But I was happy with how my birthday gift to myself turned out. It was indeed my birthday yesterday and yes, I prefer to bake my own birthday cake. I don't even care much for celebrating this particular day, which is a stark contrast to how I treat my loved ones' birthdays (i.e., gleeful opportunities to shower them with the huge love I bear); I am simply accustomed to associating birthdays with the presence of a cake, probably because my mother always insists upon it. She actually offered to bake me a cake this year, recognizing the obvious lack of vegan-friendly bakery services around here. Although appreciative of her kind gesture, I politely declined. I opted to spend the first part the day doing something I generally enjoy, if not love: taking over the kitchen and turning it into my own little cave of creativity. This delightful article, which happened to catch my eye exactly one month prior to my birthday, illustrates a similar sentiment with regard to what the author calls an "unconventional task" (baking one's own birthday cake). An "over-the-top, in-your-face type of cake" sounded like a fine alternative to the more casual, cake-for-the-sake-of-cake approach I would probably have taken if I hadn't suddenly felt inspired toward something a little more decadent.
The outcome wasn't particularly extraordinary or novel. After all, it is not unusual to pair chocolate and hazelnut. The entire process--from baking to assembly--wasn't even difficult to complete, although I will admit that it was time-consuming. I doubled a slightly adapted version of a standard "wacky cake" recipe, (which yields a moist, traditionally vegan chocolate cake), splitting the cake into four even layers. For the filling, I used an adapted version of the Mocha Hazelnut Mousse from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, omitting the espresso and emphasizing the hazelnut flavor with additional hazelnut liqueur and hazelnut butter. Hazelnut buttercream (adapted from this recipe, using plain hazelnut butter and a few splashes of hazelnut liqueur) provided the exterior frosting, which also acted as a glue for the dark chocolate shards inspired by this cake. A generous pile of candied hazelnuts completed the decoration and added a delightfully nutty crunch to this hazelnut-laden cake fortress.
I've come a long way since the first chocolate birthday cake I baked for myself a few years ago. While both were scrumptious (and believe me, there is plenty of yesterday's epic creation leftover, despite my best efforts to serve my family over-sized hunks of it), this year's cake is definitely a step up.