living the sweet life

Dark Chocolate Cake with Toasted Marshmallow Filling and Salted Caramel Buttercream

Oh, hello there. Did you know this week (Monday, specifically) is my one-year blogiversary? One year ago I started this blog and it’s been a wonderful journey so far.

Be prepared for an onslaught of pictures and a long recipe write up. There are 3 parts (well, 4 if you count making the salted caramel sauce ahead of time) all made from scratch and then you have to actually assemble the cake. It’s a project, that’s for sure, but if I could bake this cake first time around, so can you.

When thinking about how I wanted to celebrate this milestone (anyone else feel silly when saying ‘blogiversary’?), I ultimately decided on baking a cake. Cakes are high up on the food chain of baking – generally large, involve multiple parts and stages, kind of fancy even at it’s most casual, and a big deal. Cupcakes are cute and easy, cookies, well, not much of a challenge. But cakes? I’ve had some sort of.. aversion isn’t the right word but I’ve almost been afraid of cakes. I made one for my friend Jess’s birthday 2 years ago but it was crooked, caved in in the center (my layers weren’t even because I didn’t know you were supposed to trim them), yet delicious. After that though, I avoided cakes and would make cupcakes instead for people for parties, birthdays, etc. There was something easy about them, and a cake always seemed a bit like a commitment.

And it was. I was visiting my boyfriend (he took those lovely shots above) in Las Vegas and I took over the kitchen for the better part of Saturday. I did take my time, though, because I had all day to bake a cake so why rush? It also didn’t help that I had to make the marshmallow filling twice (aka go out to walmart to find more marshmallows and Fluff). The first time I left the marshmallows in the oven too long and while they were golden brown and puffy while inside the oven, the moment I took them out, they had spread and turned more into hard melty chunky sugary masses. Not bad, per-see, but not what you want in a light and fluffy filling. That’s not to say, however, that you don’t want any chunks in the filling. There will be some WONDERFUL small toasted marshmallow chunks in the filling – you want those. They’re a good thing. You just don’t want ones the size of a quarter.

Anyway, I decided on making a cake. But I couldn’t make any boring chocolate on chocolate cake. I wanted to do something special. I love chocolate, I’ve been on a big salted caramel kick, and who doesn’t love toasted marshmallows?  The answer is no one. Everyone loves them. Duh. If not, then well.. we’ll deal with that later.

I wrote a post on Monday with some pictures where I got into the more serious and mushy-gushy blogiversary talk, like what I’ve accomplished this past year, where I want to go in the next year, what it felt like to start this blog. This post, on the other hand, is all about this glorious cake.

This cake.. Oh there are no words for this cake. Though I guess there technically are because I’m writing about it now.. Anyway. (Oh my god, how many times can I digress and then have to say ‘anyway’ in one post? It sure feels like a lot). ANYWAY. This cake is delicious. It’s moist, light, rich.. A bunch of wonderful contradictions. The chocolate cake is moist yet sturdy enough to hold up to stacking in 3 layers. The marshmallow filling is sweet but because it’s so airy and fluffy you don’t really notice. And the salted caramel buttercream, while also sweet, has the salt from the salted caramel to cut down on the bite of sweetness.

It was a combination I came up with myself but this definitely will not be the last you see of it. I’m already dreaming of these in cupcake form, or the marshmallow filling sandwiched between two cookies, or the buttercream in the center of macarons, or…my stomach just growled. I take that as a sign that all of the above needs to happen. Okay? okay.

But truly. This cake is delicious, not fussy, and easy to make. None of the steps are particularly difficult. It just might be a little clumsy feeling for a fellow novice cake decorator, but mostly because I’m still learning how to properly crumb coat a cake or how to assemble and stack the layers so the cake isn’t leaning. It really was the most perfect cake to make for my blog’s anniversary.

And now, for some final words: Let them eat cake.

Dark Chocolate Cake

makes three 6-inch round layers

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup buttermilk (I made my own. See notes below)
3/4 cup hot brewed coffee
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Outline the three 6-inch cake pans on a sheet of parchment paper and cut out the rounds. Grease the bottom and sides of pans with butter. Put a parchment paper round in each pan, pressing down so it sticks to the butter. Sprinkle and coat the pan with cocoa powder (roughly 1 teaspoon). Tap out extra into next pan until all are coated.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift all of the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda & powder, salt) into the bowl. Add the remaining wet ingredients (oil, buttermilk, coffee, eggs, vanilla). Mix at medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway through if needed. Split the batter evenly between the 3 cake pans. If you have a kitchen scale, weigh each pan to make sure they’re equal. The batter will be liquidy – don’t worry.

Bake for 20 minutes, check the cakes with a toothpick, and then rotate the pans in the oven. Bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until the toothpick comes out clean. Be careful not to over bake.

Cool the cakes on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Use a knife and loosen the edges of the cake from the pan. Gently flip the pans and rest the cake layers face down on the wire rack. Let the layers cool completely.


Toasted Marshmallow Filling

18 large white marshmallows
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 7-oz jar Marshmallow fluff

Set oven to Broil. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and spray thoroughly with non-stick cooking spray. Put the marshmallows on the cookie sheet and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter and powdered sugar. Beat at medium to medium-low speed until blended and smooth. Add in vanilla and mix at medium to medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.

Place the cookie sheet on the lower rack in the oven, and broil the marshmallows for about 1 minute, until marshmallows have started to expand. Remove pan from oven and gently flip the marshmallows. Broil until lightly golden brown on the top, about another minute. Keep a close eye on the marshmallows – they burn quickly. You also want to take them out before the marshmallow edges start melting and the sugars start to harden. Think ideal summer toasted marshmallows.

In the mixing bowl, add in the marshmallow cream and toasted marshmallows and mix at a low speed for about 1 minute, until combined. There will be some ‘chunky’ toasty bits in there – that’s a good thing. You want that like when you normally roast marshmallows, the outside layer gets a little toasted. It won’t be a velvety smooth filling, FYI, but it will be close.


Salted Caramel Buttercream

1 cup unsalted butter
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup Salted Caramel Sauce

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, mixing on low to medium-low speed until combined and smooth. Add the vanilla and the salted caramel sauce, and beat on medium/medium-high speed until fluffy and incorporated, 2-3 minutes.


Assembling the Cake

Trim any doming off the cake with a sharp knife so the layers are relatively flat. Place the first layer, right side up, onto the cake board/cake stand/plate.

Add about half of the marshmallow filling. With an offset spatula, spread the filling evenly over the layer. Add the next cake layer, repeating the step with the remaining marshmallow filling. Take the final cake layer and place it face down (so the ‘bottom’ of the layer is facing up).

With an offset spatula, cover the cake with a thin layer of the salted caramel buttercream. This is the “crumb coat” and will prevent any of the chocolate cake from peaking through. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes to set.

Frost the cake with the rest of the buttercream however you’d like. To see how I decorated it, go here. Fill a pastry bag with frosting and with a large pastry tip, pipe a line of large dots down the length of the cake. With the back of a spoon, spread each dot out sideways. Repeat another line of dots, overlapping the edge, until the cake is frosted. For the top of the cake, repeat the same motion but in a spiral inwards.

1. If you don’t have buttermilk or don’t want to buy any, you can make your own. Take a 1-cup measuring cup. Add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to the cup, and then fill the rest of the way with milk. Let sit for 5-10 minutes and use what you need. (In this case, 3/4 cup of ‘buttermilk’)
2. As always, any time I say stand mixer, you can also use an electric hand mixer or do it by hand.

[sources: lightly adapted from Sweetapolita (cake), Sweetapolia (filling), and Cooking Classy (buttercream]

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