Friday, August 28, 2015

Triple Lemon Blueberry Cake

This scrumptious, summer-inspired cake is another fave from my cake idol, Rosie from Sweetapolita (it's her dark chocolate cake that I'm utterly in love with). I've made this cake several times and have recommended it to others just as much. And every time it's made, it receives rave reviews. With lemon zest, real lemon juice and pure lemon extract in the cake, the curd and the frosting, the lemon flavor is strong but still very natural flavor tasting and perfectly tart.


In the past, I've always made the lemon curd from scratch and have loved it so much I could eat it straight from the spoon. This time, I decided to try Trader Joe's Lemon Curd to see if it was as good as the homemade stuff, and if it would be a worthwhile substitute if you either don't have time to make the curd from scratch or simply don't want to. 


My review: the store bought version is an adequate substitute, but I would strongly suggest making your lemon curd from scratch. With homemade curd, you'll get a brighter, richer color, as well as a more natural flavor and creamy texture. If you have the 20 minutes to make it, do it!  


Make sure to roll your blueberries in flour to ensure they don't sink to the bottom of your cake while baking.


And when you're stacking the cake, you'll want to create a rim of frosting around the cake before filling it with the curd. This will prevent the curd from oozing out the side of your cake as you stack more layers on top.


Also, I plan to post a full frosting tutorial in the future, but for now, a few tips to get you started: make sure your cake is even on all sides, create a crumb coating and let it set in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes, use a turn table, and consider getting a palette knife or an icing smoother.



I end up using the palette knife more often than the icing smoother because I like the more rustic look of the sweeping frosting lines. 






Triple Lemon Blueberry Cake (recipe from Sweetapolita)

Yield: one 3-layer, 8-inch round cake (for this post and my Instagram giveaway, I added a half recipe to this recipe and made two 3-layer, 6-inch cakes).

Ingredients

For the cake:
2 cups plus 6 tablespoons (290 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
2 teaspoons (9 g) baking powder
1 teaspoon (7 g) salt
3 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup (120 ml) sour cream
1/2 cup (120 ml) whole milk
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract 
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) pure lemon extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon zest
1 cup (2 sticks/227 g) unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 cups (300 g) white sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature

For the frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks/227 g) unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons (10 ml) lemon zest
5 cups (625 g) icing sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup (60 ml) whipping cream (35% cream)
1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) pure lemon extract
a pinch of salt
yellow food gel, optional

For the lemon curd:
4 lemons 
2 whole eggs, plus 4 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into small even cubes


Instructions

For the cake:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare three 8" round cake pans with parchment paper, butter and flour. Sift dry ingredients into medium bowl. Transfer 1 tablespoon flour mixture to larger bowl. Add fresh blueberries and toss to coat them with flour. Set remaining flour mixture and blueberries aside.
2. Stir sour cream, whole milk, vanilla extra, lemon extract and lemon zest in small bowl.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until pale yellow and very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well combined.
4. Mix in flour mixture alternately with milk mixture, starting and ending with flour mixture. Stir until just combined. Gently fold in blueberries.
5. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Bake cakes until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks for about 10 minutes, then invert onto racks until completely cool.

For the frosting:
1. Cream butter and lemon zest in the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, about 3 minutes. Slowly add icing sugar, mixing on low speed for about 2 minutes.
2. Add remaining ingredients and beat on med-high for 3-4 minutes until very fluffy. If using color gel, add a drop or two, then beat until blended.

