Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tiramisu Cake

I cannot live without coffee. Yet, my limit is one cup. A day. Before noon. Or else, I cannot sleep that night. So strange, but that one cup of coffee in the morning makes such a difference in my day. Thankfully, coffee in dessert doesn't affect me too much. I still conked out after having a slice of this cake close to 11 p.m. But then again, I was up at 5 a.m. that day...

Tiramisu Cake

Tiramisu is an Italian dessert featuring layers of ladyfingers dipped in coffee and a whipped-cream-mascarpone mixture flavored with liquor and chocolate. My housemate's 22nd birthday was last week (hence the 22 stenciled on the cake) and she loves Tiramisu so I knew she would love it in cake form! I haven't had the actual dessert, but I think this cake comes pretty close to it.

Tiramisu Cake Tiramisu Cake
Tiramisu Cake Tiramisu Cake

Assembling this cake was a lot of fun. It seems that the more complicated the dessert, the more fun I have! First, I baked the two cakes. Baked Bree has this same recipe on her site and even shares a trick. My cakes end up being uneven a lot of times, which is a pain when I'm making layer cakes. To fix this, Bree suggests cutting a towel into 1-inch strips, or however deep your baking pans are, dampening the strips, and then wrapping them around the baking pan. Like so:

Tiramisu Cake

They didn't turn out completely even, but definitely an improvement. Then I brushed the espresso syrup onto the cake. Actually, more like spooned it on because I don't have a pastry brush. Still worked fine. I was a bit worried that the coffee flavor would be too strong. When I was making the syrup, I realized that I should have added 1 tbsp espresso extract, but I added 1 tbsp espresso powder. No biggie since the cake absorbed the syrup so it wasn't the strongest thing I tasted. The most prominent flavor was from the frosting. After using some of the frosting as the filling between the two cakes, I added a little less than 1 1/2 tbsp coffee extract. Perfect. Not too strong, but you still got that coffee flavor in there.

Mascarpone Frosting for Tiramisu Cake

I wasn't sure if any of the local supermarkets would have mascarpone, but thankfully, Kroger had it in its specialty cheese section. Otherwise, I would have been seriously upset. I never tasted mascarpone before, so I thought I'd just try a bit right out of the container. I was not a fan... Once it was in the frosting, though, it was delicious. The frosting was creamy and then, with the addition of whipped cream, nice and fluffy.

Mascarpone Cheese for Tiramisu Cake

Instead of worrying about breaking up chocolate bars into tiny pieces, I bought mini semi-sweet chocolate chips and sprinkled those on top of the filling. I love the bite of the chocolate goodies in the cake. I didn't add 1/2 cup as the recipe tells me to, so make sure you do that. Frosting this thing was a breeze, too. Baked Bree also taught me to place something (parchment paper or foil) just under the edges of the cake so that you won't get any frosting on the serving plate. Neat-o! Seriously, if you or someone you know loves coffee, this is it!

Tiramisu Cake
From Smitten Kitchen

For the cake layers
- 2 cups cake flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/8 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
For the espresso extract
- 2 tbsp instant espresso powder
- 2 tbsp boiling water
For the espresso syrup
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp espresso extract (from recipe above)
- 1 tbsp amaretto, Kahlua, or brandy [I used Kahlua]
For the filling and frosting
- 8-oz container mascarpone
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp amaretto, Kahlua, or brandy [I used Kahlua]
- 1 cup cold heavy cream
- 2 1/2 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, or about 1/2 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

- Cocoa powder, for dusting

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess, and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.
2. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, and then the yolk, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla; don’t be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
4. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Transfer the cakes to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them, and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right-side up.
5. To make the extract: Stir the espresso powder and boiling water together in a small cup until blended. Set aside.
6. To make the syrup: Stir the water and sugar together in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil. Pour the syrup into a small heatproof bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon of the espresso extract and the liqueur or brandy; set aside.
7. To make the filling and frosting: Put the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla, and liqueur in a large bowl and whisk just until blended and smooth.
8. Working with the stand mixer with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, whip the heavy cream until it holds firm peaks. (It will help if you chill the bowl, whisk, and heavy cream until you are ready.) Switch to a rubber spatula and stir about one quarter of the whipped cream into the mascarpone. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream with a light touch.
9. To assemble the cake: If the tops of the cake layers have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them. Place one layer right-side up on a cardboard round or a cake plate protected with strips of wax or parchment paper.
10. Using a pastry brush or a small spoon, soak the layer with about one third of the espresso syrup. Smooth some of the mascarpone cream over the layer – used about 1 1/4 cups – and gently press the chopped chocolate into the filling. Put the second cake layer on the counter and soak the top of it with half the remaining espresso syrup, then turn the layer over and position it, soaked side down, over the filling. Soak the top of the cake with the remaining syrup.
11. For the frosting, whisk 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of the remaining espresso extract into the remaining mascarpone filling. Taste the frosting as you go to decide how much extract you want to add. If the frosting looks as if it might be a little too soft to spread over the cake, press a piece of plastic wrap against its surface and refrigerate it for 15 minutes or so. Refrigerate the cake too.
12. With a long metal icing spatula, smooth the frosting around the sides of the cake and over the top. If you want to decorate the cake with chocolate-covered espresso beans, press them into the filling, making concentric circles of beans or just putting some beans in the center of the cake.
13. Refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours (or for up to 1 day) before serving – the elements need time to meld. Just before serving, dust the top of the cake with cocoa. I cut a star shape out of waxed paper and placed it lightly over the cake, and shaved a layer of chocolate over it with a microplane, before carefully removing the star to leave a stenciled shape.

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