S’mores Cake

It’s summer time and in the summer time we eat s’mores. This is non-negotiable.

IF by some odd chance you think you don’t like s’mores, you’re dead wrong. More than dead wrong. You’re lost. You’re confused. You don’t actually believe that you deserve nice things.

Let me enlighten you. Let me bring you back into the light. Trust, I’m only here to help. You do deserve nice things in life and one of the greatest is a s’more, or (come to think of it), anything that is s’mores flavored.

If you’ve been following along with the blog for a bit then you know by now that I’m…fond of s’mores flavored desserts. So far I’ve hit you guys with popcorn, sandwich cookies and brownies–ALL of which, you should try because they’re friggin delicious.

Today I’m back with a new addition to the collection that I’m pretty proud of: a s’mores flavored layer cake.

The first thing that I want to point out about this recipe is rather obvious: this isn’t a conventional round layer cake. Most layer cake recipes call for you to have at least 2, and at times up to 4 or 6 different pans to bake the batter in, and even though I bake often I have 3 cake pans and never really feel like using them much. You have to measure out and weigh the batter in each pan to make sure there’s an even amount in each and sometimes I just can’t be be bothered. All of this cake’s batter bakes in one single loaf pan–the kind that MOST people already have in their cabinets. Rather than divvy up the batter between multiple pans, it’s baked into one cake that’s then split into three rectangular layers later on.

I’ve seen recipes for other s’mores cakes before and interestingly enough, the cake is often chocolate flavored. I…don’t understand this. The base of the s’more are graham crackers that house the marshmallow and chocolate inside. You’ve just got to have that graham cracker flavor to balance the other two. In this recipe, the cake batter is given a warm, nutty, caramel-y flavor with brown sugar and the essential graham base flavor by the addition of finely crushed graham cracker crumbs.

If that doesn’t sound yummy enough all on it’s own, after you split the layers of the cake and start to assemble it is where things get REALLY tasty. We’re not just putting melted marshmallows into the buttercream; to give it that special ‘campfire’ flavor, the marshmallows are first toasted underneath the broiler until they are JUST the right color and brownish hue (much like you’d get holding them over a flame on a stick), then mixed into a smooth buttercream. This buttercream gets spread in between and on top of all the cake layers along with…what else? Smooth, rich semi sweet chocolate. Once you’ve assembled the cake, it get completely covered with the toasted marshmallow buttercream then broken graham cracker shards and mini marshmallows are pressed into the gooey deliciousness and the whole thing gets drizzled with even more melted chocolate.

Guys, I am so proud of this thing. You don’t even know. It is soooo good. There’s not one single thing I would change and I’m excited to share what is trully a perfect summer dessert. Please try it. I’m sharing this cake at Fiesta Friday #182, co-hosted this week by Liz @ spades, spatulas & spoons and Jenny @ Jenny Is Baking.

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S'mores Cake

Recipe Adapted from Food & Wine and The Cookies & Cups Cookbook

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Ingredients

For Cake

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 cup finely ground graham cracker crumbs, from half a sleeve
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For Marshmallow Buttercream

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened)
  • 8 ounces mini marshmallows
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons heavy cream

For Chocolate Ganache

  • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

For decorating: extra graham crackers, broken into pieces and partially crushed, optional

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the cake flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a hand held one, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.

In a small bowl combine the milk, heavy cream, whole milk, eggs and vanilla extract with a fork, whisking until egg yolks are broken and thoroughly combined.

Alternatively add the dry ingredients and egg mixture to the creamed butter mixture, starting and ending with the flour. Make sure you use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl as you add the ingredients to ensure even mixing.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for about 50-55 minutes in the oven, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (Pound cakes are done at about an internal temp of 195-200 degrees Fahrenheit if you have an instant thermometer.) Allow to cool for about 15 minutes in the pan, then turn out and cool completely on a wire rack.  Place the cake in the fridge for about one hour, or the freezer for 20 minutes to let it firm up.

