Sometimes it just happens. You wake up in the morning thinking you’ll just drink an entire pot of coffee and read the “most emailed” New York Times articles while refreshing you facebook homepage after every paragraph until it’s either time to move your car for street cleaning or… eat dinner. Cool. Sometimes you’re just getting into that first cup of coffee when suddenly things are decidedly not going according to plan. You find out you’ll be hosting a small dinner that night for someone’s birthday… as in you’ll also be making a cake. Goodbye New York Times
style section world news highlights. Goodbye sweatpants. Hello rusted sifter. Hello greasy apron.
Here’s the deal: you want to make a tiramisu but this is dessert is traditionally made by soaking lady fingers for many hours in a coffee or liqueur syrup and you simply do not have the time. Team huddle: we can retain many favored elements of this Italian delight by simply omitting the lady fingers. Mascarpone cream? Check. Coffee soaked cake? Check. Chocolate shavings? Total check.
But sometimes it just happens. You’re putting the finishing touches on a cake you certainly didn’t wake up with intentions to make but somehow managed to assemble with dignity and grace (and several pots of coffee) when the phone rings. No biggie, it’s just the guest of honor calling to mention that he’s bringing a friend to dinner tonight and that she’d like to bring dessert. At this point your frosting spatula may or may not fall from your hands and evoke a mournful sound from somewhere within you as it hits the kitchen floor. You may or may not spend the next several consecutive nights eating tiramisu cake crouched in front of your fridge after midnight. Sometimes it just happens.
Reprinted from Smitten Kitchen
For the cake layers:
2 C Cake Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/8 tsp Baking Soda
½ tsp salt
1 1/4 sticks (10 T) Unsalted Butter, room temperature
1 C Sugar
3 Large Eggs
1 Large Egg Yolk
1 ½ tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
¾ C Buttermilk
For the espresso extract:
2 T Instant Espresso Powder
2 T Boiling Water
For the espresso syrup:
½ C Water
1/3 C Sugar
1 T Kahlua
For the filling and frosting:
8 oz. Mascarpone
½ C Confectioners’ Sugar, sifted
1 ½ tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
1 T Kahlua
1 C Heavy Cream, cold
2 ½ oz. Bittersweet or Semisweet Chocolate, finely chopped
Cocoa powder, for dusting or shaved chocolate for garnish
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 or sprinkle with shaved chocolate.