I really love baking for birthdays. Cakes, cupcakes, frosting, sprinkles, piping…is there anything more delightful than that? My cakes never turn out as pretty and whimsical as I imagine them, but I try not to let that get to me, it’s all part of the fun. I do though get stressed out a little bit before I start baking, when I’m trying to decide what cake to bake. There are so many different recipes out there and so many resources to get them from, that I find it overwhelming to say the least.
There is a sort of thought process that I go through when a birthday starts to approache. I first think of what kind of sweets or desserts this person likes and try to create a list of flavor profiles like: chocolate and strawberries, or lemon and almonds. Then I start the “research.” I look everywhere. I go to food blogs, the Food Network, my cookbooks, magazines, and I also go to the bookstore where I grab any cake/baking book I can see and look through each one of them. This thought process lasts for hours, days, sometimes even weeks and in the end I usually end up with two or three recipes that I like. There’s always one cake candidate that models the flavor profile list pretty well, while the others are more geared towards something I would like or something I think would taste amazing. I mean, don’t some people say you should give a gift you would like for yourself? Well, in the end I usually do the right thing, and pick the right cake.
I made this Tiramisu Cake for my aunt’s birthday. She likes tiramisu, chocolate, and liqueur in cakes, so I thought she would enjoy it. We all loved it. I found it in Dorie Greenspan’s book Baking: From My Home To Yours and read about it on one of my favorite blogs, Smitten Kitchen. I made mine mini again with my two 4 1/2 inch springform pans. Upon suggestion, I made the cake one day ahead but found out that it tasted so much better after two days. The espresso syrup and filling between the two layers of cake were so much more deep and concentrated after 48 hours. It was so delicious. My only complaint is that my filling/frosting was really runny and hard to use. I put it in the fridge for about an hour before using and it was much better. Also, because I made the cake smaller, some of the measurements are kind of odd, like 3/8 of a cup of 1/2 an egg yolk. I just approximated for those and didn’t worry too much about getting it exactly right. As long as it’s fluffy and tastes good, that’s all that matters.
Adapted from Baking: From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan
1 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 large eggs
1/2 large egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
3/8 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon espresso powder
1 tablespoon boiling water
1/4 cup water
1/6 cup sugar
1 tablespoon brandy, amaretto, or Kahlua (I used Kahlua)
Filling & Frosting:
4 ounce mascarpone
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 tablespoon brandy, amaretto, or Kahlua (I used Kahlua)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 ounce bitter or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
Cocoa powder for dusting
To make the Cake Layers:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 4 1/2 inch springform pans and dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess.
Combine cake flour, baking soda, and salt. Sift together.
In another bowl cream the butter until soft. Add the sugar and beat until well combined. Add the eggs and yolk and mix together. Beat in the vanilla. Now, slowly add a third of the dry ingredients and mix. Then pour half of the milk and combine. Repeat until all ingredients have been added. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. When the cakes are ready, they should be golden and a toothpick should come out clean when inserted. Cool in pan for 5 minutes. Then remove the cakes and cool completely on a wire rack.
To make the Extract:
Mix the espresso powder and boiling water together. Stir well and set aside.
To make the Syrup:
In a small saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil. Transfer the syrup into a bowl and add 1/2 tablespoon of the extract and 1/2 tablespoon of Kahlua. Stir well and set aside.
To make the Filling & Frosting:
Combine the mascarpone, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, and Kahlua. Mix well until smooth.
With a whisk or mixer, whip the heavy cream until heavy peaks hold. Fold the whipped cream in two segments into the mascarpone mixture.
If the tops of the cakes are rounded, take a serrated knife and cut them even. Place one cake on a cake stand or plate. Using a spoon, soak the cake with about 1/3 of the syrup. Spread some of the mascarpone cream on top and sprinkle with the chopped chocolate. Place the second layer on a different plate and soak the cake with half of the remaining syrup. Place the second layer, soaked side down, on top of the first layer. Pour the rest of the syrup over the top of the cake.
Add the remaining extract that was set aside, to the rest of the mascarpone filling and whisk together. Cover the frosting and refrigerate with the cake for at least 1 hour. After 1 hour, frost the cake with an icing spatula or knife. Return the finished cake into the fridge for 3 hours and up to 2 days.
Before serving, dust the top with cocoa powder.
Note: I piped little stars at the base of the cake and still had about 3/4 cup frosting/filling leftover.