S’mores {birthday!} Cake

I’m not sure why but I’ve been obsessed with S’mores recently. I like marshmallows. I like chocolate. I’m not overly fond of graham crackers or their taste. Yet when my favorite local cupcake shop offered S’mores as their flavor of the month in June, I was all over that sh!t. And it inspired me to make a layer cake of the same variety for my birthday this year. Their cupcake involved a graham cracker cake base, chocolate frosting and toasted marshmallows complete with a tiny cram square stuck into the delicious chocolate frosting. Easy as pie to create a layer cake based off that cupcake, right?

There are many recipes for graham cracker cake out there but I wanted one that didn’t involve separating the egg yolks from the egg whites and whipping the egg whites into a frenzy. It’s putzy. Folding the egg whites into the batter takes forever. And I’m not overly fond of the texture of cake that uses whipped egg whites. It’s too chiffon-y. So I found exactly what I was looking for at food52.com.

cake ingredients.

  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3 c. graham cracker crumbs (from about 20 squares)
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • ¾ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 c. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ½ c. sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ c. buttermilk

cake directions.

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, graham cracker crumbs, and baking powder and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition. Mix in the vanilla.
  4. Add the flour mixture and the milk a little bit at a time, alternating between each. Mix thoroughly but be careful not to overbeat.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between your two prepared pans. Bake for about 25 minutes (or until golden brown and starting to pull away from the sides of the pans). Cool in the pans for at least 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely before frosting and assembling.

toasted marshmallow filling ingredients.

  • 32 large marshmallows (I used 13 mini-marshmallows for every large marshmallow called for in the recipe)
  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 c. butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 (7 ½-oz) jars Marshmallow Fluff

toasted marshmallow filling directions.

  1. Place the marshmallows on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Place on the lowest rack of oven, and broil marshmallows until nice and brown on top, keeping an eye on them the entire time so they don’t burn.
  2. Beat the butter and powdered sugar on low-speed until blended together, about one minute. Add the vanilla extract and increase the speed to medium-high; beat for three minutes. Stop the mixer, add the Marshmallow Fluff and toasted marshmallows, and mix on the medium-high speed until thoroughly combined.

I hadn’t settled on a chocolate frosting yet when I stumbled upon the food52.com graham cracker cake with what looked like chocolate frosting. The recipe described the frosting as a whipped chocolate caramel ganache (frosting), which, let’s face it, had me at hello.

Makes enough frosting to fill and frost a 9-inch cake

chocolate caramel sauce ingredients.

  • 1 c. sugar
  • 6 T. salted butter cut into tablepoon-size pieces
  • ½ c. heavy cream
  • 2 oz dark chocolate
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

chocolate caramel sauce directions.

  1. Put the heavy cream in a glass measuring cup and microwave on high for 45 seconds, add chocolate and microwave another 30 seconds Stir until its smooth, add the vanilla extract and stir to combine, set aside so that it will cool before adding to the caramel.
  2. In large saucepan add the sugar, turn heat to med/high and let sit until it starts to liquefy. Start stirring with a heat proof spatula. The sugar will crystallize but that’s alright — keep stirring until it’s all liquid. Stop stirring and let it cook until it turns amber in color, then add the butter and stir to combine.
  3. Remove from heat and add the chocolate cream. Stir until its incorporated. Store in a container at room temperature until ready to use. Note: If you make this ahead of time, simply place the bottle or jar in hot water to warm the caramel so it’s pourable.

ganache ingredients.

  • 4 oz dark chocolate broken into small pieces
  • 4 oz milk chocolate broken into small pieces
  • 1 c. plus 2 T. heavy cream
  • 1 T. liquor or vanilla extract
  • ½ c. chocolate caramel sauce

ganache directions.

  1. Heat cream to scalding (not boiling). Pour over the pieces of chocolate that are in a mixing bowl. Let sit 5 minutes then stir until there are no pieces of chocolate and it’s smooth and shiny, then add the chocolate caramel sauce and stir to combine.
  2. Let ganache cool. I let mine cool in the fridge for several hours; do not let it get stiff. Mine was still sorta runny when I started to beat with a mixer. Beat until the ganache is fluffy and spreadable. Frost the cake immediately. Best served at room temperature.

AA few things. One the chocolate caramel sauce was a bit awkward to make. I’ve made caramel before using a similar method with a candy thermometer and it turned out. I somehow ended up with hard shards of caramel that I could not incorporate into the sauce. It still tasted caramel-y but I’m not convinced that the texture was spot on (seemed slightly runnier than it should be). Whatevs. I still used it.

I was particularly fretting about the cake. It seemed like the layers did not raise at all. I should note that I used buttermilk instead of milk and had to appropriately add baking soda to the ingredients and decrease the amount of baking powder. I did this based upon my research of how to substitute buttermilk for milk. The layers were so thin and flat I was afraid I couldn’t cut them in two, but I was still able to do so. Also, I baked the cakes for 25 minutes and the toothpick came out clean. I normally like to have a few crumbs clinging to the toothpick. This tells me the cake will be moist. I was terrified the cake was going to turn out dense and dry. What a bad combo! And, because the cakes never domed, I couldn’t slice off the dome and try the cake like I normally would.

This is a putzy cake. It’s two different frostings (the frosting and filling) and the ganache I made was putzy as well. I wanted toasted marshmallows on top my cake. And I wanted bits of graham cracker stuck into the frosting.

I wanted one of those creme Brule torches to toast the marshmallows but did not want the expense of the purchase and also didn’t want to have to go buy butane. So I was talking to my manager and we figured I could use one of those butane wands that you use to light your gas grill or gas stove. I bought one at a local grocery store for less than $4 so I was happy with my purchase.

Turns out that trying to toast a regular-sized marshmallow takes forever using one of those wands. So I discarded that idea. I decided to flip over the pan I used to bake the cake and line it with parchment paper and then spray the parchment paper with cooking spray. I lined up the marshmallows along the outside and threw the pan into the bottom rack with the setting on broil. After a few minutes (and one rotation) I had evenly browned, melty, toasted marshmallows.

Then I attempted to stick the graham crackers in between. I should have stuck the grahams in between the marshmallows before toasting because it was difficult with the meltiness of the marshmallows to try to stick the grahams in between. It ended up fine, I would have done it differently in hindsight. Then once the marshmallow-graham ring had cooled slightly, I moved the ring on top the cake in sections. I had to allow the ring to cool because I didn’t want the hot marshmallows to melt the ganache frosting.

I stuck the whole cake in the fridge overnight, took it out by 5 am and by 10 am we were eating cake during our morning meeting.

I got a ton of compliments on this cake. One of the things my manager noted is that I always add salt to my frosting, which she likes. I don’t like overly sweet frosting and I feel like adding salt can cut down on the sweetness – especially in frostings that call for a lot of powdered sugar.

I would definitely make this cake again and would recommend it for any S’mores lover you know!

Recipe rating: 

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