Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tiramisu Cake

I like making cakes. It's really that, a process of making, when you tweak the recipe just so, when you carefully pick out just the right sort of chocolate and cut every strawberry to a desired thickness, when you whip the cream to be not soft and not hard, when you look and say, no, just a little more chopped or a teaspoon of this will make the difference (when it's probably all in your head). It's about making something special for someone special, a private communication between you and that person, a wordless expression of feelings only the two of you will understand.

Someone asked me last night, "what is in this cake?" And I blinked and had to think about it for a moment -- the question really stumped me -- "the usual things that go in a cake, I suppose" I said: butter, eggs, flour, etc (oh, and brandy)... The end result is so much more than the sum of its parts, though. The real ingredients are laughter and voices and the clinking of glasses, a cake-naming contest and lights and running out of wine.

The birthday girl won the contest, by the way, and named this cake "Temptation." :)

A few notes about the cake:
*I tweaked the recipe just a tiny bit -- I added more brandy and more espresso to the espresso syrup and upped the cream by a third of a cup. I also added strawberries, which I think was a really successful touch. I also did not use powdered chocolate (ick) but just grated some real chocolate over the top of the cake.
*This does not taste exactly like traditional Tiramisu, but the recipe yields a tender, velvety cake with a light, mousse-like filling. The texture held up well even after soaking, though the cake was by no means "wet" like actual Tiramisu.
*Although the list of steps might seem daunting at first, this cake is really one of the easiest cakes to make and I put it together in a flash (and I'm the slowest baker alive when it comes to a recipe I've never made before!)
*I love my new icing spatula. There, it has nothing to do with the recipe, but for someone who's been using a butter knife to frost things, an icing spatula is a luxury. Love, love, love it. Also, love, love, love this cake. Definitely a winner, people.

Tiramisu Cake
(adapted from Dorie Greenspan)

2 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 (10 T) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk

2 T espresso (about one shot?)
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
2 T brandy

1 8-oz container mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 T brandy
1 1/3 cup cold heavy cream + 3/4 T for strawberries
3 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
12 or so medium to large strawberries
1 T espresso

Make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350F and butter two 9x2 inch round pans. Line the pans with parchment paper.

Sift or whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. In a different, large bowl (or mixer 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. It's going to look gross and curdled, but don't worry. Reduce speed to low and add the dry ingredients in 3 additions alternating with 2 additions of the buttermilk (begin and end with dry ingredients); scrape down the bowl and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. Divide evenly between two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 28-30 minutes, rotating the pans at midway point, or until cakes are golden and springy to the touch and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes to unmold, flip over onto a rack or plates and peel the paper liners. Flip back over and cool at room temperature.

While the cakes are baking, make the espresso syrup: stir the water and sugar together in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil. Stir in the espresso and brandy. Set aside.

Make the filling and frosting: In a small bowl, whisk the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla and brandy just until blended and smooth. In a large (or mixer) bowl, whip 1 1/3 cups heavy cream until it holds firm peaks. With a rubber spatula, stir in about one quarter of the whipped cream into the mascarpone. Fold the mascarpone into the rest of the whipped cream with a light touch. Chop 1 oz of the chocolate very finely. Hull 6 strawberries and slice them thinly.

Strawberries: Take remaining 6 strawberries and slice them in half lengthwise, leaving the green tails on. Top a tray with wax or parchment paper and arrange strawberry halves on top. Chop 1 oz of the chocolate very finely and put in a small bowl. Bring 4 T cream to a boil and pour over the chocolate; let stand a minute and then whisk until smooth and glossy. The chocolate should be thin enough to drip from the end of a spoon -- if not, add a bit more cream and whisk in. Drizzle melted chocolate over strawberries. Refrigerate for at least 1/2 hr.

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 cut side up on a cake plate. Using a pastry brush or a small spoon, soak the layer with 1/3 of the espresso syrup. Smooth some of the mascarpone filling over the layer. Gently press the 1 oz chopped chocolate into the filling and arrange sliced strawberries on top. Put the second cake layer on the counter, cut side up and soak it with half of the remaining espresso syrup. Turn the layer over (carefully, it'll be very soft) and position it on top of the first layer and filling. Soak the top of the cake with the remaining syrup.

