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I have friends—shy retiring types who are loath to let anyone know it’s their birthday. It’s kind of hard to keep that a secret these days, what with Face Book blabbing the information to the world. But they try. I, on the other hand, believe that everyone should know my birthday and help me celebrate it. I made that easy for everyone by arranging to be born on the 4th of July. It’s a wonderful day to have a birthday—half the year away from Christmas and it’s almost always lovely weather.

I might have been as much as ten years old before I realized that the fireworks were not for me. “What? You mean you don’t have fireworks on your birthday?”

Last year someone asked me what Terry had planned for my birthday. “Not much,” I replied. “Just the usual. The parade at noon, all city picnic later and after dinner at our favorite restaurant—fireworks over Lake Washington.” A great day!

My friend, Nikki Blackmer agrees with me that modesty is an over-rated virtue. Well, she is a Diva Queen, after all and not inclined to hide her light under a bushel. She invites the entire world to celebrate her New Year’s Eve birthday. And we’re all very happy to accommodate her.

I’m told we may not have fireworks this year. Does this mean I won’t have a birthday and that I won’t get to be a year older? Actually, that seems okay to me. I’ll take it!

Most of the time, I think that cake is a bit heavy for a summer birthday, but I make an exception for the cake my niece Kelsey bakes on the Fourth of July. Nephew Zach would like for her to make it more often, but she is adamant that she can only make it from the red raspberries that grow in our yard. She insists that those raspberries add a special panache to the cake and that she will only make it once a year.

I prevailed upon her to share the recipe so here it is. She bakes it from scratch.

Happy Birthday Chocolate Mousse Cake with Raspberries


1 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 cups sugar

1 cup unsweetened cocoa, Dutch-process or natural

1 cup buttermilk or yogurt at room temperature

1 cup boiling water

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 large eggs, room temperature


2 Tbs butter, softened

8-oz package cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup confectioner’s sugar, divided

½ tsp vanilla extract

1/8 tsp salt

2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted

1 cup heavy cream

½ cup semisweet chocolate mini chips (optional)

1 ½ to 2 pints fresh raspberries, washed and dried


½ cup vegetable shortening, butter-flavored preferred

8 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature

¼ tsp salt

4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted

½ cup unsweetened cocoa, natural or Dutch process

¼ cup milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 F. Lightly grease four 8”round pans or three 9” round pans. Line the pans with parchment and grease the parchment.

1. Cake: Whisk the dry ingredients. make sure there are no hard lumps in the mixture.

2. Combine oil, buttermilk, boiling water, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add to dry ingredients and beat at medium speed for 30 seconds until batter is smooth.

3. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl and beat in eggs one at a time. Mix on medium speed another minute or until smooth.

4. Divide the batter between pans and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the cake just begins to pull away from the edge of pan and a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Remove from oven and cook on rack 15 minutes.

5. Filling: In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, ¾ cup confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, and salt, mixing at medium-low until smooth. Melt the chocolate a minute or less in micro to soften and add it to bowl, mix on medium-high for 1 minute until fluffy.

6. Beat the heavy cream to soft peaks and add the remaining confectioner’s sugar. Beat just until cream is stiff. Don’t overbeat. Fold whipped cream into mixture and stir. Finally add mini chips.

7. Cake: Place first layer on serving plate and spread with 1/3 of filling. Place raspberries over the filing covering its entire surface. Repeat until layers are stacked.

8. Place assembled layers in fridge or freezer for 30 minutes to firm it up.

9. Frosting: Beat together shorting butter and salt. Sift confectioner’s sugar with cocoa and gently beat into mixture, alternating with milk. Add vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed 2 minutes until fluffy.

10. Spread a thin layer of frosting around sides and top. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Then use remaining frosting to complete.

11. Refrigerate till ready to serve, then garnish with raspberries.

12. Serve to the birthday girl.

No wonder she only makes this once a year. It’s a life’s work! But soooo yummy!

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