Jonas St Michel Esq. throws the best parties in Montreal.  He lives in a
charming apartment above a travel agency so you can dance your pants off all
night without disturbing anyone. It’s always impressive, how many smouldering
Montreal beauties of all ages gather at his place to drink voluminous quantities
of wine, flirt and smoke cigarrettes. It’s a den of Dionysian joie do vivre.
Even when it’s just a few of us playing poker, Jonas has a way of making every
occasion into a fete.  He’s practically a wizard!


In fact, people get so crazy they don’t just lose their heads, they lose their
hats, scarves, sweaters and even pants. (Our friend Marc has been known on more
than one occasion to rip off all his clothes (yes all) at Jonas’ soirees.  Not
surprising, Jonas’ lost and found is extensive and I shudder to think of what
other items of clothing he’s found in his bedroom/cloakroom.


Being such a steady provider of Montreal merriment, this year, we felt Jonas
deserved extra special treatment for his birthday last Monday night. A special
homemade Jonas-cake seemed in order, something big and impressive and decadent,
yet relaxed too, just like his parties.


My friend Gigi and I chose a chocolate cake recipe we found last year, a
classic double layer Food & Wine recipe (and an Ina Garten fave) that just
screams BIRTHDAY CAKE.   We also decided to host the event at my apartment, to
give Jonas a much-needed break from hosting (and clean up.)  Add a little vin
mousseux into the mix (of the cheap varieties we chose, the best was an Italian
Proseco) a few good friends and a jazz jam session that went until three am.
Players included Gaetano, Marc, Fausto and a mysterious guest drummer. It was a
memorable Monday night, for me and my neighbours. You see, I don’t live above a
travel agency…)


But Jonas deserved it. He loved the cake too. “No one has ever made me a cake
before!” he said. (Come to think of it, no one’s ever made me a cake either. To
up the odds, we should all be making birthday cakes for people we love much more


Happy 36th Jonas. Maybe you live 36 more!!


Jonas burns the candle at one end.

Big Bad Double Chocolate Layer Cake
(adapted from Food & Wine)


The secret to this chocolate cake is the addition of coffee in both the batter
and icing, and the double layer gives you some serious birthday cake stature.
It’s a big, silly, happy birthday cake that every worthy birthday boy, and girl,
will love.




For the cake:


1 3/4 cups all purpose flour, plus some for dusting
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I mixed 1/2 good dark cocoa with 1/4 Fry’s)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee (I used stove espresso mixed with hot water)


For the frosting:


6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate coarsely chopped
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tabespoon confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules




1. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8 inch round cake
pans (I bought aluminum ones from the grocery store) and line them with
parchment paper, butter the paper. Dust the pans with four tapping out any


2. In a big bowl, mix the flour with teh sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda,
baking powder, and salt at low speed. In a medium bowl whisk the buttermilk with
the oil, eggs, vanilla. Slowly beat the buttermilk mixture into the dry
ingredients until just incorporated, then slowly beat in the hot coffee until
fully incorporated.


3. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a
toothpick is inserted clean. (Our two cakes took more like 45 minutes). Let the
cakes cool for 30 minutes then invert cakes onto a rack to cool completely. (I
used the removable grids on top of my gas stove.) Peel off the parchment paper.


4. Make the frosting:  In a double boiler (one big pan with water simmering and
a smaller one resting inside) melt the chocolate in the smaller pot over the
boiling water, stirring until the chocolate has melted completely. Set aside to
cool to room temperature.


5. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter at
medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat for 1
minute, scraping down the side of the bowl. At low speed, slowly beat in the
confectioners’ sugar, about 1 minute. In a small bowl, dissolve the instant
coffee in 2 teaspoons of hot water. Slowly beat the coffee and the cooled
chocolate into the butter mixture until just combined.


6. Set a cake layer on a plate with the flat side facing up. Evenly spread
one-third of the frosting over the cake to the edge. Top with the second cake
layer, rounded side up. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and side of
the cake. (Note: This recipe makes a lot of icing, so if you feel like holding
back, you can save a little afterwards for snacking or on your toast the
following day.) Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour before slicing,
preferably 2 hours. The cake – and icing – really does come to life when
properly chilled. I also like to add a little extra ground kosher salt around
the edges/sides of the cake, for extra sparkle and bite.


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