There’s something about layer cakes that always brings me great comfort–from both making them and eating them. To me, layer cakes are baked bliss, truly. Don’t get me wrong, cupcakes are wonderful; cupcakes are sweet; cupcakes are darling (and perky), but they just aren’t layer cakes. Perhaps part of the glory of layer cakes is the intrigue of what’s beneath all of that swirled frosting, or the wonder of what fills the stacked layers under a perfectly composed exterior. Ever notice how layer cakes will offer one or two little hints as to what’s inside, without giving too much away? Think about a beautifully frosted pink cake with a few white sprinkles and a single strawberry on top: one could imagine that there are layers of vanilla cake inside with possible alternating layers of sweet pink strawberry cake, or maybe even layer up on layer of strawberry cake with fresh strawberry jam in between. Or, perhaps, there are layers of vanilla cake with homemade custard and fresh cut strawberries stacked inside.
Truth is, we never can tell, but as far as I’m concerned, I’m always ready to find out. True, it’s likely that my love and adoration for layer cakes is slightly unnatural, but, in my heart, I know that some of you agree.
So, please, brace yourself: this cake is possibly the most delicious cake I’ve ever made. No jokes, no trying to be cute and sassy, but the honest truth. Take a peek for yourself:
6 layers of dark, moist chocolate cake sandwiching alternating rich and fluffy frosting: satiny Belgian chocolate malted frosting and creamy toasted-marshmallow vanilla frosting with bits of actual crispy marshmallow in every bite. Strangely, the finished cake is not really super sweet–it’s more rich, light, and creamy sweet…
Here’s a little peek at the marshmallows after being lightly toasted in the oven. They taste amazing in the cake, and are also pretty incredible taken right from the parchment paper: ooey and gooey in all the right places. Now, I know it’s not exactly summer yet, and there aren’t a lot of campfires happening quite yet (at least not here in Canada), but the taste of toasted marshmallows seems to bring a sense of nostalgia, no matter what the season. This addition to the recipe really makes (and takes) the cake.
Here it is standing tall and proud, flaunting an ever-important “S” cake adjective for every one of its layers: sky-high, simple, sweet, satiny, special, and, most importantly, sinful. I think one of the simplest ways to create a wow-factor, is to split your layers. You’ve already baked them, so if you get really comfortable splitting them in two, you can create a sky-high cake in moments, and just think of how many fun fillings and frostings you can add into the mix. It really is one of the best techniques to learn (I’ll list a few tips and tricks on that subject below).
A world without cake, well, please don’t even make me think about it.
Did you know that you and I had a cake-for-two today?
- 2-1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon (330 g) all-purpose flour
- 3 cups (600 g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup + 1 tablespoon (135 g) Cacao Barry Extra Brute Cocoa Powder (or similar premium brand)
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) baking soda
- 1-1/2 teaspoons (7.5 g) baking powder
- 1-1/2 teaspoons (12 g) salt
- 3 eggs, at room temperature
- 1-1/2 cups (360 mL) buttermilk, room temperature
- 1-1/2 cups (360 mL) strong black coffee, hot
- 3/4 cup (180 mL) vegetable oil
- 1-1/2 tablespoons (22.5 mL) pure vanilla extract
- 1 lb butter (4 sticks)(2 cups)(454 g), at room temperature
- 4 cups (500 g) icing sugar (confectioners' or powdered), sifted
- 3/4 cup (75 g) Ovaltine Classic (brown in colour)
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) pure vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 8 oz (250 g) quality Belgian chocolate, chopped, melted and cooled
- 1/2 cup (120 mL) whipping (35% fat) cream
- 16 large white marshmallows
- 1 cup (125 g) icing sugar (confectioners' or powdered), sifted
- 1 cup butter (227 g)(2 sticks), at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) pure vanilla extract
- 1 jar (213 g) marshmallow cream (such as Marshmallow Fluff)
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare three 8" round cake pans (butter, line bottom with parchment paper, butter paper, dust with flour).
- In bowl of electric mixer, sift all dry ingredients. Combine eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla in a measuring cup and beat lightly with a fork.
- Add milk mixture to the dry ingredients mix for 2 minutes on medium speed (you may need the plastic splash-guard that comes with mixer). Divide batter evenly among prepared pans. (Batter will be thin.)
- Bake for 20 minutes and rotate pans in oven. Continue to bake until toothpick or skewer comes almost clean (a few crumbs), about 12 more minutes. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes then gently invert onto racks until completely cool.
- In a bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine the icing sugar and butter and beat on low speed for about 1 minute.
- Add malt powder, vanilla and salt, and beat on low until well combined. Add the melted chocolate and beat on medium speed until smooth (about 2 minutes).
- Add whipping cream and beat on med-high speed for another minute.
- Best used right away.
- Place marshmallows on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Place on lower rack of oven, and broil marshmallows until nice and brown on top, between 30-60 seconds. Remove pan from oven and gently turn the marshmallows over, and broil until they are golden brown. (Be sure to keep an eye on them--they burn very quickly.)
- In an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine butter and icing sugar on low until blended, about 1 minute. Add vanilla and mix on med-high for about 3 minutes.
- Add marshmallow cream and toasted marshmallows, and mix on lowest setting for about 1 minute.
- On an 8"inch round cake board (or cake plate), put a small dollop of frosting. Cut your 3 cake layers each once horizontally with a long, serrated knife, so you have a total of 6 layers.
- Place your first layer face-up on the board (or plate) and cover with an even layer of the Toasted Marshmallow Frosting, leaving about 1/2" around the edge. Place another cake layer face-up and repeat with Malted Belgian Chocolate Frosting.
- Repeat until you come to your final layer, which you will place face-down. If you find the cake too soft and unstable, put in refrigerator for a few moments to firm it up, then resume.
- Frost entire outside of cake with remaining Malted Belgian Chocolate Frosting.
*To create the swirled frosting effect, place chilled cake with thin layer of frosting on a piece of wax paper on a cake turntable, and add remaining frosting to create a fairly smooth finish with a medium palette knife (straight, not offset). Then, with your dominant hand, hold palette knife with a medium-firm pressure at about a 45° angle starting at bottom of cake, and with your other hand slowly spin turntable while keeping your palette knife against cake at at all times, then gradually directing the palette knife upwards until you get to the top. Finish with same technique on top. If you aren't happy with your attempt, this frosting is so satiny, that you can smooth it over and try again.
**I always build my cakes on thin cake boards to make for easy lifting and transferring.
[malted chocolate frosting adapted from Williams-Sonoma]
Sweetapolita’s Tips & Tricks for Splitting Cakes:
1. Always start with a cold cake: refrigerate for about 2 hours or freeze for about 30 minutes
2. With a good quality serrated knife (I only use my favourite Mac 10 1/2″ serrated bread knife–this thing is insanely sharp), trim any doming off the top of each layer.
3. Measure the height of your layer with a ruler, then create a score line on the halfway mark all the way around the outside of the cake.
4. Lower yourself to almost eye-level to the cake. With a gentle sawing motion, slowly move the knife gradually towards the centre of the cake, then turn cake 1/4 turn, and repeat until you have cut through the entire layer.
Good luck & enjoy!