Wouldn’t this festive cake be the perfect dessert for a winter celebration?

This recipe was inspired by the December 2017 issue of the Canadian Living magazine. I didn’t use the winter forest cake recipe in that issue. I used a different Canadian Living recipe, their blueberry almond bundt cake recipe on their website. Instead of making a bunt cake, I adapted the recipe slightly and made a layered cake with a light ricotta cream frosting.

I basically increased their recipe by half, which makes enough batter for three shallow layers of cake or 2 thicker layers. I prefer three layers for this cake because it look more elegant. I also held back a little flour and added more lemon juice to make the cake even more moist.

The texture of this cake is really nice. It’s different in a very good way. The cake and frosting aren’t very sweet. The chocolate birch bark is the perfect compliment to the almond berry cake.

Cake Ingredients:

3/4 cups butter (a stick and a half)

1 cup & 3 tbsp sugar

3 eggs

2 lemons, juice and zest

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cups almond flour

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

1 3/4 cups low-fat sour cream

1 cup fresh blueberries (optional)

1 cup fresh raspberries

Grease three 9 inch round cake pans. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

In a bowl or stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the lemon zest. Stir for a minute or two on low speed.

Add the eggs one at a time.

In a separate bowl, stir the dry ingredients: the flour, almond flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir.

Add all of the sour cream and lemon juice and stir. Add in the other half of the dry ingredients. Stir just until combined.

Pour equal portions of the batter into each of the cake pans. Spread the batter out with a spatula to even it out. It’s a firmer batter. This will require a little finesse.

Place the blueberries on the surface of the cake batter. (This step is optional).

Bake in the oven for approximately 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

The layers aren’t very thick so the cake won’t take that long to cook. Let the cakes cool in the pans for around 15-20 minutes and then invert them onto a rack. Allow the cakes to cool completely before frosting the cake.

And now for the most delicious frosting ever. I found the recipe for this frosting on the Tre Stelle website. I adapted the recipe a little bit to make it less sweet. It’s light, thick and creamy. You’re going to love it.

Ricotta frosting:

475 grams extra smooth ricotta

3 tbsp icing sugar (for ricotta)

1/2 tsp vanilla (for ricotta)

1 1/2 cups whipping cream

3 tbsp icing sugar (for whipping cream)

In a large bowl, beat ricotta with 3 tablespoons of icing sugar and half a teaspoon of vanilla until light and fluffy.

In another bowl, beat whipping cream with 3 tablespoons of icing sugar until thick and fluffy.

Add the whipped cream to the ricotta mixture. Fold gently until combined. Refrigerate the frosting until your ready to assemble the cake.

This will be enough frosting for the whole cake. Add a thin layer of frosting to each layer. Top each layer with a few fresh raspberries.

Edible Birch Bark:

1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips or melting wafers

Put some parchment down on two cutting boards or cookie sheets.

Then melt the dark chocolate chips for 30 seconds at a time in the microwave. Remove and stir. You will probably need to do this twice.

Using a fine pastry brush or a chopstick, draw broken lines and tree knots with your chocolate dipped brush. By the way, I used a chopstick. My sister used the tip of a carrot, lol. We’re both pretty resourceful in the kitchen.

You’ll need around 9 chocolate birch bark rectangles. They should measure around 6 inches tall and 5 inches wide. Once you’ve painted the dark chocolate onto the parchment paper, allow it to set for 5 minutes and then put it in the fridge for 15 minutes so that it can set completely.

In the meantime, measure 3/4 cups white chocolate chips and then melt them for 30 seconds at a time in the microwave. Remove and stir. You will probably need to do this three times. Allow the melted chocolate to cool until it’s barely warm before applying it over the dark chocolate.

Starting from the left of each chocolate rectangle panel, spoon three or four tablespoons of melted white chocolate onto the dark chocolate. Using an offset spatula, spread the white chocolate over the dark chocolate. Try to do this only in one direction from left to right so that you don’t smear the dark chocolate. You want a very thin layer of white chocolate so that it’s moldable.

Melt the rest of the white chocolate chips and repeat process.

When you’re done, put the chocolate panels in the fridge for an hour or until they have set.

Take the chocolate panels out of the fridge. Peel them off the parchment paper and turn them over. Let them stay at room temperature for about 15 minutes before wrapping them around the cake. This will allow the chocolate to soften a bit so that you can cover the curves of the cake.

If you get impatient and you rush this step, you may break a panel like I did, but that’s okay. It will look rustic like birch bark. Nobody will be the wiser.

If you find that your panels are too tall for the cake, that’s okay. You can cut a little off the bottoms.

Finally, top the cake with a few sprigs of rosemary and sprinkle with a little icing sugar for a snowy finish.

I know this may sound like a lot of work, and I guess it is, but it’s not hard. It takes about two hours to make the cake from start to finish.

You can make the chocolate panels the night before if you don’t have the time to do it all on the day of the celebration. You can even make the cakes the evening before. Just be sure to wrap the cakes well in plastic wrap and put them in the fridge overnight to keep them  moist.

Serves 16