For the curd:
1. Wash lemons really well and using a zester, remove all the colored portion of the peel from the fruit into a bowl or onto a piece of wax paper. Rotate fruit as necessary to get as much of the zest off. Repeat until you have 2 teaspoons of the zest and set aside.
2. Slice the lemon in half crosswise using a sharp knife, and extract as much of the juice as you can. Just be sure to catch all of the juice in a bowl and to completely strain the seeds before using. Repeat the juicing until you have 2/3 cups of the strained juice.
3. Get your double boiler ready by filling a saucepan with 1" of water, then placing a metal bowl on top of the saucepan. You will need to ensure the bowl fits snugly into the top of the saucepan and that the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water (this is important! you don't want your eggs to cook). You can now remove and continue with making the curd.
4. Whisk the juice, whole eggs, egg yolk and sugar in the bowl until smooth. Add the butter cubes to the bowl but don't stir.
5. Heat the water in the saucepan over low heat until it simmers (not boils) and place the bowl atop the rim. Stirring gently, but constantly, using a heatproof spatula or wood spoon, cook until the curd has thickened and all of the butter has melted and is incorporated, about 10 minutes. To test if the curd is thick enough, remove the spatula or spoon from the curd and check that it's coated.
6. Strain the curd over a bowl using a fine-mesh sieve and then stir in the zest. Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly against the curd to prevent a skin from forming, and chill for at least three hours (suggested to make it the day before and let thicken overnight in the fridge).

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Salted Caramel Frosting

I often have grand visions for my cakes, but unfortunately, those visions don't always come to fruition. Today was one of those days. I think my problem was trying to kill two birds with one stone while making this cake. As you may have read in my last post, I gave the Wilton Bake-Even Strips a test on my rich, dark chocolate cake and wasn't completely satisfied with the results. The two cake layers with the strips were slightly under-baked around the edges and didn't rise as high as I'm used to when I've baked the same cake without the strips. So, vision #1 of having a tall, 3-layer cake went down the tube early in the day. Instead, I ended up with a shorter, 3-layer cake. Not the end of the world, but looking back, I could have had a happier ending (looks-wise) with this cake if I had started over at this point (but really, who has time to remake a cake when their 2-year-old decides she doesn't want to take a nap and it's short day for their 1st-grader). 

And then there was issue #2 - major cake crumbs in my frosting. Because the cake layers with the bake-even strips didn't cook completely along the edges, I ran into a major crumb invasion while frosting. Not even a crumb coating was going to hide what was going on under there. I did the best I could but ultimately wasn't happy leaving the cake with just the salted caramel frosting as the outer layer. (This bummed me out big time since the focus of this cake is the salted caramel frosting). 

I ended up making a chocolate ganache and spreading it over the top of the cake. After snapping a few pictures I wasn't sure if I loved it, so, I decided to spread the ganache around the whole cake. Looking at the two versions below, I actually do like the look of the ganache falling off the top of the cake more... but, when I ate the cake, I about fell off my seat with every bite of the thin, even-layered ganache and the salted caramel frosting together with the rich, dark chocolate cake. 

So, the good news? Even though this cake didn't turn out to look as I had hoped, the taste was beyond what I could have dreamed of! 



Remember to pay close attention to the boiling sugar mixture. Once it starts to caramelize, it moves quickly. Also, you'll notice the recipe calls for sugar and corn syrup. The addition of the corn syrup helps to inhibit the creation of sugar crystals, and will ensure this is a foolproof recipe for you.




My first attempt at frosting/decorating

And my revised version



Salted Caramel Frosting (by Tikkido.com)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
2 lbs. confectioners' sugar
1 cup butter, softened

Instructions:
1. Mix sugar, water and corn syrup in a small saucepan.
2. Bring the water and sugar mixture to boil over medium heat, but DO NOT STIR. (Stirring encourages crystallization). Let the mixture cook until it caramelizes into a golden brown color (as seen in the photo above). It happens quickly, so keep an eye on it.
3. Remove the caramelized sugar syrup from the heat and slowly mix in the cream. Pour in just a tiny bit at a time, especially at the beginning, and mix to combine. You can start adding more and more as you go along.
4. Mix in salt, lemon juice or vinegar and vanilla. Stir to combine.
5. Set the caramel sauce to the side and let cool completely before making the frosting.
6. Once the caramel sauce is cooled completely, combine the softened butter, confectioners' sugar and caramel together in a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until smooth. If the icing seems to stiff, ad a bit of milk or cream - just a little at a time until it reaches a smooth, spreading consistency of your liking.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Product Test: Wilton Bake-Even Strips

I've been intrigued by these Wilton Bake-Even Strips for quite some time now. They claim that you'll get "moist, level cakes every time with no crowns, cracked tops or crusty edges." Who doesn't want that?! So today, I finally gave the strips a try with my dark chocolate cake.