For Marshmallow Buttercream: Preheat the broiler. In the bowl of a standing mixer cream the butter together with the powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and spray it lightly with cooking spray. Spread the marshmallows out in a single layer, keeping them close together. Place underneath the broiler and let them get lightly browned; DON’T WALK AWAY. This takes no more than 30-40 seconds. Using a rubber spatula you spray with cooking spray immediately scrape the toasted marshmallow into the creamed butter/sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until combined. If it seems too stiff, you may add the heavy cream to your desired consistency.

Gently heat the heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl (about 45 seconds should do it). Pour it directly over the chocolate in another bowl and gently stir until it completely melts. If it’s too stiff you can add more warm heavy cream.

Take the cake out of the fridge/freezer. Cut it into three layers (it’s okay if they’re not perfectly even. Mine weren’t either.) Level the tops of each cake. Line the edges of a cake platter with strips of parchment paper to keep the platter clean while you assemble the cake. Smear a little of the chocolate or buttercream in the center to keep the cake from moving around. Place one cake layer on the platter. Spread or pipe a border of the marshmallow buttercream around the edges, bringing them up almost like a fence. Fill in the center with more buttercream, then dollop the chocolate ganache on top, trying to keep it inside the buttercream ‘fence’. Add the second layer and repeat then place the third cake layer on top. Spread the top of the cake with the remaining buttercream. Using a spatula to smooth out the sides of the cake, dipping it in some warm water intermittently.

Press the broken graham crackers and crumbs onto the sides of the cake (They don’t have to cover it completely). Sprinkle more of the crumbs on the top, then use a fork to drizzle the rest of the chocolate ganache on the top.) Place the cake in the fridge to let the buttercream and chocolate to firm up a bit, 15-20 minutes before serving.

Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

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It’s Day 3 of the 12 Days of Christmas on the blog; I’m sitting listening to my Christmas playlist as I write this post and it’s making me think of a question I’ve wondered about for a while now:

Why is Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things” considered a Christmas song/carol?

It’s not that I don’t like it. The Sound of Music is a pretty good musical and I’m a fan of the song in general..but I really doubt the writers were thinking of the Holiday as inspiration when they were putting it together.

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My more sentimental, sappy side assumes that because Christmastime is the best time of year, My Favorite Things is generally associated with it because at the very best time of year you start thinking about all of the things that you love the most.

Although I can’t think why the thoughts of “wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings” would suddenly make anyone feel better. Personally geese, ducks and the like freak me out. That could be because the geese and ducks on my university campus always chase people because over the years they’ve become too accustomed to parents taking their kids to the riverside to feed them bread. Therefore, they now think that all humans have a loaf of bread hidden somewhere on their person; they’ll chase you until you ‘give it up’. So yeah, geese are not one of my favorite things.

I’m thinking that Rodgers and Hammerstein just needed a word that rhymed with “things”, and that line is the best they could come up with.

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But whether they meant the song for Christmas or not, it DOES make you think of your favorite things. Heck, I’m starting to do it now. Maria von Trapp had nine, so I guess I can give nine of mine too:

Pancakes with slightly crisp edges doused in maple syrup.

Quiet mornings when the sky is bluish gray, but it’s not raining.

The A & E Pride and Prejudice movie.

Michigan State University football.

Binge watching  Netflix.

Chris Hemsworth’s arms. And abs. And pecs. Basically his ‘everything’ (so that still should count as one, right?).

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Cuddling with my baby niece.

The smell of freshly made bread in my kitchen.

My cookbook collection (it’s extensive and still growing, trust me.)

That’s nine, right? I notice that none of it rhymed with the word ‘things’. Gosh, now I’m starting to understand the inclusion of the whole “wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings” line. Song writing’s not all that easy.

Oh well. Moving on.

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I made two popcorn balls for the series, the first of which was these Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls. The second was this recipe; I saw it in a Christmas issue of Food Network magazine a year or so ago and had it pegged for such an occasion as this. After I made my Champurrado (Mexican Hot Chocolate) a few weeks ago, I remembered that I had this clipping in my recipe box and immediately decided to try it out for the 12 Days of Christmas.

