It goes without saying that I love baking. I especially like baking cake – big cakes, little cakes, cupcakes, cake pops; you name it, I’ve probably tried it. It also goes without saying that I love to eat the cake creations; hence I always bake things that I like, regardless of other people’s opinions! Most of the time, when I decide to try a new flavour, the fam are relatively enthusiastic; however, when I told Dad I would be making a chocolate-coffee cake with a rum-flavoured mascarpone frosting, he gagged and told me it was an insult to cake. Boo.
Refusing to be disheartenend, I reminded myself why I had made the, ahem, controversial decision to turn the most famous of Italian puddings into a cake. My boyf has long made it known that tiramisu is his favourite dessert, calling it a “better, grown-up version of trifle” (I tend to agree, especially as I hate trifle with a passion!). I like to make us little romantic-stylee dinners every once in a while, and always do my best to make things he especially likes. This week is Italian week, and, rather than make yet another (admittedly delish) traditional Delia dessert, I thought I’d be innovative and combine my boyf’s favourite – the tiramisu – and my favourite – cake.
Tiramisu Layer Cake
(Adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery’s Cake Days, makes one two-layer cake.)
For the sponge
- 240ml whole milk
- 1tbsp good hot chocolate powder
- 1tsp instant coffee
- 80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 280g caster sugar
- 240g plain flour
- 1tbsp baking powder
- 1/4tsp salt
- 2 large eggs
For the frosting
- 400g mascarpone cheese
- 25ml dark rum
- 25ml coffee, cooled
- 50g icing sugar
- 75g dark chocolate
- 2tsp cocoa powder
Preheat the oven to 17o⁰C. Grease and base-line two 9 inch cake tins.
Put the milk in a jug and heat it slightly in the microwave; don’t let it boil, just warm it. Then add the hot chocolate powder and instant coffee and stir well to dissolve them in the milk. Leave it to cool and get started on the dry ingredients.
Sift the flour and baking powder together; this makes sure the two are nicely combined, and makes the flour smooth. Then add the salt, sugar and butter, and mix them together on low speed with a hand-held electric whisk. Alternatively, you can put them all into a stand-mixer and leave it to do all the work for you, but I like a hand-held whisk better; I feel like I’ve more control over the ingredients this way!
You want to mix the dry ingredients until they are well combined and look like dry sand. When it gets to this point, turn off the mixer and turn your attention to the jug of chocolatey, coffee-y milk you made earlier. It should be nicely cool by now; crack your two eggs into the milk and whisk lightly with a fork to break them up a little. Then, turn your whisk/mixer back onto low speed and slowly add 3/4 of the milky mixture to the dry ingredients. Keep whisking until everything is combined, then add the rest. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and mix for 30 seconds, until everything is well-combined and you have a lovely, smooth and shiny batter.
Pour or ladle the batter into your prepared cake tins, making sure there is an equal amount in each one. They should be filled half-way. Gently tap them on the counter to bring any bubbles to the surface, and pop them with a skewer or toothpick.
Pop the cake tins into the oven – they should be on the middle rack to ensure the tops don’t burn before they’re baked through. These babies will need 30-35 minutes in the oven; don’t open the door until 30 minutes have passed, or they might sink in the middle. Patience is a virtue necessary for all cake-bakers, and it’ll pay off here, I promise! While you’re waiting for the cakes to bake, you can get on with your frosting.
You’ll need two mixing bowls for your frosting, and your electric whisk, with the whisks thoroughly cleaned of any batter from the cakes. In your first bowl, combine the double cream and icing sugar. Beat them together on medium speed until the cream forms soft peaks – don’t over-whisk! If you do, the cream will look thick and lumpy, but it’s easily rectified. All you need to do is mix in a little liquid cream, until it comes back to being smooth and shiny.
In your other bowl, combine the mascarpone, rum and coffee. Don’t worry about cleaning your whisks again, just go ahead and whisk together the cheese with the liquid until it’s nice and smooth. Set your mixer aside and grab a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Put the cream into the bowl with the mascarpone and fold it in – cut down the middle of the mix with your spatula, then rotate it clockwise in a half-circle and repeat until the cream and cheese are fully combined.
Pop your bowl into the fridge to firm up the frosting a bit. When it’s time for the cakes to come out of the oven, check they’re ready by inserting a skewer into the centre of each one. If it comes out clean, with no batter on it, they’re good to go. If not, put them back in for another few minutes. Leave them to cool completely – if you try to ice a warm cake, you’ll find your frosting will just melt off again!
Once your sponge is nice and cool, take them out of the tins and peel the parchment off the bottom. If your cake is reluctant to leave the tin, just run a palate knife gently round the gap between the cake and the tin to loosen it.
Now I’m going to give you a little bit of advice regarding icing a cake. It has taken me some time to realise this myself, but now I have I’m a total convert. If you want a lovely smooth finish on the frosting of your cake, buy a turntable. You can get them really cheaply on the internet, and they make the whole ordeal of icing so much simpler. You don’t need to worry that the frosting is uneven on one side, or that the cake is tipping over because of a heavy hand, or any of the multitude of worries that come with icing a cake on a plate or board. All you need to do is put the cake on the turntable, roughly layer on your frosting, and hold your palate knife to the side of the cake as you spin it, giving you lovely smooth edges with no effort whatsoever. Fabulous!
Ahem. With that small promotion over, let’s continue with the recipe. Pop one of your sponges on the turntable (or plate, if I haven’t convinced you!). If you have a slight dome on the top of your cake, turn it upside down, so the flat underside is now the top. Pile about a quarter of your mascarpone frosting on top, and use your palate knife to smooth it over the whole layer. Gently pop your other sponge on top; again turn it upside down so the flat bottom becomes the top.
Once the whole cake is roughly covered, leave it for five minutes to firm up slightly. Then start again, gently piling and smoothing the remaining frosting over your crumb layer. At this point, you can keep using your palate knife, or something called an edge smoother; it’s a rectangular bit of metal or plastict that makes smoothing your frosting a doddle. If you don’t have one, your palate knife will work just as well.
Once you’re happy with the smoothness of your frosting, it’s time to decorate! Feel free to get creative with the rest of your frosting, if you have any; pipe a lovely pattern over the top of your cake if you like, or anything else you can think of. I’ve kept it simple; roughly chop 75g of dark chocolate and pile it in the middle of the cake, and dust with cocoa powder.
If you have done as I did and used a turntable, the trickiest part will be transfering your finished cake to the plate you want to display it on. I slid two palate knives underneath the cake, parallel to each other and each one about a quarter of the way from the edge of the cake, and lifted slowly and gently. Once your cake is safely on the display plate, simply slide the knives from underneath and breathe a sigh of relief.