I followed the directions exactly: fit the dry Bake-Even strip around the pan and thread the strip through the fabric loop, remove pan and run strip under cold water to wet (for best results soak strip in cold water for 5 minutes and remove excess water but don't wring), place strip on the counter and put the pan inside, cinch to tighten, add batter and bake as directed.


The results surprised me a bit. The cake without the strip did have a bit of a sink hole, which has happened before to me and can easily be leveled off, but it cooked at exactly the time I always bake this cake. The cake with the strip was a little more level but was not nearly done when the other cake was. I let it continue baking for an extra five minutes and then tested it to see if it was set. It was, so I took it out to cool.




When I went to turn my cakes out, the cake with the strip felt heavier and wasn't raised as high as the cake without the strip. Additionally, the cake with the strip was a bit more brownie-like in texture instead of cake-like. Maybe I needed to cook that one even longer?

Not quite sure I'm sold on the strips yet. Has anyone else given them a try? What was your result? I'd love to hear about your experience.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Momofuku Milk Bar Birthday Cake

Last week, while in New York for work, I made a pit stop at Momofuku Milk Bar in East Village for their birthday cake and chocolate malt cake truffles. Both are incredibly delicious and flavorful, and while I usually choose chocolate before all else, the birthday cake truffle is actually my favorite. They use scraps of their birthday cake, mixed with milk, coated in white chocolate and their crunchy coating (a combination of birthday cake, vanilla milk, white chocolate and birthday cake sand). So good, you guys!

After enjoying my delicious truffles and heading off to work, I regretted not pre-ordering their 6-inch birthday cake. (One of these days I've got to be a little more prepared before heading out there!). Since I missed my chance at having the real thing, I went for the next best thing and made it myself. Milk Bar is awesome and has actually published a ton of their recipes. You can find them all here.  

The birthday cake is made up of four parts: birthday cake, birthday cake soak, birthday cake frosting, and birthday cake crumbs. Don't leave out any of these! You want the full experience and it's so worth the time of each step.

There are also a handful of items that you may not be familiar with and/or can't find at your local grocery store:

Clear vanilla extract - you should be able to find the McCormick brand at the grocery store, or Joann's and Michael's usually carry the clear vanilla extract in their cake isles. Milk Bar says the clear vanilla extract is NOT interchangeable with the typical brown extract because the clear vanilla isn't actually flavored by vanilla and gives the cake a more "guilty tub-of-frosting, box cake" flavor.

Glucose - you might actually find this at Joann's and Michael's, as well. If not, check a specialty baking store (Orson Gygi, if you're in Utah or Surfas, if you're in Los Angeles).

Citric Acid - you can actually use fresh lemon juice if you can't track down a bottle of citric acid.

Acetate sheets - another specialty item, but if you're already at a craft store getting clear vanilla extract or glucose, grab a sheet of thick plastic from the stenciling or quilting section. You can make your own strips.


Make sure to follow Milk Bar's tips about mixing times, and don't rush the process. You'll be combining a lot of fats with liquids and want the mixture to be completely homogeneous. There should not be any streaks of fats or liquids when you're done mixing the batter.


You'll use a baking sheet to cook the cake, and then make cutouts with a 6-inch spring form pan. The recipe calls for three layers, but I ended up doing four layers since there was extra cake and you can piece it together since it's supported by the acetate sheets and spring form pan.



Don't worry if your cake rounds fall a part a little. Look how messy mine are! You can fill in holes and crevices with extra cake scraps. 


