ganache

s’mores layer cake

You guys. I did it again.

s'mores layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I baked my own birthday cake.

s'mores layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I know that some people gasp in horror or baulk at the very idea of such a thing. On one’s birthday, one is supposed to just sit back and enjoy the day without having to lift a finger.
But, you know what, one thing that I enjoy even more than eating cakes, is baking cakes! Especially if doing so means that I get to share them with people I love.
And guess what else. I could never find a cake in a bakery that would be as good as a cake that I could bake myself, and even if I found one, I couldn’t afford it!
So, tradition be damned, I bake my own birthday cakes.
And I like it!

s'mores layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

As my birthday was approaching, the weather finally started to warm up here in New York after what felt like an endless grey & chilly spring. To celebrate both the arrival of warm weather and my advanced age, we decided to invite a bunch of friends and have a big festive bbq in our suddenly green backyard.

s'mores layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I plotted and planned out my menu, scouring the internet for recipes for sides, salads, mains, and options for vegetarians. Russell even asked his family from San Diego to ship us a box of avocados from their own avocado tree, so that we could offer our guests a big ol’ bowl of the freshest guacamole in Brooklyn.
Of course, I knew that I wanted my birthday cake to be the pièce de résistance. It’s been so long since I’ve done a big festive layer cake that I also wanted to come up with something that I hadn’t really ever done before.

s'mores layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Nothing says Summer quite like s’mores.
Amirite?

Especially for a bbq or a backyard party, there’s clearly nothing better to round out an evening. I still love them to this day (duh), but it’s almost impossible not to think of childhood when eating them. Even though these days I’m usually making them over the leftover embers from my charcoal grill, they instantly transport me to campfires in the woods of upstate New York, with multiple marshmallows skewered on gnarled sticks found on the ground or ripped from a low-hanging branch.

s'mores layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Of course, like any good fat kid, when I was young I was super impatient to heat up those marshmallows as quickly as possible so I could get those s’mores into my face on the double. I learned pretty early on though, that the chalky texture and acrid flavor of that burnt sugar shell isn’t actually all that pleasant, even when sandwiched between melty chocolate and crisp graham crackers.

So, at a younger age than most kids (or adults for that matter), I figured out that slow and steady wins the race when it comes to building s’mores. A slow roast, with a steady rotation far from the flames, produces a vastly superior marshmallow with a soft, gooey center and a delicate toasty caramelized crust. The last time I went camping with my sister and her kids, my nephews actually poked fun at me for how long I take to toast my marshmallows. What can I say, I’m a perfectionist. Or neurotic. Potato, Potahto.

s'mores layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I suppose that slow and steady toasting is sort of a metaphor for building this cake. I’m not going to sugar coat things (lol) and tell you that this is an “easy” or “quick” recipe for novice bakers. It takes time and effort and has multiple steps and components. It’s basically four recipes in one, with 3 layers of cake, a flavored icing, a multi-step filling, a ganache drizzle, decorations on top, and long set of assembly instructions.

If you’re patient and determined though, and have a fair understanding of layer cake construction, all the effort definitely pays off in the end. I promise you that this cake is seriously incredible.

s'mores layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Unfortunately my birthday bbq never actually happened. Just as my excitement about the party was reaching it’s peak, the weather forecast started showing rain in the future. I tried not to panic and just kept telling myself that the weather changes so quickly in New York that by the weekend the forecast could be completely different.

I went ahead with planning and recipe testing my cake, but once I was sure that the recipe was solid and all the elements really worked together, I was also sure that it was time to start cancelling on our guests. A few nights before the big day I was home alone and actually started to pout and feel sorry for myself. I’d put all this work in for nothing and I had no clue what I’d end up doing on my birthday. After a few minutes though, I snapped out of it and decided that bbq or no bbq, I was going to have a good time.

I already had an amazing cake recipe, and after all that work to perfect it, I needed to show it off. I invited a small group of close friends to brunch not far from our place, and told everyone that afterward we’d be heading back to our apartment for cake and Cards Against Humanity. And guacamole!

s'mores layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Multiple people took one bite and their faces lit up and told me that it actually tasted like real s’mores, almost as if they weren’t expecting something that looks so pretty to also actually taste great too. They clearly underestimated me!
Russell even told me, repeatedly, that it’s one of the best desserts I’ve ever made, and kept going back into the bowl to steal stray spoonfuls of the marshmallow filling while I was stacking the layers. Actually my mom did the same exact thing when I was trying out the filling recipe for the first time!

The layers of cake are moist, tender, and richly chocolatey thanks to double dutch cocoa, strong coffee, and real butter. The toasted marshmallow filling is made from actual marshmallows rather than marshmallow spread, so it genuinely has the rich flavor and gooey texture of a warm marshmallow right off the stick. Once the layers are stacked, everything gets enrobed in a velvety swiss meringue buttercream loaded with graham cracker crumbs and just a hint of cinnamon. As if all that weren’t enough, rich dark chocolate ganache is the… umm… icing on the cake. In addition to the cocoa flavor from the devil’s food layers, the ganache adds that melty chocolate flavor you know and expect from s’mores. The only thing missing here is the camp fire and the sticks!

