By Lee & Lou Havlicek.
Lee & Lou Cook.
This cake. It’s quite a cake.
For years and years, we’ve been making it for holidays, regular old weekdays, celebrations aplenty, and of course, birthdays—which is the thing it’s most come to be known for in our house. Specifically, for Ray’s birthdays. It’s come to be known as Ray’s Birthday Cake because Ray (Lou’s son, Lee’s brother, and a red headed rascal of joy), is not a kid who likes cake.
We can’t explain it either.
It’s one of the most confounding mysteries to date. (Scientists are currently on the case in 14 different countries.) But Ray has always been something of a culinary riddle. Take for example, his Green Period, when his favorite color was green, so the only acceptable vegetables were green. Then, orange foods became his thing (to help his red hair stay vibrant, you understand).
For years, we tried all sorts of cakes, thinking there must be one out there that he would love, one that could become Ray’s Birthday Cake. Carrot, lemon, plain vanilla, various chocolate cakes—you name it, we tried it.
Finally, one year, Lou pulled her chocolate raspberry cake recipe from her old store cookbook. We’d made it for other occasions, but never for Ray’s birthday before, which meant he’d never given it a shot. But that December, we baked, we frosted, we sang happy birthday, we sliced, and… he ate his whole piece. Magic. He loved it.
Of course, what’s not to love? From the baker’s perspective: It’s one of the easiest cakes you’ll ever make, with minimal clean-up. And for the eater: Moist and light chocolate cake layered with raspberry jam (seedless, please), all draped in the most incredible chocolate ganache (dark chocolate, please). So good that even someone who doesn’t eat cake can’t wait for cake time. It is, quite literally, the only cake Ray will eat—and that’s not an exaggeration. So even though we’ve made it to celebrate many things, this cake became his.
As you can imagine, Ray’s Chocolate Raspberry Cake holds a special place in our kitchens and hearts, as a result. There are so many memories attached to this recipe—most of which are, at this point, Ray birthday parties. These usually entailed a gaggle of 20 or so little (and later, not so little) kids heading to the park to toss a football, or sprinting out the front door all at once to chase the soccer ball all over our front lawn. And one year, there was the epic four-mile bike ride to the zoo. Biking four miles? That’s nothing, you say. But biking four miles with a bunch of elementary schoolers? That’s a different story. It was, for sure, more hair-raising than Frank and Lou had imagined, and most of the kids had never biked that far before, but we made it: Frank leading the way, Lou wearing a whistle like a gym teacher to keep up the rear, and Lee riding center to keep the kiddos in line (and out of traffic). Talk about earning your supper.
However the parties started, they always finished with the greatly anticipated balloon release (SERIOUS excitement always) and, after we finally figured out Ray’s birthday treat conundrum, this cake, for a sweet ending… For the recipe, and oh so much more Lee & Lou click here.