For those readers who don’t know I am not just a Kobe fan, I am his true number one fan. I have been celebrating August 23rd as a holiday since 1996. Usually for the Black Mamba’s birthday, I bust out my personally recorded VHS highlight tapes and spend my day reliving his career. This year of course hit me different and a lot harder. I have been thinking about this day since January of this year. I have been pondering how I could possible present and celebrate Kobe’s birthday the way his special day should be celebrated. So many thoughts and ideas have crossed and continually cycled in my mind. For my birthday this year, which I dedicated to Mamba, I made a personalized denim jacket and admired his and Gigi’s memorial artwork spread throughout Los Angeles. Even after that day I felt like I wasn’t doing enough for Kobe. That mamba mentality was engrained in me years ago which meant that I had to serve the epitome of excellence for this celebration. I finally decided that I could at least start with the perfect birthday cake. This is what I came up with for Kobe’s special day:
Kobe Letter Cake (adapted from Vintage Cakes, Texas Sheet Cake recipe)
2 cups (1 pound) of unsalted butter
1 cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp. of canola oil
2 cups of water
2 tbsp. of brewed coffee (new or old will do)
4 cups of all purpose flour
4 cups of granulated sugar
2 tsp. of baking soda
2 tsp. of table salt
4 eggs, room temperature
1 cup of buttermilk
1 tbsp of vanilla extra
Meringue Buttercream Frosting:
12 egg whites, room temperature
2 ½ cups (17 ½ ounces) of sugar
½ tsp. of cream of tartar
4 cups (2 pounds) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small cubes
1 tbsp. of vanilla extract
¼ tsp. of salt
For the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 375F degrees.
- Cut out parchment paper and layer on the bottom of two 11 x 16″ sheet pans. Oil and flour well. Set aside.
- In a large saucepan, melt butter over a medium heat. Whisk in the cocoa. Add in the oil, water and coffee and bring to a boil.
- Boil cocoa mixture for approximately 30 seconds. Remove the pan from heat and set it aside to cool slightly.
- In a very large mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the center.
- Pour the warm cocoa mixture to the sifted ingredients and whisk until just combined.
- In a separate small bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla.
- Using a rubber spatula, stir the buttermilk mixture into the batter.
- Pour the batter into the two greased sheet cakes. Tap the pans on the counter a few times to release some of the air bubbles. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until the tester comes out clean.
- While the cake is in the oven, make the frosting.
For the frosting:
- Using a hand mixer or whisk, in a heat proof bowl, whisk together the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar.
- Place the bowl over a double-boiler (saucepan of simmering water). Continue to gently whisk the mixture until it is hot to touch (130F on a candy thermometer).
- Transfer the egg whites to the bowl of a stand mixer and, using the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium- high speed until they have tripled in size and are thick and glossy and hold stiff peaks (like meringue).
- Turn the mixer down to medium-low speed until the mixing bowl is cool to touch, approximately 3-5 minutes. Kick the mixer back up to medium-high speed and add the butter one piece at a time.
- Stop the mixer every so often to scrape down the butter caught on the side of the bowl. Keep whisking buttercream until it comes together.
- Once all the butter is incorporated and the frosting is light and fluffy, add your vanilla extract.
- Cover in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes before frosting.
- Fill your favorite piping bag with the frosting and use your favorite round shaped piping tip to decorate your sheet cake.
- After allowing your sheet cakes to cool completely, use cake stencils to cut out letters in each sheet cake.
- Place your first layer of cake letters onto your cake boards and pipe your buttercream onto each letter. Start by outlining your letters with buttercream and then fill in the middle.
- Once all your letters have been piped out, place the second layer of cake letter on top of the first layer very gently. Brush away any crumbs.
- Repeat step 2 on your second cake layer.
- Decorate your cake letters using fresh flowers, fresh fruit, macarons, candy, Cosmic Shimmer, gold leaf, etc.
- Devour and Enjoy!!
Happy Heavenly Birthday Kobe! May this cake be a small representation of everything your life and legacy means to me.