S’mores Cake & Cupcakes

This has been our summer of s’mores. It began in early June with a campfire and a family week in the mountains. On that trip, we even found ourselves manning a s’mores table at a race expo in West Yellowstone. We were up to our elbows in sticky melted marshmallows, Hershey’s chocolate and graham cracker crumbs. Still, we could have eaten more of them.

Before summer gets away from us, we’re spending some weekend time baking up this s’mores-inspired cake. The result is a tender graham cracker cake, a thick layer of rich chocolate ganache, and toasty “marshmallow fluff” frosting. Summer on a cake stand.

We’ve taken some liberties with this one. The chocolate is dark and the fluffy white frosting isn’t what it looks like. Instead of whipping up a traditional marshmallow cream, we’ve whipped up a bit of aquafaba (seriously cool stuff), sweetened it with sugar and lathered it on the cake. A kitchen blowtorch makes toasting a snap.

If you’re not familiar with aquafaba, welcome to one of 2016’s biggest food trends. Aquafaba is essentially the brainchild of some very clever French and American food geeks who figured out that the liquid in a can of garbanzo beans contained enough of certain bean proteins that it could be whipped like egg whites to create foam. As it turns out, aquafaba is more than just a passable substitute for egg whites. Aquafaba foam is more stable for longer periods of time and at a wider range of temperatures. It’s also much harder to over whip and break because it doesn’t dry out quickly. It can be flavored and colored to suit the use (think meringue, French macaroons), pavlovas, etc.). And, it’s also vegan. Although, that doesn’t seem to matter to us too much since we’re using butter, eggs, and cream in the cake and ganache recipes. However, we’re always game to try the latest food trends and incorporate them into our recipe repertoire.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

S’mores Cake
one 6-inch cake with a 6-pack of cupcakes

Graham Cracker Cake

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup graham cracker crumbs, finely ground
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup butter, room temperature
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2/3 cup kefir
2 tsp vanilla

Dark Chocolate Ganache

Aquafaba Marshmallow Fluff

Preheat oven to 350F and grease and flour a 6″ cake round and line with parchment. Grease and flour, or use cupcake papers, for 6-7 muffin spaces. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well combined. Sift through a fine sieve and slowly push through most of the graham and flour until only small graham cracker crumbs are left. Add the crumbs to the flour mixture and set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth.
Add sugars and beat on med-high until pale and fluffy (2-3mins).
Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla.

Alternate adding flour mixture and kefir, beginning and ending with flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of kefir). Fully incorporating after each addition. Do not over-mix.

Spread batter evenly into prepared pans. Smooth the top with a spatula and gently whack the pans against the counter to evenly distribute and release any air bubbles.
Bake the cupcakes for 12 minutes then rotate the pan and bake another 12 minutes or until the cupcakes bounce back from a light touch. For the 6-inch cake. Bake for approx. 40 mins or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.

Place cakes on wire rack to cool for 10 mins. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and cake to loosen. Gently remove the cakes from the pans, set on racks and allow to fully cool before continuing.

 

Dark Chocolate Ganache

5.25 ounces dark chocolate (1 1/2 bars TJ’s 3.5 ounce dark chocolate bars)
4 ounces heavy cream
2 tablespoon soften butter
pinch of salt

Chop the dark chocolate and place it in a heat proof bowl. In a small sauce pan over medium-low heat bring the heavy cream to just about a boil. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate, add a pinch of salt, and let sit for a minute or two, then whisk the chocolate and cream together. Once all the chocolate is incorporated, add the butter.

Allow the ganache to cool at room temperature for a couple of hours or in the fridge for about 30 minutes before continuing.

Aquafaba Marshmallow Fluff
(adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie)

1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup ultra fine (baker’s) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Drain the garbanzo beans into a bowl with a lid. Use the garbanzo beans for another use. Refrigerate the bean water over night. We think chilling it makes for a shorter whipping time.

