Tiramisu cake for a very special birthday

We've been celebrating a very special birthday around here!  It's my husband's birthday and while he might not want a lot of fanfare on his day, I want to cue the confetti because he truly deserves it.
This year, we don't have the aftershocks of Hurricane Sandy to contend with so things are thankfully calmer.  My husband managed to have a day off from work here and there during the last couple of weeks and it's so nice to have some alone time together during the day.  I'm grateful that he doesn't mind spending some of his free time running errands with me and helping me haul bags and bags of groceries (I'm amazed by the amount of groceries my family of 3 needs!).  My husband's just cool like that.

The two of us managed to have a lovely dinner out last weekend as an early birthday celebration. For the actual event, it'll be a family dinner at home cooked by yours truly.  I asked him what he'd like for dinner and not surprisingly, he picked one of his favorites, a risotto with saffron, clams and shrimp. As for birthday cake, he went with Ina/Beatty's chocolate cake, which is definitely another family favorite. To get a head start on the celebration, I made that cake last weekend and we had no problems devouring it over the course of a few days among the three of us.  We occasionally hoard this cake - it's so easy to do so because it stays moist and delicious for days.
A family favorite (the "first" birthday cake): Ina/Beatty's chocolate cake
But in thinking about my husband's birthday during the last few weeks, I couldn't help but want to make something different, a little surprise, for him.  Somewhere, I saw a picture of a small tiramisu cake and given my husband's love of tiramisu, I started searching for some ideas.  

At first, I thought I'd turn the last tiramisu recipe I made into a cake but the idea of fitting the ladyfingers into a round cake pan sounded like a potential mess.  So long story short, I ended up at Smitten Kitchenagain, and decided to make the tiramisu cake recipe by Dorie Greenspan. Since we just finished polishing off that chocolate cake, I made a small 6-inch tiramisu cake for our birthday boy.
Instead of ladyfingers, this tiramisu cake starts with two yellow cake layers.  The layers are soaked with an espresso syrup.  In between is a creamy filling made with mascarpone cheese and whipped cream, flavored with espresso and liqueur.  There's also a hidden stash of finely chopped chocolate within that adds crunch and additional flavor (chocolate!) to the cake.  

I used amaretto as our liqueur of choice so I went ahead and added a bit of almond extract to the cake layers, too.  After reading some of the comments left by others who've made the cake (big thanks to those people who take the time to do that!) saying the cake could have used more syrup, I doubled-up on it to make sure I'd have enough.  In other words, I made half the recipe for the cake, filling, and frosting but the full amount of espresso syrup to make sure I could properly soak and flavor the cake.
Boy, am I glad I made extra syrup!  I used nearly all of it (the double-portion) and I think the cake could have still handled more!  As you can see from the photo above, the cake is just thirsting for that liquid.  I'm happy with the end result though - I just highly recommend doubling up on that espresso syrup and being patient in giving the cake a good deep soak.

If you're thinking all the dividing and doubling sounds a little convoluted and confusing, it was a little bit.  Shrinking this recipe down by half was a little tricky since there are several components to this cake so I wouldn't necessarily recommend it.  I made this cake the night before we planned to eat it since it needs time to sit in the refrigerator for the flavors to meld.  The late hour didn't exactly help my concentration but I did it with joy because it was for a most deserving fella!  And luckily, the fella was a big fan of the cake so it was worth the effort.


As you'll be able to tell from the recipe, there are quite a few parts to this recipe.  It's not difficult but there are a few steps so I had to really pay attention to the recipe.  I'm not going to confuse the situation by dividing the original recipe in half but I am doubling the recipes for the espresso extract and syrup since this cake really needs the added amount, in my experience.
Keeping it real: Putting the cake together (and trying not to mess it up) around 9pm
I tried to get a little creative in decorating this cake though I suppose less is more.  I have some crunchy chocolate perles that I've been wanting to use so I placed them around the cake as a border. Then I decided to make that heart stencil (quasi-successfully) and then the bits of chocolate somehow landed around the heart.
If you have a serious tiramisu lover in your life, you might consider this cake.  I really liked it. It's got great classic tiramisu flavor - just remember to load up on that espresso syrup and give the cake layers a good douse because it can handle it!

The birthday boy seemed to enjoy his surprise so I'm happy!  Here's to many more birthday cakes and special days!