I also placed my cake layers top-side down so that the cake soak could really soak in.






Find all the recipes and instructions over at MilkBar. Click HERE for a direct link to the birthday cake.

Can't wait to hear what you think!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Three years ago we spent the summer living in Zug, Switzerland for my husband's job. Zug is a small town, just outside of Zurich about 20 minutes. Big business are starting to spurt up there (thanks to some nice tax breaks), but for the most part, it's quiet, charming and rural. During the weekday, it was usually just my son and I hanging out, exploring the town and cooling off at the lake. We didn't have many friends (finding ex-pats was a bit hard to come by since my son wasn't enrolled in an American school), but the few we had were very special to us. One of the friends we made while living there was Dominique, and she was exactly the type of friend one could ask for when moving half way across the globe. She was friendly, welcoming, and very thoughtful. 

One afternoon, we arrived at Dominique's house for a visit. As soon as she opened the door I I got a whiff of a scent I hadn't smelled in over a month - freshly baked chocolate chip cookies! My mouth immediately started to water, and while I tried to hold back the drool, I silently prayed that she would be sharing them with us. I had been homesick for good ol' fashioned chocolate chip cookies since the moment we arrived in Switzerland, because Switzerland doesn't do chocolate chip cookies like America does. I even tried making my own until I found out that the brown sugar in Switzerland is NOT the same brown sugar we have here. (I also didn't know at the time that you could add a little molasses to their brown sugar and turn it into the American brown sugar I'm used to.) Anyway, point being, I was elated to see a large plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies on the table. I obviously didn't hesitate to dig in once they were offered to me and I about melted in my seat. They were so good. Soft and chewy, just the way I like them. 

I also love these cookies because they're easy and quick to make. I'll share another chocolate chip cookie recipe in the future, by Jacque Torres, that is my all-time favorite chocolate chip cookie. However, his recipe is a little more intricate and it's best when you chill it overnight in the refrigerator. So, when I'm looking to make and eat chocolate chip cookies, like, right now, this is the recipe I turn to.



Back to cakes tomorrow!

Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield: about 3 dozen medium size cookies

Ingredients:
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips or chopped chocolate bar (semi-sweet or dark chocolate, I prefer dark)

Instructions:
1. Preheat the oven 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or baking mat.
2. In a bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla on medium speed.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix together with a whisk.
4. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until just blended. Add the chocolate chips/pieces. 
5. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the edges start to turn golden brown. Once the edges are cooked, you can take them out and let them sit another 1-2 minutes on the pan. Then, transfer them to a cooling rack or dig in. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Scrumptious S'mores Cake

I came across this Martha Stewart Wedding Scrumptious S'mores Cake a few weeks ago on Pinterest. It immediately caught my attention because one, it's a s'mores cake and I loves s'mores; and two, it has a graham flour cake instead of the more traditional chocolate you usually see as the base of a s'mores cake. I knew I had to make it and compare it to the two s'mores cakes I've made - Sweetapolita's Campfire Cake and my Peanut Butter S'mores Cake. 

Before I get to my review, let's talk some more about this cake. The first thing to take note of is that it uses Graham Flour. This is a specialty item and might be hard to find. In fact, I went to three different health food stores near me and couldn't find it. Since I didn't have time to order it, I ended up substituting Garbanzo Bean Flour - a recommended substitute from the person at the health food store. There are also some recipes online for homemade graham flour, which, in retrospect, I wish I had done. Because I didn't use the exact ingredient called for in the recipe, I'm not sure if the cake would have had a graham cracker flavor at all. Mine did not. Instead, it was more of a buttery, yellow cake. A little dense, but with a good flavor. Will it go into rotation as a go-to cake for me, probably not. But I will for sure try the cake again with graham flour. I just have to know what the difference will taste like. 

Because I didn’t get that graham cracker flavor in the cake, and this is a s’mores cake and I feel like it MUST have a graham cracker element, I decided to make the graham cracker crumbs from the s’mores cake I posted last week. Instead of baking them in round cake pans, I baked the crumbs on a sheet pan and crumbled them.

