, and the sides are cobblestone-y. There’s also a big (REALLY fake looking) rock/boulder on the left that is well-used during the show.

Phil Coulter came out to introduce the lads, and he thanked the audience for being so supportive, enthusiastic, etc. I do wonder how long he’s going to hang around on tour, since he usually only stays for a couple of shows, if any at all. I hope he’s still around for Boston’s show, just because.

“Heartland” was the first song in Heritage. I knew beforehand that they weren’t going to be wearing their long, black, jackets, but it was just a surprise actually seeing them without them. I just need to comment on Damo’s pants first. Oh goodness, boy, why are you wearing that color on your pants? I think it was something like here, but I can’t remember exactly. Once I laughed a bit, it was all good, and the pants kinda grew on me.

Whatever sadness I was otherwise feeling for the loss of Keith’s hair dissipated once I saw him come out because (at least for “Heartland”) the new do was really working with the rest of his look. He had his hair gelled back, but with a pouf/lump/bump type thing on the right. I’m not really sure how to explain the styling better, except that it wasn’t like his Twitter picture because it was done a lot neater and more carefully and was flatter except for the bump thing. He was also wearing a scarf, which I really liked. Overall I give his Heartland look an A+, mostly for not sending me into cardiac arrest with my first in-person sighting of his new hair.

EDIT: This was his hairdo. Thanks to the woman who took these pictures. http://www.broadwayworld.com/article/Photo_Coverage_WLIWs_Celtic_Thunder_Meets_the_Press_at_Radio_City_20101008

The song was fantastic as always, and I guess other than that there isn’t much else to say about it.

“Buachaill ón Eirne” was next, and my goodness, if I wasn’t already in love with Damo, I sure as heck would be now. That wee lad from “The Show” has grown up so much, and I’ve noticed that he’s so much more well-adjusted to his “new voice” now. The song was so smooth, relaxing, and PERFECT that I didn’t want it to end. I could have that lad sing to me in Irish 24/7 and I would never get tired of it. I think he was also enjoying the audience reaction to this new arrangement, at least according to his facial expressions during the short instrumental parts between each line in the three verses. It was really slowed down from the original “Come by the Hills”, and I’m definitely not complaining about that. Damo just SHINES in the low, slow songs. He needs to release an album of lullabies or something because if he did, I would never have another restless time falling asleep ever again. He’s just THAT GOOD. I’m determined to learn all the words by next Saturday so that I can sing along better with him, and thus amaze myself with my wonderful Irish abilities (which are still lacking and my test is TUESDAY, EEK).

“The Dutchman”. Keith and his guitar-y fingers were at it again in this song, and it was gorgeous. Initially it had a “Mountains of Mourne” feel to it, as he started the song sitting on the rock, then slowly made his way over to sit in middle of the stairs all scrunched up. Repeatedly during the verse transitions, the audience would start to clap and cheer, thinking it was the end of the song. At least I knew beforehand that it was “Hallelujah” all over again and so I didn’t clap until he was completely done. Granted I still didn’t hear all the lyrics because of the clapping/cheering that was happening, but what’s a girl to do when bunches of other people in the audience aren’t privy to the same preparatory information.

They switched up the song order a bit after this, so it didn’t quite follow the program, but it was a nice little surprise to have the Damo/Paul duet next. It’s called “Just a Song at Twilight,” and beforehand I was slightly skeptical of how the two would sound together, just because they *seem* so different vocally. In reality, they blended wonderfully, but I had a problem hearing Damo during a lot of it, not only because he was singing so low, but I think his mic just wasn’t loud enough, and so he got drowned out by Paul and what few instruments were playing (albeit rather loudly). But once again, he excels at a low, slow song, and I’m still waiting on his  lullaby CD.

“Black is the Colour”. Oh Ryan. The part that stuck out for me the most during the song was actually the lighting. During the middle/end of it, Ryan was pumping his fist in the air and at the moments when he did that, the lights flickered/changed colors. It was a really cool effect. It had to be, to take my eyes off him for even a minute during that song. I was glad that, with the absence of dancers, Nicole (who has played the viola with them in each tour I’ve seen) was able to take on a larger roll and be the object of Ryan’s affection/dissatisfaction, since I don’t think the performance would have worked in the same way without a woman. I mean, it’s not like he could run his hands through his own hair in the same way he did Nicole’s. I need to see it again to truly determine what his intention was with her hair, since I wasn’t paying close enough attention to his face at that second.

EDIT on October 10th: It’s been over a week since I started writing this post, and I can’t seem to finish it because there’s SO MUCH to say (and I’ve just been so insanely busy). The whole show/experience was FANTASTIC, and I don’t really think I can put it all into words because the greatness was so overwhelming. I’m just going to skip to what happened after the show.

I know I wasn’t supposed to do this, but oh well, there’s nothing anyone can do now. After the show I went around back to the stage door to see if I could be lucky enough to get some autographs or pictures. Paul was the first to come out, and he stuck around for a couple of minutes, although I wasn’t pushy enough to get an autograph, just pictures of him.

Next came Neil, and once again I wasn’t pushy enough.

Then Keith came out!!!!!! And I got his autograph!!!! He was such a quick little bugger though, that I didn’t even manage to take a picture of him while he was 5 inches away from me. Guess I was too awestruck.

Ryan and George sort of flew by us and didn’t really stop, except for Ryan to sign something for one girl and her little sister, because the lads can’t say no to little kids. We thought George was going to come back, because he said “hold on,” but I think he meant the Scottish meaning, because he NEVER CAME BACK. I hung around with one other woman until 11:30, and NOTHING. I wanted to tell Carrie and Sarah on him so he would get in trouble, haha.

Damian also didn’t stop, but that didn’t stop those two girls because they followed him down the street. When he was almost to the end of the block, they called out, and the littlest one made a sad face to lure him back. How could he resist? So in the end they got autographs and pictures, and he stole their silver sharpie (which the littlest one was later ecstatic about).

Overall it was a wonderful night, and by the end of it I was determined to make Boston even more wonderful by getting more than just one signature.