Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tiramisu Celebration Cake

One of Caleb’s favorite desserts in the entire world, and I have to admit it’s one of mine, too, is tiramisu. Something about it is irresistible; it’s the perfect dessert. The cocoa satisfies a sweet tooth, the dense, wet ladyfingers leave you feeling full and the liquor and coffee add that finale, that something extra. Although we agree that it’s one of our favorite desserts, we also feel that barely anyone gets it right. We’re incredibly picky when it comes to tiramisu, and although I’m usually disappointed when I order it in a restaurant, I always order it nonetheless, hoping it’ll be the perfect combination of coffee, chocolate and mascarpone.

This year, Caleb has requested that for his birthday I make him a homemade tiramisu, and although I’ve already experimented with one recipe, practice makes perfect. I was all set to make a traditional tiramisu, using another recipe, several days ago when another recipe caught my eye, thanks to Smitten-Kitchen.

Convinced this was the perfect recipe, I rushed out and bought new ingredients, then quickly set to work baking, creaming and tasting. I had had the highest of hopes for this cake, but was disappointed to see that it was just that: a cake. Somewhere along the line, I got it in my head that this dessert would taste like one large tiramisu—wet, dense and tasting highly of liquor. In truth, what it really was—and what I should have recognized it as—was an overdone birthday cake masquerading as tiramisu. Nonetheless, I wasn’t disappointed with the taste; it had plenty of it. But in the future, I would probably only make this for someone’s birthday—it has far too fancy of a feeling to be used as a dinner party dessert, as I did, and the cake is overwhelmingly…well…cakey.

Tiramisu Cake
Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

For the cake layers:
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk

For the espresso extract:
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons boiling water

For the espresso syrup:
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon amaretto, Kahlua, or brandy (Deb note: I used brandy)

For the filling and frosting:
1 8-ounce container mascarpone
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon amaretto, Kahlua, or brandy (Deb note: I used brandy)
1 cup cold heavy cream
2 1/2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, or about 1/2 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

Chocolate-covered espresso beans, for decoration (optional)
Cocoa powder, for dusting

Getting ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9×2 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.

To make the cake:
Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

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.

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.

To make the extract:
Stir the espresso powder and boiling water together in a small cup until blended. Set aside.

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.

To make the filling and frosting:
Put the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla, and liqueur in a large bowl and whisk just until blended and smooth.

Working with the stand mixer with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, whip the heavy cream until it holds firm peaks. 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.

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. 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 - user 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.

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.

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.

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.





Other variations I would make would include adding more frosting to the top (I wanted it to be smooth looking, so I used less and smoothed it, but in truth taste comes before appearances in my book) and perhaps even more espresso syrup. I didn’t want the frosting to be too intensely coffee-tasting, but after a day in the refrigerator the icing was bland—sweet, but bland. Otherwise, a good recipe.

1 comment:

Caleb said...

Soooooo Good!