Saturday, July 14, 2012

Any Way We Slice It

Well it's happened.  Cori and I are officially moved and settling in nicely into our new home.  While it may be a fair bit farther away from the SoBro area we had grown to love so dearly, the crazy amount of space we craved was totally worth the move west.

And I've been on a decorating rampage via Pinterest as well.  If you plan on visiting us, we'll have a guest room set up in the very near future.  And you really should visit us.  We have cake.

You should also know the kitchen was the first place I set up.  Since we've moved in I've really only baked one thing - chocolate cake.  Whoa... that's a big thing to start with, right?  Well, it was and it wasn't...  this cake is easy and it's a big winner with everyone.

Chocolate cake has got to be one of those things you just have to get right.  If you aren't putting actual chocolate into the cake batter, you may as well just go out for ice cream, because it's not going to turn out right.  It needs to be rich and slightly heavy.  It also needs another level of chocolate (see: dutch-processed cocoa).  The two elements marry together to form the perfect balance for this cake.

See the greatness in it's full form:

Ugh.  I die.

But we aren't making just chocolate cake.  No, no, no...  We're making the ultimate combination that is the marshmallow, graham cracker, and chocolate triple threat - S'MORES.  Instead of making this into a pie, which would be totally awesome but totally predictable (wait... would it??), we're making this a cake.  But how to get the graham crackers actually into the cake?  

We're making a crust! 

This is changing lives, right here.  Crusts aren't for pies anymore!  Let's put them in the bottom of cake pans so they can be in between the layers!  GENIUS GENIUS GENIUS.

It's easy to make, and even easier to remember the next time you make a cake.  Not into chocolate (weird...)?  Maybe you make a strawberry cake with an almond and graham cracker crust!  Or a vanilla cake with a chocolate graham cracker crust!  Make a limeade cake with cinnamon-y graham cracker crust and cream cheese frosting!  

Are you screaming for me to stop yet?  Because I can't.  I just can't.

Press the crumb-age in to your prepped pans.  It doesn't have to be perfect because the whole mess gets covered in frosting later.  Try not to eat it.

Look what we did there.  I looks like the surface of planet.  Planet Cake.

Okay... maybe you're ready to move on to another subject.  Like the toasted marshmallow frosting.  I like how you think.  Let's do this!

The question of how to get the toasted marshmallow flavor into frosting was a tricky one.  If you're like me and don't own a blow torch, it becomes even trickier.  Enter: Your oven.

Marshmallows get toasted on parchment paper in an oven for just a minute or two (don't let them burn, unless you're into carcinogens and that burnt flavor... which I kind of am.. so, um... proceed however you want I guess!).  Then they get popped into the buttercream frosting along with marshmallow fluff.  Easy and probably the coolest thing you've ever done to frosting.

A little bit about marshmallow fluff:  I think it's disgusting.  It's shiny, sticky, and g-o-o-e-y (I can't even spell out the word together, let alone say it).  But... it's totally necessary.  So we suck it up and we use it.  And we try to forget we ever did and move on to just eating the dang thing.  We can overcome.

Perfectly toasted.  Oddly out of focus.

So at this point, you've frosted the cake, topped it with graham cracker crumbs and dutch chocolate sprinkles.  You think you're done.  But then you drive it up to your future in-laws house and find the sprinkles have "traveled" a bit from their central resting place on the cake.  AND THEN your fiancee decides she's going to "fix" it...

... by making it look like her Uncle Stu.  If you turn it upside down, it's a guy with a fro and a uni-brow.  To each their own, I guess.

And that's it.  You've created the ultimate summer cake in a new kitchen.  Or an old kitchen.  Either way, you've created cake, and it's damn good.  Dense, not overly sweet (really?? yeah, really), and full of toasted marshmallows and crust.  You thank yourself for the addition of melted chocolate to the cake batter because OH MAN that is fudgy but still light!  How did you do that?  Magic.  Magic and maybe just a little bit of help from the baking aisle.