Whisk 1 T of espresso into the remaining mascarpone filling and smooth the frosting around the sides and on top of the cake. Grate 1 oz of chocolate over the top of the cake. With a butter knife, detach the refrigerated strawberry halves from the wax paper and arrange in a circle on top 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.


La Cuisine d'Helene said...

I love making cakes also. This looks so yummy!

Shari said...

I love how you describe your process of making cakes. I, too, stumble when someone asks me what's in it. This cake looks divine, and with the addition of strawberries to counteract the coffee and chocolate. Yum.

SYD said...

As one who can proudly boast to have had a taste of this cake-it was nothing less than divine. I am savoring it each piece at a time. Irene, another one of your successful creations.

Marthe said...

This cake looks delicious!! I still have a tub of mascarpone in the fridge and love tiramisu, so no I know just what to do with it!!

Peg said...

Lucky Birthday Girl!

Gorgeous cake, Irene! You really make your desserts look special.

I wish there were scent and taste buttons on the computer. *grin*

Anonymous said...

this looks lovely, my husbands favorite.

Nina Timm said...

I love tiramisu and in a cake form, it must be heavenly!!!!!

Christine said...

Hi! I'm not sure if you've mentioned this yet, but could you explain how you use a "jump" in Blogger? I'm used to it being so easy on livejournal and haven't found a way, barring extensive coding on my account here, to create a simple jump. Do you have another faster way you do it?

I love your photos--thanks!


Irene said...

Christine -- it's super easy! Go to Customize --> Settings --> Formatting. At the bottom of that page, there will be a box called Post Template. Past this into the box:

Here is the beginning of my post. [span class="fullpost"]
And here is the rest of it.[/span]

(only replace the [ ] brackets with < > accordingly -- blogger won't let me do here because it thinks I'm trying to do HTML in the comments)

Then, every time you go to create a new post, in the "Edit HTML" mode you will see the above writing. Type the first part of your post where "Here is the new beginning of my post" words appear. Type what you want to go after the jump where "And here is the rest of it" words appear.

Let me know if that didn't make sense :)

Christine said...

Hi Irene =)

Thanks so much for responding so quickly. Your instructions sound very simple, and I have followed them but for some reason I can't get the formatting to work. I'm not a complete dunce with HTML, so I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong. Is there a missing element?

Thanks for your previous help!

Irene said...

Heh, I actually didn't tell you about the most important part, modifying the template. What did I learn today? Blogging and working at the same time is bad! :)

Here's are a few links that explain what to do -

I hope this helps!

Christine said...

Hey Irene!

Thanks a lot. I managed with moderate success to modify my template. The only hitch is I can't remove the jump code from all my posts (which was applied retroactively!). Otherwise it's great. I appreciate you taking the time to help me out!


Irene said...

Hey Christine, I'm glad it sort of worked :)

Yeah, it's a Blogger thing -- you have to apply it to all of your posts or none. I don't know how to fix it, unfortunately. I figure it's better than not having the ability to expand your posts. And also, why worry about what you can't change, right? :)

Anonymous said...

Temptation indeed. A perfect cake Irene!

Marthe said...

Thanks for leaving a comment about my soup. I agree with you: the tortillas in the soup were weird, except for the crispy ones on top!

The Food Librarian said...

Oh, I so love your blog and I love making cakes too! Yours is absolutely beautiful!

Irene said...

Helene - thank you! It was, oh, it was. I'm seriously championing this cake to everyone, lol.

Shari - exactly, how can you tell people what's in it?! It was such a question, I really didn't know what to say. Um... stuff? Yummy stuff? :) I get so flustered when someone asks me about these things in real life. (clearly, I have no such problems on the blog, heh)

BKS - :D My favorite taste tester babe!

Marthe - oh, oh, yes! Let me know how it turns out if you do decide to make it!

Peg - thank you so much :D And grin back! I often wish that myself. I love sharing food, it's the only way to eat.

Nadia - mine too!