There are also a lot of other components to the cake, which create a medley of textures and flavors in each bite. Don't skip out on any of them. 

Another thing about this cake - it uses Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Swiss Meringue Frosting. A meringue frosting uses egg whites as the base and can take some time to get just right. Well, it did for me, so let me offer a couple of tips to make it easier for you: 1. make sure to dissolve the sugar completely without cooking the eggs. You'll need to whisk constantly while the mixture sits over simmering water. If you don't dissolve the sugar completely, you'll get a grainy texture in the frosting; 2. whisk the egg whites on high until stiff peaks for, like the picture below.



At this point, you're done with the frosting you'll use on the outside of the cake, but for the buttercream filling, you continue to whisk in butter by tablespoons. If the egg whites aren't strong enough, the mixture will start curdle. If your buttercream starts to curdle, DON'T THROW IT OUT! Continue to whisk on high until the ingredients form back into a smooth texture. It may take 5-8 minutes, so be patients and hold back the tears.

For the toasted marshmallows, I ended up making two batches. The first batch is pictured on the right below. I didn't cook it long enough (15 minutes) and, as a result, it was still sticky in the middle and hard to break apart. For the second batch, pictured on the left, I cooked the marshmallows for 18 minutes and they turned out perfect. Once they cooled to room temperature, I was able to break the marshmallows apart easily. 




Because I added the toasted graham cracker component, I didn't use the toasted marshmallows in every layer like the original recipe. Instead, I alternated the graham cracker crumbs and marshmallows in every other layer.





Oh, and I'm a kitchen torch novice, so I didn't toast my frosting. Check out the original recipe HERE and see how gorgeous the Martha Stewart Weddings cake looks.




Overall, I really enjoyed this cake. I love the combinations of flavor and texture. However, compared to the other s'mores cakes I've made, this one isn't my favorite - mostly because I just prefer a chocolate cake than a yellow cake. I do want to try making the graham cake with the graham flour and seeing what flavor difference that makes. I think you could also substitute the graham cake with a chocolate cake and get an outstanding creation.

Try it out and let me know what you think!


Martha Stewart Weddings Scrumptious S’mores Cake

Yield: one 9-inch, 4-layer cake
(I did 3, 8-inch pans, and ended up with 5 layers because one of my layers broke. Oops)

Graham Cake
1 ½ cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 ½ cups graham flour
3 cups cake flour
3 tablespoons wheat germ
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
3 cups sugar
1 cup honey
8 eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla
2 ½ cups milk

Honey Syrup
½ cup water
½ cup honey

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
5 large egg whites
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons guar
Pinch of salt
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream

Toasted Marshmallows
5 ounces mini marshmallows

Swiss Meringue Frosting
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 cup sugar
Pinch of cream of tartar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Toasted Graham Cracker Crumbs (my addition)
18 graham crackers, rectangle
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt


Instructions:

Graham Cake
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-inch diameter by 2-inch high pans, line bottoms with parchment, butter parchment, then flour both pans, knocking out the excess flour. Set aside.
2. Sift together the flours, baking powder and salt, then whisk in the wheat germ.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer filled with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then mix in the honey. Next add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each. Mix in the vanilla.
4. With the mixer on low speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, then add 1/3 of the milk; repeat with the remaining flour and milk, and mix until well combined.
5. Divide the batter between the two pans, and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or until the centers feel firm when lightly touched. (about 25 minutes)
6. Remove from oven and let cakes cool in pans for 5 to 10 minutes, then remove from pans and let cool, right side up. Wrap layers well if not using the same day and refrigerate for up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.