I promise you that this show-stopping cake really does taste as good as it looks. Better even!
If you’re up for the challenge, it’s definitely worth the effort.

s'mores layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

S'mores Layer Cake

  • Servings: 16 to 24-ish
  • Print
Devil’s Food Cake
makes three 8-inch layers

butter and flour (or baking spray) for pans
1 1/2 cups unsweetened natural cocoa powder (I used Double Dutch Process)
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee (or hot water if preferred)
3 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 cups peanut oil or vegetable oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
4 large eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter three 8 inch round cake pans, line bottoms with parchment paper, butter paper, and dust pans with flour.
Whisk together cocoa powder and coffee (or hot water) until smooth and set aside.
Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.
Beat melted butter, oil, and sugars together on medium-low speed until combined.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
Beat in vanilla and cocoa mixture. Reduce speed to low.
Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk and beginning and ending with flour. Beat until just combined.
Divide batter evenly between the three pans, and bake until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into centers comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes.

Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack, peel off parchment, and let cool completely.
To achieve a perfectly flat, professional looking cake, you’ll want to slice the very tops of the cakes off to make each layer completely flat and level. You can do this using a very sharp bread knife, or a cake leveler.

If you’re not assembling cakes right away, individually wrap each layer tightly in plastic wrap to prevent drying. Layers can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two, or frozen (wrapped in plastic wrap first, then aluminum foil) for up to two weeks.

Graham Cracker Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing:
Adapted from “Layered” by Tessa Huff
3/4 cup egg whites (I used pasteurized egg whites from a carton)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature (cut into 1 tablespoon slices)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Place the egg whites and sugar in a very clean bowl of a stand mixer and whisk them together by hand to combine. Fill a medium saucepan with an inch or two of water and bring to a simmer over medium to medium-high heat. Place the mixer bowl over the saucepan to create a double boiler. Be sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t directly touch the water, and that the water doesn’t reach a full boil.
Heat the egg whites until they register 160F on a candy thermometer, whisking regularly to avoid cooking the whites. As soon as they’re at the correct temperature, carefully attach the mixer bowl to the stand mixer and add the whisk attachment.
Beat the egg whites on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes until they hold stiff peaks and the outside of the bowl is cooled to room temperature. Stop the mixer and swap the whisk attachment for the paddle.
On low speed, add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time, waiting for it to incorporate before adding more. Once all the butter is mixed in, add the vanilla extract and mix in to incorporate. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and beat until the buttercream is smooth and silky, about 3 to 5 minutes.
If the mixture starts to look curdled, just keep beating. It’ll come together.
If the whites were still too warm when the butter was added and the buttercream is too thin and soupy, refrigerate the bowl in 10 minute bursts until it’s cool (but not cold) and beat again until smooth.
Once smooth, add the graham cracker crumbs and cinnamon and beat in to incorporate.

Toasted Marshmallow Filling:
10 oz mini marshmallows
1 stick unsalted butter
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 cup powdered sugar

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and spray the paper with cooking spray or rub with butter. Reserve 1/2 cup of mini marshmallows, and spread the rest on the tray in a single layer.
Toast the marshmallows under the broiler in your oven, rotating the pan if necessary to promote even browning. Keep a close eye on the pan, as this should only take a few minutes but the exact time will depend on the strength of your broiler and how close the pan is to it. The marshmallows should mostly be a dark toasty brown, but not burned. Watch them like a hawk through the oven door.
Let the marshmallows cool to room temperature before proceeding, and they should peel off the greased parchment in one single sticky layer.

Place the toasted marshmallows in a medium saucepan along with the unsalted butter. Heat over medium to medium-high heat, stirring regularly, until the marshmallows are all melted and completely combined with the butter.

Transfer the marshmallow mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat in heavy cream and powdered sugar. Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator and let cool completely, then beat again to loosen the mixture up a little. The mixture will be a bit stiff and sticky, but should be soft enough to spread.

Glossy Ganache Drizzle:
4 oz good quality dark chocolate (60% works well)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon honey
pinch salt

Chop chocolate into small, easily melted pieces and place in a heat proof bowl.
Heat heavy cream, honey, & salt in a small saucepan (or microwave save bowl) just until it comes to a light boil, and immediately pour directly over chocolate. Wait 2 to 3 minutes before stirring until completely smooth and melted and free of lumps. If the mixture seems very hot still it may melt the icing as you pour it so wait a few minutes for it to cool slightly. Do not let it get too cool or it will not drizzle nicely and may look messy.

*Do not make the ganache until the cake is completely iced and ready to decorate.

Decorations: (optional)
Remaining 1/2 cup mini marshmallows
Broken pieces of graham crackers

Toast the remaining mini marshmallow on a sprayed or buttered parchment lined baking sheet in the same way they were toasted for the marshmallow filling. Try to space them out on the pan so they don’t all touch, and toast them to a lighter brown than you did for the filling. It’ll be easier to decorate with individual marshmallows, and they’ll melt less if they’re only lightly toasted.
You probably won’t use the whole 1/2 cup, but it’s nice to have more than you’ll need so you can choose the nicest looking ones.