Guys… Chocolate. Marshmallows. Cinnamon sugar. The popcorn balls are doused and dipped in all of these, resulting in one of the yummiest, addictive treats I’ve ever made for Christmas. It’s sweet. It’s gooey. It’s chewy. It’s everything.

C’mon, just look at that sugary crust on the top: isn’t it just making you salivate?

Just a reminder: if you’ve missed the other recipes we’ve done so far in the series, I’m including a list of links to them below. Seeya guys tomorrow 🙂

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Day 3: Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

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Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Recipe Courtesy of Food Network Magazine

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Ingredients

  • 12 cups fresh popcorn (preferably made over the stove)
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tbsp. butter, plus 2-3 tbsp. extra for buttering your hands
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

 Directions

1. Bring corn syrup, butter, confectioners’ sugar. mini marshmallows, unsweetened cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and water to a boil in a large pot over medium heat, stirring.

2. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and a pinch of salt.

3. Remove from the heat; using a rubber spatula, stir in 12 cups popcorn and 1 more cup mini marshmallows.

4. Butter your hands, then shape into balls and roll in cinnamon sugar, working quickly before balls cool off. Place finished balls on parchment paper lined baking racks to set.

S’mores Brownies

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People ask me all the time:

“What do YOU like to cook?”

“What’s YOUR favorite recipe?”

“What’s the best thing you’ve ever made?”

And that’s why I’m here now. Not only to show you what I love to cook…but how YOU can make it too.

Okay. Maybe I swiped that little intro from the Food Network show, “The Best Thing I Ever Made.” (Great show, by the way. I wish they’d put out more new episodes of that and “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” instead of the ‘game shows’ they keep just throwing at the wall and hoping that they’ll stick.) But it really is true that people do ask me those kinds of questions, especially when they find out that I have a food blog. I also get asked a lot of random questions about ingredients, dishes, recipes and other cooking related subjects that people need help with in their kitchens- like I’m the resident Julia Child, or something. It’s flattering, and most of the time, I really can give some kind of helpful advice.

But there is the left-field query that I have absolutely no clue how to answer-to which I quickly give an off the cuff reply based upon the .2 seconds I’ve had to actually consider it. Then I say a silent prayer that the advice  I’ve given won’t result in a ruined dish or in them burning their house down.

Don’t act like you haven’t done it too.

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But seriously though, the question “What’s the best thing you’ve ever made?” has always kinda been difficult for me to answer. The truth is, I’m a fan of ALL the food I cook, because I cook the way that I would like to eat. Pinpointing one or two dishes among them as favorites makes me draw a blank…

Most of the time.

Every once in a while, I’ll try out a new recipe and right after I try that first bite, I will LITERALLY let an audible “Oh my GOD!” slip out of my mouth out of sheer shock and disbelief of the nirvana that’s happening in my mouth. Sometimes, I do make a dish that is literally so delicious, so supremely perfect, that I just can’t believe it.

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These brownies were one of those dishes. It all started innocently enough. My older sister asked me to make her some brownies. Then my twin sister asked me to make her some. Then my Dad’s birthday came up and he wanted some. Well, since everyone was getting their own variations of brownies, I decided that I was getting left out, and thus  deserved some of my own too. Am I right? Am I RIGHT?

S’mores is one of my favorite ‘flavors’; I’ll eat it in just about any form. The thought of putting it in a brownie seemed like a tasty idea, so I clashed together a couple of ideas I’d seen on Food Network and the Rachael Ray magazine, and ended up with this dish of brownies.

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Guys.

I wasn’t prepared. I really wasn’t.

After I put that first bite in my mouth, it was suddenly like everything around me stopped. The world was on pause, and suddenly it was just me and the most flawless brownie I’ve ever had in my life. I actually think my eyes may have rolled back a little bit. Nothing else mattered. Every other brownie I’d had up to that point ceased to exist- they were just cheap imitations of the word.

