Chocolate Rolled Cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream and Pistachios for my partner AJ’s 40th Birthday

by Irvin on November 12, 2012 · 17 comments

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Chocolate Rolled Cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream and Chopped Pistachios by Irvin Lin of Eat the Love.

“I dunno, when I eat a cake, I usually like it fresh, not old or vintage” quipped AJ as I unwrapped a review copy of Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson that Ten Speed Press had sent me. I mentally rolled my eyes, but really I found AJ’s bad jokes to be endearing. After all, he is a teacher, and hence, has a teacher’s sense of humor (bad puns are his specialty, closely followed by ridiculous portmanteaus). I’m used to it. I ignored what he said, and flipped through the book, pleased to find some old classics that I was familiar with, along with a number of other cakes that I didn’t know about. The book had arrived just in time for me, as AJ had a “milestone” birthday coming up, and what better way for us to celebrate it, but by making a cake from a different era? Thankfully I found inspiration in the book, coming up my own variant of a rolled cake that was featured in the book, a Chocolate Rolled Cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream & Crushed Pistachios.

There’s always a huge pressure to celebrate birthdays, especially when it comes to big milestone numbers. AJ always questions this approach, asking why birthdays that end with zero or five are the big one. Being the nerd that he is, AJ wondered why birthdays that were divisible by three or prime number birthdays weren’t celebrated as important birthdays instead? “It seems so arbitrary…” which, in my head, meant AJ probably didn’t look forward to having to check a different box on forms now. Of course, it’s a different sort of pressure when it’s your partner who is having that birthday. What sort of presents do you get him, does he want a party, who should you invite and more importantly what should you bake for him?

AJ's 40th Birthday by Irvin Lin of Eat the Love

Note the classy post-it I left for AJ in the bathroom.

Of course, it doesn’t help if you are known for your baked goods. Our mutual friends didn’t help by leaving him message on his Facebook wall like “Bet someone special will be baking you a CAKE!” and “I hope Irvin bakes you something mind boggling delicious!” Oh the pressure of being a baker and food blogger. I had to deliver the goods, and really make sure it came through. But the odds were not with me.

Turns out, running out and buying presents for AJ on the day of his birthday was not conducive toward me making him a cake. I barely had time to buy the presents, wrap them and bake the cake layers before AJ got home. Once he arrived from work, I jumped in the shower and got dressed for the restaurant I had made reservations for (the day before) swearing to him that I would make the cake frosting and assemble the cake when we got home. It didn’t happen. The frosting did not cooperate.

Chocolate Rolled Cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream and Chopped Pistachios by Irvin Lin of Eat the Love

In fact, I made two different variations of frosting after dinner and sadly both didn’t work out. AJ didn’t get his birthday cake that night, as he was too tired to wait for me to attempt a third frosting. This is what I get for trying new recipes late at night, with a mounting pressure and urgency. I clearly should not compete in those time pressure-sensitive cooking games shows (so friends, please stop asking me when I’m going on Top Chef). AJ swore that he didn’t mind but let me tell you, I was pretty disappointed.

In the end, it all worked out in the end according to AJ. He treated the next day as just an extension of his birthday (two days to celebrate instead of one!) and got to eat his cake, which he said was pretty great. It had most of his favorite flavors, chocolate, brown sugar, pistachios all in one, and after a big chunky slice of it, we were rolling ourselves to the couch (get it? rolled ourselves… AJ isn’t the only one in our apartment with the monopoly on puns). And I learned a lesson as well. I need to stop checking my Facebook wall on important days. It just stresses me out.

AJ eating his birthday cake by Irvin Lin of Eat the Love

Special thanks to Ten Speed Press for sending me a review copy of Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson. Though the book was provided by them, I was not compensated for anything I wrote above and all opinions are my own.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar November 12, 2012 at 5:29 am

HAHA! The toilet paper roll note is the best. I bet AJ had an awesome day – I would with this cake!


jaime @ sweet road November 12, 2012 at 7:59 am

I love this idea of taking the roll and flipping it on it’s side. You still get the layers, just in the opposite direction, and you don’t have to balance all the cake layers one on top of the next and make sure the icing is perfect… the solution to all my cake problems!


amy November 12, 2012 at 9:32 am

Looks great! I wonder if I can get K to make one of these for my birthday? Though it might be a bit beyond her skill level.


Jameson Fink November 12, 2012 at 10:50 am

I think AJ’s quip about “vintage” cakes is brilliant. Clearly we share the same (bad) sense of humor.


Jane F November 13, 2012 at 3:08 am

Wow, this looks incredible. Belated birthday greetings to AJ (even though he was responsible – at least in part – for causing me huge embarassment at the Castro Street Fair). Although, to be fair, GH obviously helped as well!!


thelittleloaf November 13, 2012 at 5:25 am

This cake looks absolutely incredible – you certainly rose to the challenge! As for brown sugar buttercream? Sounds like sheer heaven.


tudo gostoso November 14, 2012 at 4:46 am

Amazing cake recipe! It doesn’t seem difficult to execute! I loved it! Love your blog!


Vespa Woolf November 15, 2012 at 4:05 am

I love the idea of this vintage cake…sigh…it makes me feel so nostalgic. I love your story and the photos (some of them hilarious). I’m not the most patient baker, but I may try this for my next milestone occasion!


marla November 15, 2012 at 5:20 am

This cake is stunning Irvin!!


Cynthia November 16, 2012 at 2:49 am

The cake looks insanely gorgeous! & I had to laugh at the posts in the loo! So sweet! Haha!


Mariel November 16, 2012 at 8:58 am

What a gorgeous cake! And I especially love the pictures of him eating the cake. Honestly, that is the best part of making something for the one you love-watching them eat the whole thing! Happy Birthday to your love and thanks for this post, I will definitely try it soon!


sippitysup November 17, 2012 at 12:43 pm

I’ll consider one piece of this cake mine as I think AJ and I might have the same birthday. GREG


Kim Bee November 24, 2012 at 9:24 am

First of all, Happy Birthday to AJ! Hope your day was super special.

This cake is gorgeous Irvin. I am such a sucker for pistachios. If you add them to chocolate it’s like a dream come true. It looks like perfection to me even if the frosting took some tweaking.

I love the note by the toilet paper. That’s something my own family would do. Very cute.


[email protected] and More April 8, 2013 at 5:10 am

Happy (very Late) Birthday wishes to AJ. Love the post it note over the toilet paper. I’ve seen many rolled cakes before and even made a few but never thought to turn it up on the side. This is just pure genius and I promise you, there is now a cake in my future this week, just so I can try it out!


Keio June 22, 2013 at 7:34 pm

Wow.. love the twisting idea of the roll cake’s position. I think I’m gonna try it for my daughter’s birthday cake.
<3<3 Thanks for the lovely recipe too.. <3


chrisk January 1, 2014 at 8:14 am

Love this Cake! Now trying to get the gumption up to try it. Serve 10- 12? Not if I make it, I’m not sharing!


Ela February 28, 2014 at 5:48 pm

I love the cake! How do you call the buttercream, is it the Italian Meringue Buttercream? Thanks..


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