In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment or using a handheld mixer, add the refrigerated bean water and cream of tartar to the mixing bowl and mix on medium-high speed. Once double in volume, add the ultra fine sugar and vanilla. Whisk until peaks reach desired stiffness. The bean water seems to hold up well to over-mixing.

Assembling the cakes:

Split the 6 inch layer cake in half and add 2/3 of the chocolate ganache to the split layer. Spread until to the border of the cake and top with the other split layered cake. Spread a thin crumb coat over the sides of the cake. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or up to a day or two. Freeze the cake at that point for up to a month before frosting.

Top the cake with a very big dollop of the fluff. Using an off set spatula, smooth over the top and sides using swishing with flourishes to the cake. This is an excellent beginner decorator frosting.

Cupcakes:

With the rest of the ganache, divide between 6 or 7 balls (depending on how many cupcakes are left). Gently and quickly roll the balls between hands. Freeze until ready to use.

With a melon baller, scope a small amount of cake out of the top center of the cupcake. Place the frozen ganache in the hole. Frost the cupcake in a variety of ways, with a pastry bag, using a big ice cream scoop, or just a spooned dollop on top. Toast the marshmallow using a home creme brûlée kit or a more toolbox-type blowtorch. A quick sit under the broiler may work also to get some color on the fluff, but it could also melt the chocolate. Who knows?

Peanut Butter

We eat peanut butter all the time, topped with a variety of sweeteners. Sliced banana is cool, smooth and sweet – a perfect counterpoint to the rugged texture of toast and peanuts. A drizzle of honey makes for a rich peanut butter bite, thick and super sweet. Like most people, we love fruit jams and jellies with our peanut butter. American’s love to pair it with strawberry jam. What’s not to love about that pair?

A little over 90% of households keep peanut butter in the pantry. Today, the peanut butter market is robust, pulling in a little more than $1 billion in annual retail sales. As prepared food goes, it’s relatively inexpensive and nutrient dense, packing tons of protein and healthy fats.

There are plenty of options on grocery shelves. Just about everyone knows and likes at least one big national brand. But there are smaller producers selling really great tasting peanut butter, albeit at a much higher price. We’re fans of Santa Cruz Crunchy Organic Dark Roast. But as with so many pantry staples, peanut butter is the sort of thing you can make at home, deliciously and inexpensively.

Creamy or chunky? Depends on your gender and where you live. Those of us on the West Coast tend to prefer the chunky stuff. In general, women favor the creamy stuff. So it should come as no surprise that most of the peanut butter sold in America is smooth and creamy. In our household though, chunky always wins. We’re two gay men afterall. No women to tell us what type of peanut butter to eat!

Creamy peanut butter certainly has its uses in home cooking, but when it comes to the simple pleasure of slathering peanut butter onto a crusty piece of toast, nothing is as satisfying as the crunchy texture of all those little pieces of roasted peanuts.

Though peanuts have a pretty high fat content, making peanut butter requires the addition of fat to help turn ground peanuts into a spreadable butter. Peanut oil is the obvious choice, but you can experiment here as well. We used coconut oil in the peanut butter pictured. Coconut oil keeps it super thick and gives it a slightly sweet, tropical flavor. Using raw peanuts gives you better control over the depth of the roasted flavor in the final product, and allows you to fine tune your own recipe with just a little experimentation. Once prepared, peanut butter should go into the refrigerator to extend its shelf-life.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Roasted Peanut Butter

2 cups (16 ounces) raw, shelled peanuts
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoons honey
1-2 tablespoons peanut oil or other oil (we used warmed coconut oil)

Heat the oven to 350°F and toast the peanuts on a baking sheet until lightly golden and glossy with oil, about 10 minutes. Place the warm peanuts, salt and honey into the bowl of a food processor. Process for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Place the lid back on and continue to process while slowly drizzling in the oil and process until the mixture is smooth, but not too smooth, 1  to 1 1/2 minutes, or longer if you want ultra smooth peanut butter. Place the peanut butter in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.