Recipe:

Tiramisu Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, original recipe by Dorie Greenspan *

* When I made this cake, I divided the recipe in half to make a two-layer 6-inch cake.  It gets extra confusing that way so I'm sticking with a full size here.  If you do decide to do what I did, the cake layers take roughly 18 minutes to bake.  I made a few small changes to the original recipe.  I added almond extract to the cake since I used amaretto liqueur.  I am doubling the original amount of espresso extract and syrup because I think the cake needs that additional moisture and flavor.

- For a two-layer 9-inch cake - 

For the cake layers:
2 cups (255 grams) cake flour
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (140 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla (8 ml) extract
1 teaspoon almond extract (optional, if using amaretto)
3/4 cup buttermilk

For espresso extract (used to flavor espresso syrup and frosting)*:
4 tablespoons instant espresso powder
4 tablespoons (60 ml) boiling water

For espresso syrup*: 
1 cup (240 ml) water
2/3 cup (130 grams) sugar
2 tablespoons (30 ml) amaretto (that's what I used), Kahlua, or brandy

For filling and frosting:
1 8-ounce (225 grams) container mascarpone, at room temperature
1/2 cup (60 grams) confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons (8 ml) pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon (15 ml) amaretto (that's what I used), Kahlua, or brandy
1 cup (235 ml) cold heavy cream
2 1/2 ounces (70 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Ideas of decorating the cake: unsweetened cocoa powder, dark chocolate shavings, chocolate-covered espresso beans, chocolate perles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in the center of the oven.  Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, then grease and flour the pans.

Make cake layers:
Sift the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed until creamy.  Add sugar and beat for 3 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating about 1 minute after each addition.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, as needed.  Beat in the vanilla.  At this point, the mixture may look curdled.  On low speed, add dry ingredients in 3 increments, alternating with 2 additions of the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry.  Scrape bowl and mix until just incorporated.  Divide batter evenly among the two pans, smoothing the tops with an offset spatula.

Bake until cake is lightly golden, the surface is dry and springs slightly to the touch, and a cake tester comes out clean (28-30 minutes, but check early).  Transfer cakes to a wire rack, let cool 5 minutes before running a knife around the edges and turning the cakes out.  Remove parchment paper and let cakes cool (right-side up) to room temperature.  

Make espresso extract:
Stir espresso powder and boiling water together in a heatproof bowl until combined.  Set aside to be incorporated in steps below.

Make espresso syrup:
In a small saucepan, heat the water and sugar together.  Stir together and bring just to a boil.  Pour the sugar syrup into a heatproof bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons of the espresso extract and the liqueur.  Set aside.

Make filling and frosting:
Put mascarpone, confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and liqueur into a large bowl.  Whisk together until just smooth.  

Whip heavy cream to firm peaks using the whip attachment of a stand mixer.  Using a rubber spatula, stir about one-quarter of the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture.  Fold in the rest of the whipped cream gently until just combined.

Assembling the cake:
If the tops of the cake layers have crowned, use a serrated knife to trim the bumps to even them. Place one layer, right-side up, onto a cake plate.  Tuck a few strips of wax or parchment paper under the sides of the cake to make for easy clean-up.  Use a pastry brush or small spoon to soak the layer with about one-third the espresso syrup.  Smooth some of the mascarpone cream over the layer (about 1 1 /4 cups), then gently press the chopped chocolate into the filling.

Place second cake layer onto a work surface or plate.  Soak with half of the remaining espresso syrup, then turn the cake over and place over the filling, soaked side down.  Soak the top of the cake with the remaining syrup.  It will seem like a lot but the cake can take it.

For the frosting that goes on the outside of the cake, whisk 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons more of the remaining espresso extract into the remaining mascarpone filling.  Taste to adjust and see if you like more or less extract.  The frosting might be a bit too wet/soft to spread at this point.  If that's the case, press a piece of plastic wrap over the surface and chill for about 15 minutes.  Refrigerate the cake as well.

Spread the frosting around the sides and top of the cake.  If decorating the top with chocolate-covered espresso beans or chocolate perles, you can press it onto the cake now.  Refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours or up to a day in advance before servings so the flavors can meld.

Before serving, you can also dust the top of the cake with cocoa powder or chocolate shavings.  Let cake sit at room temperature for about half an hour before serving; it is best served cool.



