By Astrid Tuttle Winegar
To finish a grand party like this one, you need a show-stopping cake. Bilbo would have this specially made at The Ivy Bush, a small inn frequented by Sam’s father, the Gaffer. Make this impressive cake the night before you want to serve it.
“The Ivy Bush Eleventy-First Birthday Cake”
1½ pounds fresh strawberries
8 ounces plus 4 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus ½ cup soft salted butter
1 cup sugar
4 extra large eggs, room temperature
3 cups cake flour
1¼ cups buttermilk, room temperature
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup seedless strawberry jam
1 pound powdered sugar
¼ cup 1% milk
Optional garnishes, see below
Wash, then stem all the strawberries. Cut them into ¾” pieces and lay on 2 paper towels. In a medium glass bowl, microwave the 8 ounces white chocolate in 20-second intervals until fully melted. Set aside. Cut parchment paper to line the bottoms of three 9″ round, heavy aluminum baking pans. Coat each pan with a little cooking spray, place paper in each, then spray bottom and sides of each pan.
Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, beat the 1 cup butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well especially after the last addition, scraping down the sides. Place the buttermilk, baking soda, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a 4-cup glass measure and whisk until fully combined. Add 1 cup flour to the butter mixture, then half of the buttermilk mixture. Add 1 cup flour, the remaining buttermilk, then the remaining 1 cup flour, beat well on medium speed, especially after the last addition. Scrape down sides. Add the melted chocolate and combine well (don’t bother rinsing the chocolate bowl—use later). By hand, gently fold in the strawberries. Divide batter into the prepared pans. Bake 36-40 minutes until all three centers test done. Cool on racks for 20 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edges and turn out of the pans, but flip each cake over with the paper remaining underneath back onto the racks. Cool 1 hour.
Meanwhile, heat the jam in a 1-quart saucepan just until it is melted, stirring with a whisk until smooth; set aside. Melt the remaining white chocolate in the bowl used previously and set aside to cool, but you still want it to be liquid.
For frosting: combine the powdered sugar, ½ cup butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla, milk, and cooler chocolate in a large bowl. Beat on low speed to combine, then beat 1-2 minutes on high speed until fluffy.
Carefully remove paper from one cake layer and place the bottom side on a serving dish or cake pedestal. Using a bent (or recessed) spatula, spread a thin layer (about ⅓ cup) of frosting over the top, then spread half of the jam over the frosting. Repeat with another cake layer, ⅓ cup frosting, then the remaining jam. Place the last cake layer on top. Spread a thin layer of frosting all over the sides; refrigerate for about an hour. Spread remaining frosting on sides then top of cake as evenly and smoothly as you can. Cover with a cake dome and chill overnight. Let stand at room temperature 30-60 minutes before serving or enjoy cold. Garnish before serving, if desired (see below). If you have leftover cake, first remove all the garnishes and store it covered in the refrigerator (it actually keeps well for a few days). Serves 12-16.
½ pound small or medium strawberries, as nicely shaped and unblemished as possible
1½” ribbon, any color you choose; satin, grosgrain, or velvet. You’ll need 32″ or ⅞ yard.
Various fresh edible flowers and/or decorative candles, depending on the occasion.
Wash the strawberries and leave them to dry on a kitchen towel—don’t remove their stems. Place ribbon around the base of the completed cake. Fold over one edge and use a few straight pins to hold in place. Cover this fold with garnishes and be sure to remove the pins before serving. Decorate top and sides with strawberries and flowers as desired and place candles on top.
This is known as Council Catering Celebration Cake in my cookbook.
Astrid Tuttle Winegar is the author of Cooking for Halflings & Monsters: 111 Comfy, Cozy Recipes for Fantasy-Loving Souls, which is currently available exclusively in e-book form on the Amazon Kindle, but will soon be released by Oloris Publishing! Stay tuned for details. For now, she is mostly telling a culinary Middle-earth story here on Legendarium. Astrid has loved C. S. Lewis since childhood, J. R. R. Tolkien since middle and high school, all Star things, both Trek and Wars, all things Whedon, and many other things besides… She lives in the enchanted city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her husband and dog. She blogs occasionally at Cooking for Halflings & Monsters. You can check out (and like!) her Facebook page or visit (and follow!) her Twitter feed. Staff Reporter.