Assemble cake: 
Place the first cake layer on an 8″ cardboard cake round, serving plate, or cake stand. Using a cake round will make it easier to ice and decorate, especially if you have a revolving turntable for decorating (I use a lazy suzan, but you can also just spin your plate or cake stand while you work).

Fit a piping bag with a large round or star tip and fill with a cup or two of the graham cracker buttercream. Pipe a thick dam of icing around the outside of the cake to contain the marshmallow filling. This will ensure that the filling stays in place and doesn’t squish out when the layers are stacked.

Place half of the toasted marshmallow filling in the center of the cake and spread it smooth and even using an icing spatula. Add the next layer of cake, looking from directly over the top and from eye level at the cake to make sure each layer is directly one above the other, rotating the cake to be certain. Repeat the same procedure with the buttercream dam and the other half of the marshmallow filling, then add the third and final layer of cake and check for straightness again. Using about half of the remaining icing, crumb coat your cake (If you have any icing left in the piping bag, empty it out and use that too). Starting with the top of the cake, spread the icing thin and work some of it down the sides of the cake to completely cover the whole thing in a thin, smooth, even coat of icing. This first layer of icing seals the cake and keeps crumbs from being visible in the outer layer of icing. It may seem like unnecessary trouble, but it really is worth it to get a smooth professional finish on the icing.

Place the cake in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to an hour to help set the icing and firm up the cake.
Spread the remaining buttercream over the whole cake the same way you did the crumb coat. Start by smoothing the top and slowly working the icing down the sides to cover the cake completely. Try to get the icing as completely smooth as possible with straight sides and a flat, level top. I use a long offset icing spatula. Refrigerate the cake again for at least another 30 minutes (or up to a day).

Make your ganache just before you’re ready to remove the cake from the fridge.

It’s not necessary, but I find it easier to get an even, professional looking drizzle with a squeeze bottle. Slowly add the ganache just around the outer edge of the top of the cake so that it drips in some places. Slowly rotate the cake to do the entire outside edge. Once you’re happy with the amount of drizzle coming down the sides, fill in the center of the top of the cake with ganache, smoothing it flat with a clean icing spatula before the ganache sets.

If you’d like to add decorations to the top of the cake, be sure to add them before the ganache sets.

This cake will keep well in a cake saver at room temperature for a day or two if the weather is not too hot or humid. Otherwise, cover tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

If refrigerating, bring cake to room temperature at least two hours before serving.

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spicy gingerbread bundt cake with caramelized white chocolate ganache #bundtbakers

When it comes to being a food blogger, there’s a lot of pressure to come up with “original” recipes.

spicy gingerbread bundt with caramelized white chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

Thing is, there ain’t much out there that ain’t been tried before. Odds are that any flavors you’re considering combining have probably already been combined before by someone else, somewhere else.

spicy gingerbread bundt with caramelized white chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

When Laura from Baking in Pyjamas chose “winter wonderland” as our #bundtbakers theme this month, my very first thought was of a deep, dark, super spicy gingerbread bundt cake. There is nothing in the world that says winter holidays to me more than the combination of warm spices and molasses.

The problem? Everybody and their uncle is posting gingerbread cake recipes right now (and have been every December since the advent of the food blog). As much as I wanted to bake some dark, dense, spicy, & chewy gingerbread for myself, I decided that I should probably try to come up with something a bit more unique.

Life is hard sometimes you guys.

 spicy gingerbread bundt with caramelized white chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

After a bit more brainstorming, I remembered the caramelized white chocolate I’d read about on my friend Lindsay’s ice cream blog, If the Spoon Fits.

Now, before you start with the whole “white chocolate is gross/too sweet/boring/stupid/not chocolate” comments, hear me out. When you take the time to slowly caramelize good white chocolate in the oven with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt, it transforms into something completely new and exciting and magical. The sugars in the chocolate caramelize and the cocoa butter gets richer and deeper and almost butterscotch-y. While it still has the texture of white chocolate, the flavor is much closer to a rich and creamy salted caramel.

When Lindsay first posted about it I was a bit skeptical that white chocolate could really be THAT GOOD, but I made a mental note and filed it away for a rainy day. A winter wonderland themed bundt cake seemed like the perfect rainy day opportunity to bust it out.

caramelized white chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

I had faith in Lindsay that the flavor would be great, but I felt like I’d want a bit more texture and interest so I decided to add some nuts. Almonds, walnuts, or pecans would have been ideal choices for flavor and crunch, but I decided that roasted chestnuts would be sooooo much more winter wonderland-y.