Nina - what I loved most about this cake was that it wasn't as 'wet' as Tiramisu usually is and the flavor was much more subtle. It was like Tiramisu elevated. :)

Syrie - thanks! The cake-naming contest did crack me up. Just imagine a bunch of adults yelling out "Desire!" "Sweet delight!" "Temptation!" LOL. They'd had A LOT of wine by then.

Food Librarian - thank you very much, *blush* I love your blog as well. And I have career envy, too!

Vera said...

Absolutely beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Just stumbled upon your site, and oh my what a beauty this Tiramisu is! I only wish I can taste it now.

Amanda said...

I have this book too and just made this cake day before yesterday. It's Heavenly! it came out so beautiful, I just loved it :)

nomad said...

Hi Irene,
This cake looks amazing and I want to make it for a get together with my husband's extended family, only problem; I only have bailey's at home. Can I use it instead of brandy?


Irene said...

Hmm.... I don't think I would use Baileys because it has a very pronounced taste that I'm not sure would complement the other flavors. How about cognac, Frangelico or Grand Marnier? I think that would taste nice. If not, then for the espresso syrup, instead of the 2 tablespoons of brandy, just increase the water by 1 tablespoon and the espresso by 1 tablespoon. For the frosting, instead of the brandy you can add an extra tablespoon of espresso if you think it needs it, or you can just skip the brandy altogether. Good luck, I love this cake and I'm sure your husband and his family will too!

Nomad said...

Thanks for the suggestions, I braved the cake and made it with bailey's in the end as i did not see the response till now!

It tasted very good but did not look quite like the one in your picture, the cream and mascarpone mix seemed to almost seperate or melt!! the 90 degree heat did not help I'm sure.

I left it in the fridge overnight and it was a BIG success at my family's (they don't know what it was supposed to look like, but the taste was yummy)

Any tips on how to improve? I don't think I fully understood "With a rubber spatula, stir in about one quarter of the whipped cream into the mascarpone. Fold the mascarpone into the rest of the whipped cream with a light touch" so I just mixed all together. could have been the down fall?!

Thank you for a great blog and for sharing your passion.


Irene said...

Hi Nomad, I'm so glad your family liked the cake! I'm sure it was delicious! I think you're right that the weather contributed to the mascarpone and cream not playing well together, but also the mixing a little.

The trick to folding two different mixtures together (so I've read, I think in Dorie Greenspan's book or Julia Child's) is that both have to be of a similar texture, and because mascarpone is so much heavier than whipped cream, you would want to stir some whipped cream into the mascarpone to lighten it first and make it similar in texture to the whipped cream. I don't think I'm explaining it well, so if this doesn't make sense, please email me! sweet.persuasion (at) gmail (dot) com.

Here's the technique I learned to stir and then fold - it's very simple. So, you have your mascarpone mixture in one very large bowl and whipped cream in the other bowl. Take about a third of the whipped cream and dump it into the mascarpone mixture and just stir it in with a spoon or a spatula until you can't see any more streaks of whipped cream. Don't worry about being gentle, just stir it in. This will lighten the mascarpone enough so that when you fold in the rest of the whipped cream, it won't separate.

Then (and this is best to do with a rubber or silicone spatula and not a spoon), put the rest of the whipped cream into the bowl with the mascarpone. At this point, you want to be very gentle with the mixing because you don't want to deflate the bubbles that you've created when you whipped the heavy cream. This is what makes the frosting so light and airy. So once the two are in the same bowl, take the spatula and gently cut through to the bottom of the bown and fold upwards so that you bring what's on the bottom gently to the top, and then turn the bowl. Here is a video that explains it better than I can -

I think this will help the frosting stay uniform next time!

And thank you for reading! I really enjoy hearing what everyone else makes and I love above all hearing that your family enjoyed it!

nomad said...

I am humbled by your detailed explanations and the time you dedicate to help out with the recipe. Thank you.

I will make this cake again soon and let you know if there is any improvement.


Irene said...

It's my pleasure, really! :)

Nicole said...

I just found your blog and I'd really love to try this cake for my birthday next week. I just have one question: Does T stand for tablespoons in your recipe?

Ellen said...

Do you have the mascarpone at room temperature here?

Irene said...

Hi Ellen, yes, definitely room temperature or at least softened. The most important thing is that it should be soft enough to whisk and stir easily.