With the rollercoaster of temperatures we’ve had in Toronto the last few weeks, it’s been tough to embrace spring. Much as I wear brights and shoes without socks, it’s been feeling like spring is still way out of reach. That’s why I’ve made an executive decision to skip right to summer. Bare legs, sandals (ok, maybe not yet..) and s’mores.
To me, nothing screams summer more than sitting by a campfire and roasting marshmallows for s’mores. For the last three years, I’ve been sharing that memory with someone equally obsessed with s’mores and campfires. So, to celebrate his last-ever day of school, I decided to whip up Smitten Kitchen’s s’more layer cake, a recipe that’s been haunting my dreams with its promises of deliciousness since I first picked up the book. It did not disappoint. From the moist graham-infused layers and the dark chocolate filling sandwiched between them to the softly toasted, marshmallow-inspired frosting, this cake screams summer.
I baked this cake post-barre class on a Wednesday night and it was all but painless. It’s a completely un-fussy recipe – you probably have most of the ingredients on-hand already. The hardest part was waiting until the next day to taste the cake. I knew I’d be working from home on Thursday so decided to leave the assembly until then. That little bowl of scraps you see in the background didn’t last that long.
What’s a girl to do with those delicious morsels of cake + a silky and thick chocolate filling in the house…
This recipe also gave me an excuse to finally go out and buy a kitchen torch. I’m lucky enough to have Cayne’s near my house and so I only paid about $20 for mine (a bargain compared to Williams-Sonoma prices). My only complaint about the entire recipe (and this may be due to human error) was that the frosting slipped down the cake and the decorative ‘marshmallow’ poufs also collapsed. Regardless, it was still a fun cake to bake and so fun to assemble. Cake assembly went a little like this (click to enlarge):
Are you salivating yet? Here’s how you can make your own:
- cake layers:
- 16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups honey (not cinnamon-sugar topped) graham-cracker crumbs, finely processed to a powder (about 14 2½-by-4⅞-inch sheets). Alternately, you can buy pre-ground honey graham-cracker crumbs and enjoy them mercilessly for the next month or two.
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon table salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 cups buttermilk, well shaken (or 1⅓ cups milk and ⅔ cup sour cream)
- ½ pound milk chocolate, chopped small
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 2 pinches of salt
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Make the cake:
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line them with circles of parchment paper, then butter or coat with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, graham-cracker crumbs, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl down after each addition. Add a third of the dry ingredients, then half the buttermilk, a third of the dry ingredients, the remaining buttermilk, and then the remaining dry ingredients, mixing between additions until combined. Scrape down bowl, and mix again briefly if needed. This is an excellent opportunity to lick the beaters. The batter is delicious!
- Divide batter between prepared cake pans, smoothing tops. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes. Cool in pan on rack, then run a knife between the cake edges and pans before inverting each layer on a rack, discarding the parchment paper, and flipping back upright onto a rack. Let cool completely, a process you can speed up in the fridge.
- Make the filling:
- Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Combine the heavy cream and salt in a small saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Pour over the chocolate, and let sit for 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Set bowl over another bowl filled with ice water, and stir it until it firms up to a spreadable consistency. You can also let it cool down in the fridge, stirring it from time to time so it thickens evenly.
- Prepare the cake:
- On the cooling rack, use a long serrated knife to level the top. As Deb suggests, it's only fair to place the scraps in a bowl where your housemates can enjoy them. Place one layer on a cake stand or plate. Spread chocolate thickly over bottom layer. Place the top layer over bottom layer. Admire.
- Make the frosting:
- Place egg whites, granulated sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer. Set over a saucepan with simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, about 3 minutes. Transfer the bowl to an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat, starting at low speed, gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 4-7 minutes. Add vanilla, and mis until combined. You'll want to use this immediately.
- Frost the cake:
- Spread a thin layer of the frosting over the top and sides, covering all of the crumbs (and binding them to the cake). Make sure not to dip the crumb-y knife back into the frosting! Transfer the cake to the fridge for 5 or 10 minutes, to let it set a bit, then generously coat the top and sides with additional frosting. Pipe the remaining frosting in marshmallow-like dollops decoratively over the top. With a kitchen torch on a low setting, lightly brown the top, creating a toasted-marshmallow effect.