Oddly enough, even though my Grandfather has two giant old chestnut trees in his yard, as best I can remember I’ve never actually eaten a chestnut and had no clue what they tasted like. I called my Grandmother to ask her about it, and she confirmed that even though they’re in the yard, she’d never attempted to eat or cook with them. I remember their spiky green outer shells littering the yard when I was a kid, but I think the squirrels always made away with most of the nuts inside. Maybe that’s why they never really made it into the house.

spicy gingerbread bundt with caramelized white chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

So, not knowing what to expect, I went to the store and picked up a jar of expensive fancy pants French chestnut puree, along with a pound of whole chestnuts that I wanted to try to oven roast.

Oh lord what a mess.

Did you know that roasted chestnuts can explode if you don’t score the shell in the right place?
I wish I were joking.
After oven roasting them according to Martha’s instructions, I noticed that one of my chestnuts hadn’t opened at the score line. A few minutes after it came out of the oven, I poked the unopened chestnut with a knife. I’m not really sure why I did it, but it was definitely a mistake.
There was a loud POP like the sound of a sealed soda bottle being run over by a car (Is that a sound everyone knows, or is that just because I live in Brooklyn?). Anyways, the two halves of the shell went flying across the kitchen in opposite directions, one landing on my dish rack and the other on the floor in front of the refrigerator. The chestnut meat itself practically vaporized into a fine, hot, sticky chestnut dust that sprayed all over my kitchen; sticking to the oven, the walls, the side of the fridge, the counters, cabinets, and floor. A bit later I walked past the mirror and found chestnut dust covering my beard and stuck to my cheeks and forehead. Yesterday I was in the kitchen and happened to glance up and notice there was chestnut dust all over the ceiling.

After the initial shock of the whole thing, I just stood there laughing like crazy for a good 10 minutes before I cleaned up the mess. Luckily there were a few whole chestnuts left that I could use, so I peeled one open and tasted it.

Sooooo….

Ummmm….

Can anyone tell me why people like chestnuts? I was expecting something, oh, I don’t know, nutty?
But no. This thing was bland and flavorless while also being oddly sweet, with a soft, pasty, almost bready texture rather than the satisfying nutty crunch I was anticipating.

I eventually decided that I must just be missing something because I’m not used to them, so I wanted to forge ahead. Since the roasted chestnuts wouldn’t have the crunch and texture I was hoping for, I decided to just go for flavor and mix the chestnut puree into the cake batter instead.

Ugh. You guys. There are entire songs devoted to chestnuts this time of year. I just don’t get it.

The chestnut puree made the cake rubbery, dense, slightly bitter, and strangely grey-ish.
FML.

spicy gingerbread bundt with caramelized white chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

A few days later I considered baking a new caramelized white chocolate cake with some crunchier, nuttier nuts, but ultimately my first cake was such a traumatic experience from start to finish that I couldn’t bring myself to try again.

After some soul searching, (Is it weird that my life is filled with so much bundt-related soul searching?) I decided to scrap the whole thing and go back to the gingerbread cake I’d wanted to make in the first place. Who cares if a bajillion other people have already made similar cakes? As long as I enjoy it and stand behind the recipe, why not?

Since I’d already gotten more white chocolate, and really was impressed with the caramel-y flavor, I decided to go ahead and use it to make a ganache glaze for the cake.

spicy gingerbread bundt with caramelized white chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

After that first cake, it felt SO DAMNED GOOD to have this one turn out so well.

Having grown up with traditional spicy German Christmas cookies like pfeffernusse and lebkucken, I like my gingerbread super dark and spicy so I use lots of molasses and plenty of spice. I even like to use a touch of ground black pepper for a bit more heat, and along with the dried ginger I like to stir some little chewy chunks of crystallized ginger into the batter right at the end.

The caramelized white chocolate ganache takes some time to make, but it adds a lovely sweet, salty, caramel-y touch that perfectly compliments the rich, deep flavors of the cake.

If you like gingerbread, especially dark, dense, spicy, chewy, old-world gingerbread; you’re going to flip for this cake. It’s unbelievable right out of the oven, but the best part is that it even improves with age so it can (and should!) be made a day or two ahead. After a few days it seems even more tender, moist, and flavorful than it did when I first sliced it for these photos.

Please be sure to scroll down past the recipe to see all the other winter wonderland themed bundts the other #bundtbakers came up with this month!

spicy gingerbread bundt with caramelized white chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

Spicy Gingerbread Bundt Cake with Caramelized White Chocolate Ganache

  • Servings: 12 to 16-ish
  • Print
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 tablespoons ground ginger (depending on how spicy you like it)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 10- to 12-cup bundt-style pan.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and spices. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the molasses and water and set aside. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, oil, and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition.

Add the flour mixture in three additions alternately with the molasses water, starting and ending with the flour. Add the chopped crystallized ginger with the last addition of flour, and mix just until smooth. Do not over-mix. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes, then turn the cake out onto the rack to cool completely. If desired, make the caramelized chocolate while the cake cools. Recipe below. 

I recommend baking this cake a day or two ahead. It improves with age! Cake can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.

*note: It is totally normal and okay if this cake sinks a little bit in the center.

