Two posts ago this lady, I'm Kitty!, stopped by and left me a comment about a birthday cake contest. She saw a flyer downtown but couldn't remember any of the details besides the date it was happening. I googled birthday cake contest but to no avail. So I put it out of my mind.
Then Around the Sun posted about free first Thursday fun, and there at the top of the post, was a blurb about the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) celebrating their 10th birthday by having an open house and holding a birthday cake competition. And lo, there was a link to their website!
And luckily for me, First Thursday was on, well, a Thursday, which is my day off. I like my days off.
So I decided to bake a cake for the bake-off.
April 3, 2008
Name of cake: S'mores Cake
Occasion: IPRC turns 10! And hosts a bake-off!
Constituents: two 9 inch layers of graham cracker cake, filled with milk chocolate buttercream, and frosted with seven minute frosting, toasted to look like a marshmallow
My friend Brains lives out in Troutdale in a tiny house on a nice plot of land within walking distance to the Sandy River. He invited me over last Friday night for a fire, s'mores, and wine. It was good times.
Ohhhh, those s'mores. That was the biggest sugar load I ingested after finishing my sugar fast and boy the after effects were crazy. Ever since then I have become sugar obsessed, and I decided I needed to figure out how to bake a s'mores cake in response.
I figured I needed to find cake versions of two graham crackers, a hershey bar, and two partially toasted, partially charred marshmallows. The hunt was on...
Way back in '06, the lovely Zetta sent me a link to an NPR article about The Cake Lady. At the end of the article, there were several recipes including one for a graham cracker cake.
Graham cracker cake--that would work for a s'mores cake. Check.
Initially, I thought a nice dark ganache would be a good choice for a s'mores cake. Something seriously chocolaty, a little bitter to counteract all that sweet. Then I thought about it, and a s'more isn't made with dark, bitter chocolate. I decided that I ought to go whole hog and I settled on RLB's milk chocolate buttercream.
I have read that seven-minute frosting, a meringue frosting, tastes a lot like marshmallows. Then I found a post on Julius's blog where he took a torch to Martha Stewart's seven-minute frosting and toasted it up.
Hey--a toasted marshmallow! Check.
The Graham Cracker Cake
This recipe is interesting--instead of using flour to bind the batter together, crushed graham crackers serve as the base. Since there's no gluten to form a structure, you gotta whip up the eggs. This is kind of like a sponge cake, because the egg whites are beaten up separately until they are at moist, stiff peaks. Then the rest of the batter, which has been mixed together in such a way to ensure maximum volume, is folded into the egg whites (or vice versa, can't remember) before being sent off into the oven.
The cakes made two nice layers that were about 1 1/2 inches in height. They had a really coarse crumb that was a little surprising to me, but it wasn't bad.
The Milk Chocolate Buttercream
This buttercream is ridiculously easy. One pound of milk chocolate and a half pound of dark chocolate, melted in a double boiler, and mixed with about 3 sticks of butter. And, scene.
The problem with this buttercream is that it tends to harden up pretty quickly. The leftover frosting is sitting in the bowl on my table, and I know I'll have to soften it up a bit before I can scrape it into a tub for freezing. Sigh.
The Seven-Minute Frosting
I think my frosting would more aptly be called Twelve to Fifteen Minute Frosting, but who's counting. It took a while for the mixture to come up to the 160 degrees Martha specifies in her recipe, but once it did, the frosting came together really easily. And it really DID taste like marshmallows!
I was worried about how sweet this cake would be, especially since I split each layer in half and was going to have 3 layers of chocolate filling. So I decided to use 2/3 cup per layer of filling, instead of the usual 1 cup. I have a lot of leftover frosting.
Frosting the cake with the marshmallowy frosting was quite enjoyable. It is such a billowy, fluffy, glossy frosting that spreads nicely and sticks easily. The frosting itself has such a nice glow and look to it that I didn't really feel much need to embellish...
...except to dig out my piping tip and pipe a big "10" on the top of the cake. It looked a little funny, but considering I can't really pipe to save my life, I thought it looked great.
Now came the fun part: I pulled out my brand spanking new butane torch, filled it with gas, and lit the puppy. I decided to evenly brown the sides of the cake, and sort of, kind of, toast the 10 on top. Like all toasted marshmallows, parts got a little burnt, but hey--it wouldn't be authentic without a little char!
By this time I was running late and had to leave the house in a rush. I left a GIANT mess on the table which I haven't yet cleaned up. Too. Tired.
When I arrived at the IPRC, I was greeted by Justin, the nice guy who is the director of the center. He invited me in, showed me where to put the cake, and got me a glass of wine. Nice.
There were a few cakes and several cupcakes on the table, including a vegan spicy chocolate cake with an avocado-chocolate frosting. I could not wait to try that--I mean, how do you make avocados taste like chocolate frosting??
The other big cake was a two tiered chocolate cake with tinted buttercream; this I found out was made by a nice lady who turned out to be I'm Kitty! That was pretty cool, to meet in person a fellow blogger. That hasn't happened to me yet.
Alas dear readers, ECL didn't win the cake contest, but that's okay. All but a quarter of the cake was eaten, which I have here at home with me. I had a good time, met some cool new people, have plans to take a class or two at the IPRC, and got an excuse to buy a torch and bake a cake. What more could I ask for?