Honey Syrup
1. In a 2-cup glass measuring cup, stir together the water and honey, and heat to a simmer in a microwave. Let syrup come to room temperature before using.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
1. Combine egg whites, sugar and salt in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips).
2. Attach the bowl to an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium high speed, whisk until stuff, but not dry, peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture if fluffy and glassy and completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl), about 10 minutes. The bowl should be back to room temperature.
3. With the mixer on medium low, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all the butter has been added, whisk in the vanilla. 
4. Switch to the paddle attachment and continue beating on low speed until all the air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with a flexible spatula, and continue beating until the buttercream is completely smooth. (I did not end up switching to the paddle attachment because my buttercream curdled. I continued to whisk the buttercream on high until it regained its frosting form).
5. Keep buttercream at room temperature is using the same day or store in a plastic airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week, or in the freezer for up to one month.

Chocolate Ganache
1. Place the chocolate into a bowl. 
2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream to a summer. 
3. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate; let stand for 5 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, stir the mixture until smooth. Let stand at room temperature until mixture is cooled, thickened slightly and spreadable.

Toasted Marshmallows
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place the marshmallows on a baking sheet lined with a nonstick baking mat or parchment paper and bake until melted and golden brown, about 15-18 minutes. Remove marshmallows from oven and cool to room temperature. 
2. Once cooled, break the marshmallows into small pieces and set aside.

Swiss Meringue Frosting
1. Place egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer. 
2. Attach the bowl to an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whisk on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form and mixture is cool, about 10 minutes. Whisk in vanilla. Use immediately.

Toasted Graham Cracker Crumbs:
1. Crush the graham crackers in a food processor or by hand.
2. Add the crumbs, sugar and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine.
3. Add melted butter and stir until all the crumbs are wet.
4. Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool completely and set aside.

Assembly
1. Split both cake layers in half horizontally, making 4 layers. Place one layer on a corresponding-size cardboard round. 
2. Brush the layer with a little of the honey syrup. 
3. Spread layer with an even, thin coating of ganache, then spread on a thicker layer of the Swiss Meringue Buttercream; stud the buttercream with a third of the toasted marshmallows (or graham cracker crumbs, if using) and continue building the tier in the same manner, ending with the fourth cake layer on top.
4. Loosely spread the entire cake with the Swiss Meringue. 
5. Using a hand-held cooking torch, lightly brown the surface of the frosting like a s’more. Garnish the cake with chocolate crumbs.




Thursday, August 13, 2015

Peanut Butter S'mores Cake

Some people don't think my sister and I look much alike. She has more traits of my mom's side and I have more traits of my dad's side. But let me assure you, we are blood and proof is in the sweet tooth.

Case in point, I asked her what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday, and without hesitation, she said to me, "peanut butter s'mores." Not just a s'mores cake. Not just a regular peanut butter cake. A peanut butter s'mores cake! It was pure genius. This is literally the kind of cake I dream about! (I'll admit now, I'm a little biased toward this cake because I love peanut butter. Hmm, love might be talking about my relationship with peanut butter too lightly. I'm obsessed with the stuff. It's a main food group in my diet. I'll add it to just about any other food. Don't judge.) Anyway, with that secret out, I'll just say I was so excited to make this cake, and eat it with my sister! I knew we would both appreciate and savor every bite together!

To make this wildly rich and delicious cake, I looked up several different recipes and ultimately decided to piece together my own creation in order to get what I was looking for. You'll see I've used my go-to dark chocolate cake for the base. Its bittersweet flavor balances nicely with the more savory flavor of the peanut butter filling and the sweetness of the marshmallow frosting. And I love the baked in graham cracker layer! It adds a little contrast in texture to the rest of the cake. 

Oh, it's just so good... and like I said, seriously rich!




Also, I know this looks like a lot of steps, but don't let that scare you off from making this cake. When I'm making a cake with several steps like this, I spread out the baking over a few days. With this cake, I made the cakes a few days before the party and froze them until I was ready to assemble. Next, I made the peanut butter filling and ganache a day ahead. You can store the peanut butter filling and ganache in an air-tight container at room temperature for a day, or in the refrigerator for a few days. If you decide to stick them in the fridge, let both get to room temperature before you spread them on the cake during assembly. Finally, I made the marshmallow frosting day of and frosted the cake right away when it was finished.