I don’t know how to pick out what I love the most about these: the brownie itself is just so perfectly thick and balanced, with just enough chew to distinguish it from chocolate cake (boo for ‘cake brownies’), but not so dense that it’s like fudge (I don’t like overly rich brownies). It’s a perfect base for the other ingredients. The graham cracker crust on the bottom gives a texture to the smoothness of the brownies and is a wonderful ‘vanilla flavored’ compliment to the chocolate flavor of the brownie. And the marshmallows? Don’t get me started. They’re the sweet, gooey glue that gives the whole thing that campfire S’mores authenticity. Put together, they’re literally one of the best things I’ve eaten. No joke.

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The last time that I made the recipe for My Grandma’s Banana Pudding, my twin sister Jas said that it was so good that it almost made her want to start dancing. For some reason, that compliment really stuck with me- and not just because it buffed my ego. I started thinking about how interesting it was that food can literally give someone so much satisfaction and happiness that they want to start dancing. The more I thought about it, the more awesome I realized that was. Later for all these people that are demonizing certain foods as ‘bad’ or something we should be ashamed of for enjoying. Nowadays the world is filled with so much evil and unhappiness that I believe that we should grab onto all the things and people that make us happy and just embrace the heck out of it. 

If something that you cook for someone has the power to make them so happy they wanted to start dancing- then I say, make it. Spread some of that happiness around….even if it’s for yourself.

 I’m a huge fan of the Pharrell Williams song from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack, “Happy”. To me, this song is just all kinds of awesome. I was listening to it the other day as I was writing this post and I suddenly had what I think is a pretty good/fun idea for the blog. From now on, whenever I post a recipe like these S’mores Brownies or My Grandma’s Banana Pudding– recipes that just make me, or the people in my life literally feel so ‘happy’ that we want to dance, I’ll be tagging the post with the Happy Stamp below. I also intend on creating a new section for it in my Recipe Index and updating it for the recipes that I’ve posted thus far. That way, anytime you guys need to find a recipe to cook that’s been tested and guaranteed to spread some happiness to a loved one, or even to yourself, you can find it here 😉

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S’mores Brownies

Recipe Courtesy of Food Network Magazine & Rachael Ray Magazine

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 1 2/3 cups, crushed graham crackers
  • 1 stick, plus 6 tbsp  butter, separated
  • 3/4 cup, plus 3 tbsp sugar, divided
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1/3 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1 whole square graham cracker

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil, leaving a 2 inch overhang. Coat the foil with cooking spray.

2. Mix the crushed graham crackers, 6 tbsp melted butter, 3 tbsp sugar together and press onto the bottom of the pan. Bake until golden, about 8 minutes; cool.

3. Melt 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips and 1 stick butter in a saucepan over low heat, stirring. Off the heat, whisk in 3/4 cup each light brown sugar and granulated sugar; cool slightly.

4. Whisk in 4 eggs, one at a time, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

5. Stir in 1 cup flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Spread in the pan. Bake for 45 minutes.

6. Remove brownies from oven and turn on broiler. Spread marshmallows and milk chocolate chips  over top of brownies and place back in oven. Bake until marshmallows melt and just begin to brown, about 1 minute.

7. Break whole graham cracker into shards. Remove brownies from oven and press graham cracker pieces into melted marshmallows.

8. Allow to sit for about 30 minutes.  Run hot water over a metal knife to make slicing the brownies easier and less messy.

S’mores Popcorn

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Scandalous Day 2

It’s Day 2 of our countdown to the return of Scandal and I’ve got another popcorn recipe for you guys. On a general note, I loveloveLOVE the flavor combination of the s’more. It’s composed of three simple ingredients, that when smashed together and placed over the fire, give you something that is plain out of this world and turn into pure nirvana in your mouth.

The more that I thought about this when I was planning the next recipe for the Scandal series, the more that I thought I’d try to use a s’mores recipe in honor of our favorite Gladiators in Suits: Harrison Wright, Abby Whelan and Huck.