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Caramelized White Chocolate Ganache Glaze:
Adapted from David Lebovitz

8 oz good quality white chocolate (must have real cocoa butter)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 cup heavy cream

Optional decorations: white nonpareils, white dragees, white sixlets

Turn the oven down to 250F

If the white chocolate is in a block or bar, chop it into coarse pieces. Spread the white chocolate in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and heat for ten minutes.

Remove it from the oven, add the oil, and spread it out with a clean, dry spatula.

Continue to cook for and additional 30-60 minutes, stirring and spreading every 10 minutes. At some points it may look lumpy and chalky, but keep stirring and it will smooth out and caramelize. Once the chocolate reaches a deep golden brown, remove from the oven, scrape into a bowl or large measuring cup, and whisk in the salt and heavy cream until completely smooth and free of lumps.

Once the cake is completely cool drizzle the still slightly warm ganache over the cake and, if desired, top with optional decorations before it cools and sets.

spicy gingerbread bundt with caramelized white chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

These wonderful wintery bundts are definitely putting me in the Holiday spirit this year! Thank you Laura for choosing such a perfect theme for the month of December!

BundtBakers
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#BundtBakers is a group of Bundt loving bakers who get together once a month to bake Bundts with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on the BundtBakers home page.

chocolate tuxedo cake with strawberry mascarpone icing

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.

chocolate tuxedo cake with strawberry mascarpone icing | Brooklyn Homemaker

Forgive me.

My mother watched a lot of soaps when I was growing up.

chocolate tuxedo cake with strawberry mascarpone icing | Brooklyn Homemaker

What I’m trying to say is, time is marching on and I’m officially older now than I was when I wrote my last post.

About two weeks ago I celebrated my birthday.

chocolate tuxedo cake with strawberry mascarpone icing | Brooklyn Homemaker

Those of you who’ve been reading along with me for a bit probably know that I look at my birthday as an excuse to make a big ass fancy layer cake.
I’ve heard it all before about how I’m not “supposed to” bake my own birthday cake, but the fact of the matter is that I enjoy baking a good cake almost as much as I enjoy eating one. A grocery store birthday cake pales in comparison to what I can bake myself, and I’d rather bake my own cake than shell out good money for something I’m not going to love.

I bake so many bundt cakes around here that I also relish the opportunity to go all out with sky high layers of cake stacked up with fillings and icings and glazes and decorations and candles, so that kind of seals the deal for me. I bake my own birthday cake, and I like it. So there.

chocolate tuxedo cake with strawberry mascarpone icing | Brooklyn Homemaker

You’ll also know, if you’ve been reading along with me for a while, that I have a tendency to get inside my own head and overthink things. Like seriously overthink things.

To that end, I’ll be the first to confess that I’ve been planning this cake for at least 6 months. Initially I was thinking about posting this cake, or at least a version of it, around Christmas. When that didn’t work out I thought I’d make it for Russell’s birthday in January. That didn’t end up happening either, so I’ve been sitting on the idea ever since.

chocolate tuxedo cake with strawberry mascarpone icing | Brooklyn Homemaker

My initial thought was a high contrast black and white cake with layers of deep dark chocolate cake, bright white icing, and glossy dark chocolate ganache. In some circles on the internet this contrasting black on white on black cake is called a “Tuxedo Cake”. Considering my name is Tux, I was all over that business.

Thing is, something magical happened along the way that made me rethink the white in my “tuxedo”.

chocolate tuxedo cake with strawberry mascarpone icing | Brooklyn Homemaker

A few months ago some friends came to visit us, one of whom happens to be from England and also happened to be celebrating a birthday while he was here. Before his wife finished the sentence, “Tomorrow’s his birth…”, I was in the kitchen preheating the oven.

They were out of the house a lot while they were here, off doing the tourist circuit, and since I didn’t know exactly when they’d be around I opted for cupcakes rather than a big formal layer cake. Since I was baking cupcakes, and since our friend is British, I wanted to go for a kind of American kid’s birthday party theme.
I decided to reimagine my funfetti cake recipe as cupcakes, but wanted to skip the American buttercream frosting and go for something a bit more subtle and a bit less sugary. I thought I’d adapt the mascarpone icing from the gingersnap icebox cake I made last December, but add some strawberries to it to make it fit better with the funfetti cake.
(Have I mentioned that I have a tendency to overthink things sometimes?)

To concentrate the flavor of the strawberries and make them less watery I decided to cook them down a bit with some sugar before mixing them into the icing.
At first I worried that I’d cooked the strawberries too long and was disappointed that they ended up tasting kind of jammy rather than super fresh like I’d hoped, but I forged ahead anyway and once I’d mixed them into the mascarpone and whipped cream…
HOLY SHIT.

chocolate tuxedo cake with strawberry mascarpone icing | Brooklyn Homemaker

Where do I begin?

This icing basically tastes like the freshest, creamiest strawberry ice cream you’ve ever had, but with the texture of fluffy whipped cream. It’s stable enough to be used as a cake icing as well, and just sweet enough to bring out the sweetness of the strawberries without being overly sugary or cloying.