Peanut Butter S'mores Cake

Yields: One 3-layer, 8-inch round cake 

Ingredients:

Dark Chocolate Cake
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup Cacao Barry Extra Brute Cocoa Powder (or similar premium brand)
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoon salt
3 eggs, room temperature
1 ½ cups buttermilk, room temperature
1 cup hot water
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Peanut Butter Filling (used in Magnolia Bakery's Peanut Butter Pie)
1 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups cream cheese
3/4 cups peanut butter
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar (more if you want it on the sweeter side)
1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Brown Butter Graham Cracker Crust (from HeatherChristo.com)
18 large grahams (the rectangle)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons butter

Chocolate Ganache
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped or pieces

Marshmallow Frosting (from HeatherChristo.com)3 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup karo syrup
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or clear vanilla extract


Instructions:

Brown Butter Graham Cracker Crust:
1. Melt the butter and cook on low until the butter is golden brown
2. In a food processor, pulse the graham crackers with the sugar and the salt until the crumbs are really fine. If you do not have a food processor, place the graham crackers in a large zip lock bag and use a rolling pin to smash and roll them into crumbs. Pour the crumbs into a medium bowl.
3. Pour the butter over the graham crackers and gently mix together until it is a uniform, damp crumb.
4. Prepare three 8" rounds with parchment paper rounds and non-stick baking spray.
Divide the graham cracker crumbs between two of the three prepared pans, pressing them down firmly with a spatula. Set aside.

Dark Chocolate Cake:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare three 8” round cake pans (butter or spray, line bottom with parchment paper, butter or spray paper and dust with flour).
2. In a bowl of electric mixer, sift all dry ingredients. Set aside.
3. Combine eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla in a measuring cup and lightly beat with a fork.
4. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and mix on medium speed for two minutes. Batter will be thin. Scrape sides and mix for another 30 seconds. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans, carefully spreading the batter over the two pans with graham cracker. 
5. Bake for 25-27 minutes (you may need more time depending on your oven), until toothpick comes out almost clean. Cool on wire racks for 10-15 minutes, then gently invert onto racks until cooled completely.

Chocolate Ganache:
1. In a small pot, bring the cream to a simmer. Pour the cream over the chocolate pieces and let sit about 5 minutes.
2. Whisk the ganache until smooth and shiny. Set Aside. (Can stick it in the fridge to let it harden a thicken up a little. Don't use it while warm or it will melt the peanut butter filling.)

Peanut Butter Filling:
1. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese with the paddle attachment on medium-high until smooth and creamy. 
2. Lower mixer speed to medium and add the peanut butter, sugar, and vanilla. 
3. Gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture until completely combined. Set aside.

Marshmallow Frosting:
1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk the eggs and salt until fluffy and frothy.
2. Meanwhile, heat the sugar, corn syrup, water and vanilla paste. Heat over medium flame until the sugar is dissolved and just simmering, about 5 minutes.
3. With the mixer on medium speed, add a tiny bit of the hot sugar mixture to the egg whites at a time. (Temper the eggs - don't scramble the them)
4. Eventually, all of the sugar will be added and then turn the mixer up to high. Beat the mixture on high for about 5 minutes or until very stiff and shiny.

Assembly
1. Place one chocolate cake and graham cracker cake round on your cake stand, with the graham cracker side facing up.
2. Spread half of your ganache on the graham cracker layer, followed by half of your peanut butter filling.
3. Place the second chocolate and graham cracker cake on top, with the graham cracker layer facing up. Repeat step two.
4. Place final cake layer, face down, on top of the peanut butter filling. Dollop the marshmallow frosting on top. I used the back of my spoon to swirl the frosting and create a textured look.
5. Carefully use a kitchen torch to brown some areas of the frosting.