Tiramisu Cake

Have you ever made something that just came out so great that you know in that one instant when it was completed that you created something truly wondrous and amazing? That moment came to me when I made this cake for our recent holiday party at work. I decided to make a tiramisu cake based on a recipe by Dorie Greenspan from her book, Baking: From My Home To Yours. It seemed apropos as I had received this book last year for Christmas and it has steadily become a major source of inspiration this past year.

Admittedly, I think part of my pride in this cake (outside of the fact that it was DELICIOUS!!) stems from the fact that I am a bit biased. You see, I love tiramisu. Not just love, I obsess about it and crave it like nobody’s business. When given a choice of tiramisu over cake or other desserts, you can bet your donuts that I’m choosing tiramisu. Heck, for my last birthday, it was my dessert of choice!

As you can imagine, I’ve had a lot of incarnations and variations of tiramisu and while most are pretty good, I think this one, by far, is one of the best. What I like about this cake is that it has just the right amount of espresso flavor…with many tiramisus you either don’t have enough where you’re searching for it through every morsel and crumb OR you have too much in which the latter case often ends up being a soggy mess of espresso soaked lady fingers that does not have a pleasing texture at all. Here, the espresso flavor is just right and I think that is due to having airy spongy layers of cake that is light enough to be able to soak up the espresso and yet have enough body to it to still keep a good texture as it acts as the ultimate conduit for espresso.

Did I also mention that to round out the pure greatness that is this cake that there is amaretto in this cake along with some chocolate bits sprinkled in between the layers? Some traditionalists will argue in favor of Marsala or even Kahlua for use here, but after having tried all 3, my preference is for amaretto. The sweet almond flavor pairs so well with the coffee tones…accentuating without overpowering it. The chocolate bits add that extra special and unexpected touch to the whole package.

As a testimony to how good this cake really was (honestly, I’m not just pontificating atop my cake flour box!) the restaurant that we served this at for our holiday party was so impressed with it that the wait staff absconded with any remaining cake that was left over from being served for themselves. I had to wrest the last slice from the kitchen to bring home for Mai and Alex to try. You know it’s good when the home team prefers it over their own tiramisu dessert offering 🙂

Tiramisu Cake
Adapted from 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
4 tablespoons instant espresso powder
4 tablespoons boiling water

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

For the filling and frosting
1 8oz container mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon amaretto, Kahlua, or brandy (I used amaretto)
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

1 package of lady finger biscuits, about 40 biscuits (not the soft spongy kind, the harder biscuit kind)

Cocoa powder, for dusting

Preparation

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 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. You can also just spritz using baking spray. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, sift or whisk together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Working with a stand mixer, 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. The mixture may look curdled at this point, but don’t worry! 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. Batter may look lumpy or slightly uneven, but that is ok. 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, until golden, center springs back when touched, and toothpick inserted into the center comes 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 cool them to room temperature right side up.

Begin making extract by stirring espresso powder together with boiling water in a small cup until dissolved. Set aside.

For syrup, stir 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 the espresso extract and the liqueur or brandy. Set aside.

To prepare the filling and frosting, whisk mascarpone, confectioners sugar, vanilla, and liqueur in a large bowl 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.

Now to assemble the cakes. 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 about 1/4 of the mascarpone cream over the layer and gently press 1/2 of the chopped chocolate into the filling.

For the middle layer, soak lady finger biscuits with the espresso syrup (I dunk them into the syrup at 1 second per side), and arrange on top of the 1st layer. Smooth another 1/4 of mascarpone cream filling over this layer and gently press the other 1/2 of 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.

Use the leftover mascarpone filling as frosting, remembering to completely frost the top of the cake and using enough frosting for the sides to just cover it. You’ll want the top of your cake to be totally covered and looking perfect while the sides of your cake should have enough frosting to “hold” it together.

Using the remainder of the lady fingers, cut them to equal heights and arrange around the outside of the cake using the frosting on the side as its “glue.” I tied it together with a nice ribbon for a pretty touch.

Refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours, but preferably overnight, to give the cake and flavors time to meld and bind. Just before serving, dust the top of the cake with cocoa.

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~ by tastydesu on January 11, 2011.

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