After one bite, all of my big birthday cake plans changed.

My black and white tuxedo cake would be getting a chichi pink makeover.

chocolate tuxedo cake with strawberry mascarpone icing | Brooklyn Homemaker

As much as I’d like to, you can’t have an entire birthday party and serve nothing but cake, so with the cake as the pièce de résistance we decided to have a barbecue. An amazing sustainably sourced organic butcher recently opened near us, so we got a bunch of homemade bratwurst for the grill and called the whole shindig a “sausage party”.

Still on our German kick after our recent trip to Berlin, we went all out with German potato salad, and gurkensalit (cucumber salad), sauerkraut, and whole grain german mustard. I even drank beer for the night! (I usually stick to wine or whiskey).

The food was a huge hit, and while the bratwurst put up a good fight trying to be the star of the (sausage) party, my foppish pink tuxedo cake definitely stole the show!

chocolate tuxedo cake with strawberry mascarpone icing | Brooklyn Homemaker

The tender layers of devil’s food cake are nothing less than super rich and incredibly moist slices of dark chocolate heaven. The strawberry mascarpone icing is ethereally fluffy and impossibly creamy, and even though the strawberries are cooked down, the icing tastes bright and fresh and summery. The dark chocolate ganache is velvety and perfectly rich and bittersweet, with a lovely glossy finish thanks to a touch of honey.

To top it all off and make it feel even fancier and ever-so-slightly gaudy, I added some white candy beads in varying sizes to the top of the shiny dark ganache. You don’t have to if you don’t want to, but why on earth wouldn’t you want to?

chocolate tuxedo cake with strawberry mascarpone icing | Brooklyn Homemaker

Chocolate Tuxedo Cake with Strawberry Mascarpone Icing and Glossy Ganache

  • Servings: 16 to 24-ish
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Devil’s Food Cake
adapted from Brooklyn Homemaker
makes three 8-inch layers

butter and flour for pans
1 1/2 cups unsweetened natural cocoa powder (I used Double Dutch Process)
1 1/2 cups hot water (or hot brewed coffee for a richer flavor)
3 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 cups peanut oil or vegetable oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
4 large eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter three 8 inch round cake pans, line bottoms with parchment paper, butter paper, and dust pans with flour.
Whisk together cocoa powder and hot water (or coffee) until smooth and set aside.
Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.
Beat melted butter, oil, and sugars together on medium-low speed until combined.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
Beat in vanilla and cocoa mixture. Reduce speed to low.
Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk and beginning and ending with flour. Beat until just combined.
Divide batter between pans, and bake until a cake tester inserted into centers comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes.

Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack, peel off parchment, and let cool completely.
To achieve a perfectly flat, professional looking cake, you’ll want to slice the very tops of the cakes off to make each layer completely flat and level. You can do this using a very sharp bread knife, or a cake leveler.

If you’re not assembling cakes right away, individually wrap each layer tightly in plastic wrap to prevent drying. Layers can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two, or frozen (wrapped in plastic wrap first, then aluminum foil) for up to two weeks.

Simple Syrup: (optional)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar

Combine both ingredients in a small saucepan and heat over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves completely. Remove from heat and cool completely.

Strawberry Mascarpone Icing:
1 lb ripe strawberries
3/4 cup sugar
3 cups cold heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
8 oz mascarpone cheese
pinch of salt

Hull and finely chop strawberries and place in a medium saucepan with sugar. Stir to combine and once the strawberries begin to give off liquid, transfer pan to the stovetop over medium high heat. Bring to a rolling boil and reduce to a low boil. Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick and syrupy and reduced by about half.
Transfer to a heatproof bowl, cover and refrigerate until completely cool. You can place it in the freezer if you’re in a hurry, but stir often and don’t let it actually freeze.
If preferred, you can substitute 1 1/2 cups good quality store bought strawberry jam to save yourself some time.

Whip cream with a mixer on high just until stiff peaks form. Add vanilla, salt, mascarpone, and strawberry mixture and beat until well combined and mixture stiffens back up. This should only take about 30 to 60 seconds. Don’t over mix or the mascarpone can become grainy. If you’re not using your icing right away you can store it in the refrigerator, but you may want to whip it for another 30 seconds just before icing the cake.

Glossy Ganache Drizzle:
4 oz good quality dark chocolate (60% works well)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon honey
pinch salt

Chop chocolate into small, easily melted pieces and place in a heat proof bowl.
Heat heavy cream, honey, & salt in a small saucepan just until it comes to a light boil, and immediately pour directly over chocolate. Wait 2 to 3 minutes before stirring until completely smooth and melted and free of lumps. If the mixture seems very hot still it may melt the icing as you pour it so wait a few minutes for it to cool slightly. Do not let it get too cool or it will not drizzle nicely and may look messy.

*Do not make the ganache until the cake is completely iced and ready to decorate.