Once I get my act together and set up the rest of the living room, I'll be inviting friends over for more goodness.  Look out, kids:  Momma's got a brand new kitchen to work in.

Toasted S'Mores Cake
Adapted from Scarborough Food Fair

The Cake:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1/4 cup dutch-processed cocoa
1/2 cup hot water
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, plus 2 egg yolks

The Graham Cracker Crust:
4 graham crackers (or 1/2 cup of graham cracker crumbs)
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
4 tablespoons melted and slightly cooled unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

*preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  butter and flour two 8 inch cake rounds with parchment paper, then butter and dust the parchment paper - knock out excess flour*

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

Put a small sauce pot with 1 inch of water in it on the stove and bring to a simmer.  Place a heat-proof glass bowl that is bigger than the sauce pot over the water, with out letting the glass touch the water line.  Stir together the chocolate, cocoa, and hot water in the glass bowl, taking care not to let it sit too long.  Add 1/2 cup of sugar and stir 1-2 minutes - the chocolate should smooth out quite a bit at this point!  Once melted, remove from heat and set aside to cool a bit.

Combine buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer with the whisk attachment on, beat the eggs and yolks on low speed until they become a pale yellow (about 30 seconds).  Add the remaining 1 1/4 cup sugar and kick the speed up to high for 2-3 minutes so that the mixture becomes fluffy and light.  Scrape down the sides and replace with the paddle attachment, beating for 1 minute longer.  Add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, to the mixture, beating for 10 seconds after each addition.  Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then 1/2 of the buttermilk, taking care to mix until they disappear after each addition.  Repeat until all the flour and buttermilk has been mixed in.  Set aside.

In the food processor (or with a small bowl and a fork), combine all the ingredients for the graham cracker crust until it becomes a coarse meal.  Divide evenly between the two prepared pans and press from edge to edge with a fork. 

Divide the cake batter evenly between the two pans and pour over the crust bottom.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto bakers racks and let cool completely, removing the parchment paper.

The Toasted Marshmallow Frosting:
16 regular sized white marshmallow
1 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 ounce jar of Marshmallow Creme (or fluff)

Prepare a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Turn the broiler on and make sure the rack is in the middle of the oven.  Broil the 'mallows until they are brown enough to your liking, then flip with a spatula and repeat.  They should only take about 30-60 seconds!  Remove from the oven and set aside.

In the bowl of your mixer with the paddle attchment on, beat together teh confectioner's sugar and butter on medium speed until smooth.  Add the abilla extract and the marshmallow creme, turning it up to medium -high and beat until smooth and slightly fluffy.  With the mixer still on, add the toasted marshmallows, one by one, to the frosting.  Turn it up to high and beat for 2-3 minutes more, until the frosting is even more fluffy. 

The Assembly:

Place the first cooled cake layer, crust side up, on a cake plate (or whatever else you're serving it on).  Spoon about 1/2 cup of frosting into the middle and spread edge to edge.  Place the second cake layer, crust side down on top.  Add all but 1/2 cup of frosting to the top around the edges and smooth around the top.  Push the frosting with your offset spatula down the side, adding the rest of the frosting from the bowl as needed.  You can either clean your spatula with warm water and a damp towel as needed for a super smooth look, or you can use the back of a spoon to make it look rough and cloud-like. 

Suggested topping:  graham cracker crumbs and chocolate sprinkles (or cocoa nibs!).

Since I was dangling the "I just moved" carrot in front of your face, this is my favorite spot in the house right now:  my "book shelf".  Ikea has been good to me all these years, and well, you just can't beat these $6 shelves, can you?  Note the awkward space underneath said shelving and all along the ledge?  Yeah.  An island is going there (from Ikea... duh).  All I have to do is wait for my dear momma to bring it to me all the way from South Carolina, and THEN my kitchen will be 110% complete.  I say the extra 10% because who has an island before they're married?  No one I know, that's who.  Super grown up.  Super stoked.