It's been quite a while since I shared a fancy party cake here on Unwritten Recipes. Believe me, it's not for lack of desire--we just haven't had any special occasions that warranted the baking of something truly spectacular and with only three of us at home now, I couldn't justify making a big cake for no reason at all. But last week my oldest flew in from LA for a less-than-24 hour-stopover before starting a special trip and of course we had to celebrate his birthday which had happened earlier in the week. Finally, a chance to make my cake! And what a cake this is! Three graham cracker flavored layers filled with a milk chocolate ganache and covered in a homemade marshmallow torched topping! If s'mores are your thing, you are going to go wild over this and start trying to look for belated birthdays that need to be celebrated right now!
S'mores are probably one of the most popular American desserts there are. The crunchy graham crackers, melted chocolate bars and gooey roasted marshmallows-they're not just a dessert but an experience and they bring back so many memories. Even if they're not your absolute favorite treat, can you remember a summer without them? And now you can recreate everything you love about s'mores, but in a stupendous show stopping cake, that believe it or not, is not at all difficult to make. Here's how:
You start by making 3 tender layers of cake which are enhanced with graham cracker crumbs for a very unique flavor and texture.
Next you prepare a creamy milk chocolate ganache filling and slather it between the cake layers (taking a few generous little swipes yourself first, of course).
Finally you whip up the marshmallow frosting (if you're really pressed for time, you can use the ready-made kind, but the homemade kind is so worth the effort!)
Now's when the real fun begins! If you've ever stressed over perfectly and smoothly icing a cake, you will love this because the less neat and careful with it you are, the better it will look! In fact, you want as many swirls and bumps as possible because they look so eye-catching and interesting when you torch them. (And if you haven't picked up a kitchen blowtorch yet, now's the time. It's really not expensive and although you may not use it often, when you need it, you really need it! You can't make this cake without it!) See what I mean? The flame picks up the spikes of frosting that stick out and turns them golden brown and swirly--sort of like a piece of edible artwork!!
And very bite tastes like a little piece of art too. There's the tender graham cracker-y cake, the silky smooth milk chocolate filling and the sticky slightly burned gooey marshmallow topping that rounds it all out. It was a huge hit at our impromptu celebration! And we've been enjoying the leftovers for days! Boy am I glad that kid had a birthday!!
Makes one 8 or 9-inch three layer cake
You will need a hand-held kitchen blowtorch for this. You cannot brown the marshmallow in the oven. You will also need a candy thermometer.
Prep Time for Cake: 12 minutes; Bake Time for Cake: 23-25 minutes; Prep Time for Filling: 20 minutes; Prep Time for Frosting: 20 minutes; Assembly Time: 20 minutes
For the Cake
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (you can crush your own or buy them readymade)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk, well-shaken
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the Filling
- 12 ounces good quality milk chocolate, chopped really well
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
For the Marshmallow Frosting
- 1/3 cup water
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup corn syrup or honey (I used corn syrup)
- 3 egg whites at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Or you can use ready made store bought Marshmallow Fluff--you will need at least 4 cups
1. To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour 3 8 or 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with a round of parchment paper and set aside.
2. Into a bowl, whisk together well the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and soda and salt. Set aside.
3. Use an electric mixer to beat the butter until very smooth in a large bowl. If you have a stand mixer fit with the paddle attachment. Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and beat at medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes until pale and fluffy.
4. Lower the speed and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the bowl down with a rubber spatula as necessary. Add in the vanilla and mix until incorporated.
5. In three additions on low speed, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, alternate the flour mixture and the buttermilk, scraping down the bowl between additions and making sure each addition is well incorporated before adding the next. However, you don't want to over mix or the cake will be tough.
6. Divide the batter evenly between the 3 pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 23-25 minutes until the cakes are golden brown and a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out barely clean. Let cakes cool on rack in pan for about 20 minutes. Then invert onto a rack to finish cooling completely. (The cakes can be made a day ahead and left, well-wrapped, at room temperature.)
7. To make the Filling: Place the chopped chocolate into a medium-sized bowl. Place the cream in a small saucepan and bring to a very low simmer. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and immediately cover the bowl tightly with a piece of plastic wrap. Let sit for 2 minutes, then remove the plastic wrap and stir gently with a rubber spatula until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is completely smooth. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. (You can even do this a day ahead, cover it and then bring it room temperature before proceeding to the next step.)
8. If you have a stand mixer, attach the whisk attachment. Otherwise, use your hand-held mixer and beat the cooled chocolate mixture for 1-2 minutes, until fluffy and lightened in color. Set aside.
9. To make the Marshmallow Frosting: Place the water, sugar and corn syrup or honey in a medium, heavy-weight saucepan and stir to combine. Attach a candy thermometer to the pan and turn the heat to medium-high. Do not stir again at all.
10. Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the large bowl of a mixer. Make sure the bowl and beaters or whisk are completely clean, dry and grease-free or the egg whites won't beat up properly.
11. When the sugar mixture reached 225ºF, start whipping the egg whites to soft peaks. This should take about 3-4 minutes. When the sugar mixture reached 240ºF, remove from the heat and with the mixer on low, slowly and carefully, in a steady stream down the side of the bowl, pour the sugar mixture into the egg whites. Once it's all poured in, increase the speed to medium-high and whip for about 7-8 minutes, or until the whites are thick and glossy. Add in the vanilla and whip a couple of more minutes to incorporate and cool the mixture down even further. If you like, you can make this up to 2 weeks ahead and store it at room temperature in an airtight container. Otherwise, proceed to assembling the cake.
12. To assemble the cake: If the cakes are uneven trim the edges or tops. Place one layer upside down on the cake plate or platter. Frost with half of the chocolate ganache. Top with the second layer, also upside down and cover with the remaining ganache. Place the remaining cake layer, again upside down on the top and put the whole thing in the fridge for about 10 minutes to set if frosting seems loose. Otherwise, cover the entire thing with the marshmallow frosting, using 2 spoons to create dips and swirls (it will be sticky). You don't want to smooth this out or make it look at all neat. Now use a hand-held kitchen blowtorch to brown the marshmallow as much as you like.
13. Serve cake immediately or later in the day at room temperature. Leftovers can be stored covered at room temperature for up to 2 days or refrigerated for 3-4 days.
Note: Cake and Ganache Filling adapted from Liv For Cake. I baked the cake in 8-inch pans instead of 6 inch ones and just reduced the amount of cooking time. Also I left 2 teaspoons of Baileys out of the ganache filling. Marshmallow Frosting adapted from kingarthurflour.com