Big Swing’s Birthday!

This weekend is my husband’s 42nd birthday. It also happens to be Easter, so family meal is jam packed this weekend. About a year ago my sister-in-law’s boyfriend started called my husband “Big Swing” – cause he’s the “boss” or “El Heffe” or “HMFIC” and I’ve decided after 15 years that when you are the “boss” for long enough It’s hard to not be the “boss” 24/7. We like to make fun, it’s kind of our thing, and “Big Swing” is our tongue and cheek way of saying “yeah, you’re the HMFIC and we know it”. It’s not easy being married to Big Swing when he’s in full “boss man” role, but our lives would not be as fulfilling, secure, or exciting without him. He’s our chief executive officer and he makes all this better. I mean, we all do (just don’t tell Big Swing)…

So, its Big Swing’s Birthday which is exactly two weeks after our son and daughter’s birthday; at this point family and friends are kind of sick of our family birthdays. So he always gets last minute or nothing dinners with cheesy gifts and homemade art projects. I love celebrating my family birthdays, I love parties. Big Swing hates parties for himself and seems luke-warm about other events, so we have some tension around these parties. By the time his comes around I’ve bit my tongue off trying to keep the peace and I’m over it as well.

Party planning tension begins with this simple conversation: –

Me: “Hey, I’m going to do a Unicorn/Cinderella party for chops (our daughter)”.

Big Swing – “Uh Huh.”

Me: “Are you listening?”

Big Swing: – “What?”

Me: “I said I’m going to a Unicorn/Cinderella theme for chops”.

Big Swing – “Ok. Wait, why are we having a party? How many people?”

Me: “Just 15 adults and children (really 30)”.

Big Swing – “Why? Super. Ugh, how much is this going to cost me?”

You know typical parent/married people stuff. But as the years go by, I notice that the underlying tension tends to result in yelling and screaming about a whisk or not taking your shoes off or forgetting to grab milk, which then ruins the event, which leads to more frustration and tension. This year will be different (Duh, Duh, Dah!) – I am resolved that no matter how grumpy Big Swing is over his “weekend” I will smile and remember that he’s just uncomfortable with the attention. He likes to build stuff, grow stuff, fix problems, manage, and he hates stopping to congratulate himself. Happy Birthday Big Swing!

I didn’t plan a party this year, he hates those. We are having a regular Family Meal and a special cake at the end. Our kids are young and they love cake and “Happy Birthdays”, and Big Swing can be made to love anything if his kids love it. (the caveat to the rule)

It is Maple Sugar Season in our neck of the woods, too. So we thought Maple Syrup inspired recipes would be festive and in line with our Family Meal motto – local ingredients, creative concoctions, foraged or farmed, but always family.

It’s Saturday at 6:45 a.m. (pre-game), I’m awake, the kids are awake, and Big Swing is sleeping. It’s his weekend. So I’m going to squelch my instinct to yell up to him to “Wake Up!”

Back to the meal – I have made his cake but need to frost it. I made an honest to goodness cake this year, not a mix and not a store bought concoction. I asked our daughter, aka chops, who is 3 about the cake. She is our official Cake Queen. She suggested that we put a pig and cow on his cake since he is always taking care of the pigs and cows or selling the meat. We thought that was adorable, but all we could find for ideas were little kid cakes. It’s Big Swing – he can’t have an animated barn scene he needs a Big Boy cake. At the last minute I found a few recipes with chocolate, bacon and maple syrup – I mean what could be wrong? Well the cake was decided, now we have to decide about main menu. The guys just bought a Sous Vide machine and they played with it all last weekend, I’m sure that will happen again. We have some lovely quail which will be amazing Sous Vide.

The start of the "Chops approved" birthday cake.  Fondant sculpted pig.

The start of the “Chops approved” birthday cake. Fondant sculpted pig.

Well – kids are screaming and Big Swing is awake … Let the Celebrations Begin!

We found this great recipe via Pinterest that Jenna @ for the birthday cake.  Here is our finished product….

Big Swing's Dark Chocolate Maple Bacon cake

Big Swing’s Dark Chocolate Maple Bacon cake

Dark Chocolate Maple Bacon Cake



3/4 C Dark Chocolate Cocoa (Dutch Processed)

3/4 C Hot Water

3 C All Purpose Flour

1 TSP Baking Soda

1 TSP Baking Powder

1 1/2 TSP Himalayan Salt (Ground)

3 Sticks Unsalted Sweet Cream Butter

1 1/2 C Granulated Sugar

3/4 C Golden Brown Sugar

4 Large Eggs, Room Temperature

1 TBS + 1 TSP Vanilla Extract

1 C Sour Cream Room Temperature

3/4 C Baked Bacon, Chopped


2 Sticks Unsalted Sweet Cream Butter, Room Temperature

2 TSP Vanilla Extract

1 LB Powdered Sugar

1/3 C Pure Organic Maple Syrup, More For Drizzle

1 TSP Himalayan Pink Salt, Ground


Preheat Oven To 350F 

 1. Prepare and flour 2 9″ Springform pans. Whisk together cocoa and hot water until even in consistency. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

2. Melt butter with sugars in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat and pour into a mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer beat until mixture is cooled, 4-5 minutes.

3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating in between to ensure evenly combined. Add vanilla, then cocoa mixture, and beat until just combined. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in parts, alternating with sour cream.

4. When mixture is evenly combined remove from mixer and gently fold in chopped bacon.

5. Bake about 25-30 minutes at 350F, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool layers entirely prior to frosting.

6. To prepare frosting; cream the butter in a bowl of a stand mixer. Once butter has reached a fluffy cream consistency add salt, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Combine well. Begin adding powdered sugar until all is combined. Taste and add additional maple syrup or salt as desired.

7. Frost both layers and assemble, topping with crumbled bacon (***candied bacon preferred.) Serve room temperature with a splash of maple syrup.

**To candy bacon cook brown sugar coated bacon strips on a lined baking sheet (with minimum 1/2″ depth to catch grease) for 15-18MINS.

Preparing the coals for the table-top Yakitori grill for the birthday feast

Preparing the coals for the table-top Yakitori grill for the birthday feast

The birthday dinner spread

The birthday dinner spread

Sous Vide Quail from Cavendish Quail finished with a maple ginger glaze

Sous Vide Quail from Cavendish Quail finished with a maple ginger glaze

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