Decorations: (optional)
Various sizes of white candy beads, including:
white sixlets
white candy pearls (sometimes called dragees)
white nonpareils

Assemble cake: 
Place the first cake layer on an 8″ cardboard cake round, serving plate, or cake stand. Using a cake round will make it easier to ice and decorate, especially if you have a revolving turntable for decorating (I use a lazy suzan, but you can also just spin your plate or cake stand while you work).

Using a squeeze bottle or pastry brush, evenly distribute 2 or 3 tablespoons of simple syrup over the top of the cake layer. This step isn’t completely necessary but helps ensure the cake stays incredibly moist. It’s especially helpful if you’re using cake you stored in the fridge or freezer for a few days, or if you plan to wait a day or two before serving the cake.

Once the syrup has absorbed into the cake, place about 2 cups or so of icing on the first layer and spread it smooth and even using an icing spatula. It’s okay if it spreads out past the edge of the cake layer a bit. Add the next layer of cake, looking from directly over the top and from eye level at the cake to make sure each layer is directly one above the other, rotating the cake to be certain. Repeat with the simple syrup and icing again, then add the third and final layer and repeat again. Using the same amount of icing as before, start with the top of the cake but spread the icing thinner and work some of it down the sides of the cake to completely cover the whole cake in a thin, smooth, even coat of icing. This first layer of icing is called the crumb coat, and it seals the cake and keeps crumbs from being visible in the outer layer of icing.

Place the cake in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to help set the icing and firm up the cake.
After 30 minutes top the cake with about 3 to 4 cups more icing and spread it over the whole cake the same way you did the crumb coat. Start by smoothing the top and slowly work the icing down the sides to cover the cake completely. Try to get the icing as completely smooth as possible with straight sides and a flat, level top. You may have some icing left over, and I couldn’t blame you if you ate some of it with a spoon. Refrigerate the cake again for another 30 minutes (or up to a day).

Make your ganache just before you’re ready to remove the cake from the fridge.

I find it easier to get an even, professional looking drizzle by slowly pouring the ganache just around the outer edge of the top of the cake, while slowing rotating the cake. Once you’re happy with the amount of drizzle coming down the sides, use the remaining ganache to fill in the center of the top of the cake, smoothing it flat with a clean icing spatula before the ganache sets.

If you’d like to add decorations to the top of the cake, be sure to add them before the ganache sets. I used a mix a mix of multiple sizes of white candy beads, about 2 to 3 tablespoons of each, starting with the largest size and finishing with the smallest.

This cake will keep well in a cake saver at room temperature for a day or two if the weather is not too hot or humid. Otherwise, cover tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

If refrigerating, bring cake to room temperature at least an hour before serving.

chocolate caramel frito tart

If you follow me on instagram (you totally should), you probably know that Russell and I just went to Berlin for a week.

chocolate caramel frito tart | Brooklyn Homemaker

While I’ve always wanted to go to Germany, it wasn’t really on our radar for this year. At least, it wasn’t until Russell just happened to find an amazing deal on a flight and hotel package that we couldn’t pass up. After like 2 minutes of discussion we decided that there’s no time like the present and we needed to just go for it.

chocolate caramel frito tart | Brooklyn Homemaker

Berlin is an amazing city and Russell and I truly fell in love. If it weren’t for two little baby dogs waiting for us at home, we might never have come back.
I could go on and on about what a beautiful, historic, storybook city Berlin is, and how the city somehow feels surprisingly diverse, modern, and progressive at the same time. I could also go on about how there is so much to do and so much to see and so much to EAT that we just can’t wait to go back. Every day of our trip was a new adventure, and so was every meal that we ate!

While I was thrilled about the idea of eating some authentic German cuisine, I was surprised to discover that “German” restaurants in Berlin were few and far between. You couldn’t take five steps without bumping into a Vietnamese or Turkish restaurant though, or a Neapolitan pizzeria or multi-cultural nouveau-hipster café. The only popular cuisine we had that was actually unique to Berlin was essentially fast food.
It’s called Currywurst, and it’s basically a grilled bratwurst that’s cut into slices, smothered in a curry ketchup, and served with french fries on a paper tray. Currywurst joints were EVERYWHERE!

chocolate caramel frito tart | Brooklyn Homemaker

Another thing I noticed about food in Berlin is that corn somehow seems to be experiencing a period of trendiness in Germany. Maybe not kale trendy, but trendy nonetheless.

When I was in High School and taking French classes it was explained to me that Europeans rarely if ever ate corn, considering it cattle feed, unfit for human consumption. Growing up surrounded by the sweet corn fields of upstate New York, I remember being insulted and injured by such snobbery, and the idea (and pain) that Europeans don’t eat corn has stuck with me ever since.

You can imagine my surprise then, when I saw dozens of people happily munching on ears of sweet corn on a stick on one of our first days there. We’d stopped by a popular flea market to hunt for vintage treasures or cool photography props for the blog. The market stands tended to be more mass market and tourist driven than we’d hoped for and we left empty-handed, but there was an entire aisle of food stands serving french fries and kebabs and currywurst. Right at the end of the row there was an entire stand devoted strictly to corn on the cob. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

chocolate caramel frito tart | Brooklyn Homemaker

Speaking of corn (bear with me, we’ll get there), Russell and I made a new friend on the plane to Germany. He was sitting in front of us and at one point leaned back to ask if we could see his phone. He’d gotten up to go to the bathroom and when he got back his phone was nowhere to be found. At first he thought he’d dropped it behind his seat at our feet, but in the end it turned out that he’d somehow kicked it across the aisle when he got up. I went back to watching The Bridges of Madison County and thought that was the end of it.

