Well, I finally succumbed to illness. No amount of zinc or vitamin c was able to save me. I’m feeling better today than I was on Friday, but it’s just gone from what seemed like a regular cold to some kind of chest thing. I sound awesome, of course. Whatever. I attribute it to living in New York. You come into contact with so many germs and who knows what else, so I suppose it’s just the price you pay. We had already bought our 10 pounds of clams and mussels and other fixings for our clambake this past Saturday, so the show had to go on. I slept literally all day on Friday, waking up only to shoot off a few emails for work and whatnot before immediately going to sleep again. I was honestly impressed by my sleeping ability. I guess I really needed it. Saturday went off without a hitch, and armed with plenty of Sudafed we put together a pretty bad ass barbecue, if I do say so myself. Everyone left well fed and happy, or so it seemed, but I’m sad that it was our last one of the year. All good things must end, I suppose. Here’s to next year.
Two weekends ago, our friend Morgan threw a little get together at his place in Williamsburg and of course, since his girlfriend’s birthday was just a few days later, it was the perfect excuse for me to make a cake. I saw this one on Serious Eats a while ago and it had been on my mind for what seemed like forever and I was super excited to make it. I think everyone at the party really enjoyed it (I know I did) and I even brought along my torch as a fun party favor. Don’t we all love playing with fire? Apparently my friends really do, as everyone wanted to take turns torching the frosting and even the cake itself, which wasn’t necessarily what the torch was meant for but those darn kids were just having too much fun for me to stand in their way.
The cake itself is one of the best that I’ve made, I’d say. The cake was made with just a bit of cinnamon, which reminds you of those sugary graham crackers from when you were a kid. Kramer and I unashamedly ate up all of the cake scraps from when I leveled out the layers for the frosting. First, the cake is layered with dark chocolate ganache, followed by a lovely Swiss meringue, which is basically marshmallow fluff. The meringue isn’t the easiest thing to make, and my arm was definitely cramped by the end of the process from whipping the egg whites and sugar over heat for what seemed like forever, but it was totally worth it. Torching the cake was obviously the most fun part, and honestly it made up for all of the effort put into making the meringue because the frosting doesn’t have to be perfectly done. In fact, the messier the frosting job, the prettier it looks after being torched, which was right up my alley as I am terrible at decorating. Together, this s’mores cake tastes just like the real thing and is certainly impressive to those who eat it. I’m only sad I didn’t freeze myself a slice to eat tonight!
Mary and Robyn enjoying said cake.
Prepare your batter, grease your pans, and make your chocolate ganache.
Then make your Swiss meringue. This is going to take some serious elbow grease but it’s worth it!
When your cakes have finally cooled, you can level them a bit, if you like, before frosting.
Ganache goes on two layers first.
Followed by the meringue.
Don’t worry about it being perfect because you’re gonna torch it!
- 1 cup room temperature unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the pans
- 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 4½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1¾ cups superfine sugar (I used granulated sugar)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 medium eggs, lightly beaten
- 1¼ cups whole milk
- 3oz dark chocolate, finely chopped (I used semisweet chocolate chips)
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 3 tsp light brown sugar
- ⅔ cup egg whites (about 4 large eggs)
- 2 cups superfine sugar (I used granulated sugar, which didn't end up dissolving as nicely as superfine would have, but it worked well enough)
- ½ tsp cream of tartar
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, then grease and line three 8 or 9-inch cake pans (I used 9-inch). I highly recommend cutting out circles of parchment and fitting them into the insides of your cake pan, then greasing the whole thing with butter. This will allow your cake to pop out of the tins much easier. Set them aside.
- Whisk together your flour, cornstarch, cinnamon, baking powder and salt and set aside. Put your room temperature butter in the bowl of your electric mixer and beat on medium-high until smooth and fluffy, at least three minutes, then add in the sugar and beat again until light and fluffy, at least another three minutes. Add in the vanilla and mix to combine. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, a little at a time, beating until fully combined before adding more. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk, starting and finishing with the flour.
- Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and springs back when lightly touched. I used 9-inch pans, so mine only took about 25 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely, or place them in the fridge to speed up the process, as I did.
- Now you can make the ganache. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl, then heat the combined cream and sugar in a small sauce pan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove the cream from the heat as soon as it starts to boil and pour it over the chocolate, stirring with a spoon until the chocolate has melted. Stir until smooth. Allow to cool until slightly thickened, but not totally set. When ready to use, beat the ganache with a spoon or whisk until thickened fully. Spread the ganache on two of the cake layers (you can level the cake layers slightly so they are perfectly flat, if you like) and set aside while you make the Swiss meringue.
- Put the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water, and whisk constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the egg whites are warm to the touch. This will take at least 10-15 minutes and require a lot of whisking. My arm hurt when I was done and the sugar still didn't fully dissolve, as apparently superfine sugar is really a thing and it probably would have worked really well. Having said that, the frosting was still delicious and I was still happy with it, but it will take some elbow grease.
- Remove the bowl from the heat and, using an electric mixer, beat until the meringue forms stiff glossy peaks. When you have made the meringue, you need to work with it fairly quickly. Don’t let it stand or it will firm up too much to spread easily.
- To assemble the cake, put the first cake layer topped with chocolate onto a cake stand or serving plate and spread with a thin layer of the meringue. Repeat with the second chocolate-topped cake layer and finish with the final layer. Take the remaining meringue and spread across the top and sides of the cake—this doesn’t have to look perfect, as any imperfections will just add to the marshmallow effect.
- To finish the cake, take a blowtorch and lightly torch the meringue until it is golden. I'm not sure if there would be an alternative to the culinary torch, as you can't put this frosting in the oven, but torches are relatively inexpensive now and super fun to use in the kitchen, so I highly recommend purchasing one. This cake will keep well in the fridge, covered, for 24 hours and then leftovers will keep for a couple of days.