Side Note: I do know that Quinn is not included from this list. No, I didn’t make a mistake. Rest assured,  it’s completely intentional. We don’t have to get into a big discussion about it. Suffice to say, after witnessing her many fumbles & fails throughout the show, as well as her consistent habit of being just plain annoying, I’ve come to the conclusion that Quinn’s not a real Gladiator. At all. So, moving right along…

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Let’s break down the elements of this popcorn while also breaking down the elements of Olivia’s Gladiators in Suits. First, we’ve got the marshmallows, and I’ve decided to associate the marshmallows with Abby. What’s the bad news about that? Well, Marshmallows are all fluff and air.  On their own in a dry state, I really don’t think that they taste like much of anything, except that artificial, processed flavor which I don’t really care for. In the same way, in season 2 I had my suspicions about Abby’s ability to be a true Gladiator when it came to showing her loyalty to Olivia and putting that first, even above her relationship with David Rosen. To me, she spent way to much time on the fence deciding who she was going to stand behind, especially in light of how Olivia really helped her turn her life around after the life she had with her ex-husband. However, when placed under fire, marshmallows lose that artificial after taste and turn into gooey pillows of deliciousness. In the same way, when all the chips are down and Abby is under the fire that threatens her or Olivia, she loses her air of artificiality, and shows herself to be a true Gladiator that’s willing to do what it takes to succeed.

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Melted marshmallow is perfectly good all on its own, but in a s’more, it just won’t cut it. You gotta have the melted chocolate. Mmhmm. We need our Harrison. Everybody loves chocolate. Not only is he extremely attractive, but I don’t know any true Scandal fan that doesn’t love Harrison, from his finely tailored clothes, to his no-nonsense get up and go that refuses to settle for anything but the highest standard when doing his job. I notice that in most of the cases that Pope and Associates handles, Abby and Harrison are usually seen working together as a team to ‘handle it’. Harrison feels like a sort of brother to Abby and frequently does what he feels is necessary to support and help her in the ways that she can’t even help herself. Marshmallows and chocolate are the perfect combination in a s’more, and I think we can agree that Abby and Harrison are a tried and true team when they’re working together.

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I saved the best for last. Melted chocolate and marshmallows are all well and good, but by themselves they just make a big (albeit gooey) mess. They need the sturdiness of the graham cracker to hold it all together. In the same way, Abby and Harrison may be good at what they do, but I think that we all know that the true foundation of Pope and Associates isn’t even Olivia Pope. It’s Huck. We all remember the stunning episode ‘752’ where Huck’s post traumatic stress from being tortured and held captive by the CIA finally caught up with him. Each one of the members of Pope and Associates admitted during this episode that without Huck’s presence, the team just wasn’t the same. They literally needed him- just like marshmallows and chocolate need graham crackers.

Guys, this popcorn is SOOOO good. I literally have to limit myself to a handful ration each time I eat it, to keep me from polishing off the whole bag in one sitting. Like our Gladiators, each element brings something great to the table, but when they’re put together, they’re truly out of this world.

Gladiators Collage

Who’s your favorite Gladiator?

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S’mores {Gladiators} Popcorn

Recipe Courtesy of Food Network Magazine

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup white popcorn kernels, plus 4 separate kernels.
  • 1/4 peanut or vegetable oil
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups graham crackers, lightly crushed

 Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°

2. Pour vegetable oil into a large wok or pot over medium heat.*

3. Heat the 4 separate kernels in the oil until one pops. Add the other 3/4 cup  of kernels and cover the pot. Cook, shaking the pot occasionally until the popping stops. Remove from heat and set aside.

4. Whisk melted butter with vanilla extract and kosher salt; drizzle over hot popcorn.

5. Toss popcorn with marshmallows, chocolate chips and graham crackers.

6. Spread on baking sheets and bake until marshmallows and chocolate are slightly melted, about 2 minutes.

7. Allow popcorn to sit on baking sheets, until cooled, about 30-40 minutes. Keep popcorn refrigerated once cooled off to keep chocolate from melting.

 *You can also use 2 bags of microwave popcorn to substitute for the freshly popped version.

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