While we were in line waiting to have our passports checked, he was standing right behind us and we got to talking. It turned out that he’d booked the trip with his boyfriend, but he had to cancel at the last minute and our new friend was traveling alone. We decided to exchange emails and asked if he wanted to meet for a drink one night. He had a better idea though.

chocolate caramel frito tart | Brooklyn Homemaker

He suggested that we go have milkshakes together at the Ritter Sport store.

If you’re not familiar with Ritter Sport, it’s a square German chocolate bar that comes in colorful wrappers with a wide selection of (amazing) flavors and fillings. They’re available here in the U.S. (I’m kind of addicted) but the idea of visiting an entire store devoted only to Ritter Sport chocolate bars instantly caught my attention.
When our new friend also mentioned that they make custom made chocolate bars with your choice of mix ins, we were sold! The opportunity also happened to tailer made for us since my mother’s only request while we were in Germany was that we find and bring home some great chocolate for her.

While we were there we decided to do a little shopping of our own, and see if they had any flavors that aren’t available in the U.S.
Holy crap. Talk about a kid fat guy in a candy store!

That’s when I saw it. The tortilla chip Ritter Sport. What the what?

chocolate caramel frito tart | Brooklyn Homemaker

OMFG you guys. I don’t even have words.

We actually only bought two bars at the time, but once we got back to the hotel and dug into one we knew we had to go back. Luckily they had them at the grocery store near our hotel, so we ended up getting like 10 bars to bring home with us to share with everyone we know and love.

If you’ve ever had a chocolate covered potato chip you kind of know what I’m talking about, but there’s even more happening here. You get the sweet and salty and crunchy thing, but then you also have the toasty earthy sweet corn flavor of a tortilla chip. Plus angels. And unicorns. Weeping tears of joy.

It’s like that.

chocolate caramel frito tart | Brooklyn Homemaker

Since I can’t actually share my Ritter Sport bounty with all of you, I thought I’d do the next best thing. The next best thing being the creation of a gussied up version of a candy bar, in fancy pants tart form.

The tortilla chip crumbles in the candy bar seem thicker and crunchier and somehow “cornier” than a normal tortilla chip, and to me at least, taste almost like Fritos. Nothing wrong with that.

So, in a moment of genius-level perfect clarity, I decided to crush up Fritos in a food processor and use them in the same way you would graham cracker or cookie crumbs in a pie crust. Just add butter and sugar and bake.
Rather than just filling the shell with chocolate, I decided to take it one step further and add a layer of sweet gooey buttery caramel too, and then cover that with heavenly rich dark chocolate ganache.

If you dig the sweet and salty chocolate thing, you have to try this. You can thank me later.

chocolate caramel frito tart | Brooklyn Homemaker

Chocolate Caramel Frito Tart

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Frito crust:
1 1/4 Fritos corn chip crumbs (from about 3 to 3 1/2 cups chips)
4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Caramel Filling:
3/4 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Chocolate Ganache:
1/2 cup heavy cream
5 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped

Crust:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place about 3 to 3 1/2 cups of Fritos corn chips in a food processor or blender and pulse into fine crumbs. You could also use a ziplock bag and a rolling pin in a pinch. Save a tablespoon or two for garnish if you have any leftover.
Measure out 1 1/4 cups of crumbs and transfer to a bowl. Add melted butter and sugar and stir until butter is evenly distributed throughout mixture. Transfer crumbs to a 9″ tart pan, ideally one with a removable bottom, and evenly press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan and up the sides to form a crust.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until it smells toasty and just barely begins to brown. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Caramel Filling:
Heat the butter and cream together in a small saucepan (or in the microwave) just until the butter has melted. Set aside.

In a separate medium saucepan, combine the sugar and water over low heat, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved. Increase the heat to high and boil, without stirring, until it reaches a deep golden amber (340 on a candy thermometer, but I just went by color). Once it starts to brown watch it carefully. If it gets too dark it will turn bitter.
Remove from the heat and slowly stir in the cream mixture (It will bubble up a lot, be careful!). Return the pan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes or until thickened. Stir in the vanilla and salt, and then pour caramel into the crust.
Refrigerate until firmly set, at least 30 minutes.

Chocolate Ganache:
Place the chopped chocolate in a heat proof bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to simmer. Pour hot cream directly over the chocolate. Let it sit for 2 minutes, then stir until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Pour the chocolate over the firmly set caramel layer and spread smooth. Sprinkle with additional Fritos crumbs before transferring the tart to the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes to set up.

This tart is incredibly rich so slices should probably be on the smaller side.
Leftovers should be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.