  

62 comments:

  1. A cool hubby like him definitely deserves a cool cake like this!
    The first chocolate birthday cake looks terrific too, Monica.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks - a little cake overload but what's a special birthday without a cake (or two), right? ; )

      Delete
  2. Happy birthday to your hubby Monica - definitely sounds like a cool hubby and deserving of both of these scrumptious cakes :) They both look incredible! Love the dusted chocolate heart on the Tiramisu - looks so adorable:) My hubby's favorite is chocolate as well as Tiramisu cake too and I love that this one doesn't require lady fingers - it looks super moist and flavorful. Hoping you all have a wonderful celebration and week Monica!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We have husbands with good taste, I think, Kelly! ; ) I gotta say the cake is really good - I could eat a lot more than I did! Self control is a difficult thing...

      Delete
  3. Happy birthday to your husband!! That cake is beautiful and so sweet! My husband loves tiramisu... maybe I'll have to make this cake for his birthday too! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Appreciate it, Marie! Yes, make it for your hubby...haha. I'm sure he'd love anything you make.

      Delete
  4. Two beautiful cakes here Monica! The both sound delicious and I love that you made a 6 inch cake - so chic! I'm sure your hubby loved them both. Belated Birthday wishes to him!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for the kind words, Jo!

      Delete
  5. Aw yay! I love this - happy birthday to Mr. Playing with Flour : ) This cake looks pretty darn awesome - my family is super italian and I know they would loveeee this cake!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. haha - thank you! I'm in awe of the amazing goodness that we have to thank Italians for - seriously! I was never a big fan of coffee desserts and tiramisu but I am a different woman now! Love it! : )

      Delete
  6. Wow, he must be a pretty great guy to get two cakes...and you're a pretty nice wife for making them! ;) This sounds great, Monica, and I love your heart decoration! I can see why he enjoyed the cake so much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Amy! He is the best and puts up with my constant jabbering and incessant talking and questioning! : ) Decorating is not my thing, as you can probably tell, but I did have a great time working on this little project.

      Delete
    2. I just saw this reply...my husband always comments about how I incessantly talk and ask questions, haha! It usually comes up after I ask him if he's listening and he says he can't possibly listen to every thing I say ;) I have a feeling if we got together there would be non-stop talking :)

      Delete
    3. haha - I'm a little 'better' now...I think I've gotten a teeny bit quieter as I got older. Back in the day, I could talk your ear off. I think having a child changes you a bit. : )

      Delete
  7. What a wonderful birthday your husband must have had. Very nice cake with a delicious double syrup? Yes please! Love it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a very relaxing birthday this year...I think in part because there's no drama with storms and that Thanksgiving is a little later. And yes - double syrup is totally necessary! It is not too much. : )

      Delete
  8. This looks like the perfect birthday cake-beautiful and delicious!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Awwh what an adorable surprise! This looks like the perfect birthday cake for your hubby, and I'm sure he loved it!
    It looks extra amazing, so it goes to my list! I can't wait to make it ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He did enjoy it, thank you, Consuelo! I'm honored if it makes your list...though I know you have a ton of Christmas cookies to bake and eat. : )

      Delete
  10. So sweet of you Monica...the cake looks so pretty and just perfect for the occasion. I love the idea of small cake...so much more elegant.
    Have a wonderful week ahead :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do love making smaller cakes - since it's more realistic if we're eating it ourselves. Sometimes I wonder if it makes sense since I'm going to the "work" of making it anyway, maybe I might as well make a big one - but it's cute and cute is important. haha

      Delete
  11. Its a real blessing to have husbands who help around the house,and you are a perfect loving wife to treat him with an adorable surprise cake. He definitely deserved it and the cake just looks so amazing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wholeheartedly agree with you. There's nothing better than having a true friend and partner to share everything with. Thanks for the sweet words, Balvinder.

      Delete
  12. I'm the tiramisu lover in the house and I love this cake! My daughter always requests tiramisu for her birthday dessert so we don't necessarily make cake. I love the stuff though so I don't mind! Happy birthday to you husband! I also drag mine around to run errands when he's off the best part is having a. quiet lunch together before we get the kids from school.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Nazneen - my 8-yr old has an "abnormal" love of all things coffee as well...he loves coffee ice cream and all kinds of coffee desserts. Must take after his dad but honestly, I love all coffee things now like I never did as a child. I love having my husband to shop with and chat with...and you are spot on about the quiet lunches...we do just that!

      Delete
  13. Happy Birthday to your hubby Monica! So sweet of you to cook and bake for him. :) And so sweet of him to help you around the house/run errands on his day off! I got drooly just seeing "risotto with saffron, clams and shrimp". I hope that will make an appearance on your blog soon? :)

    This cake looks absolutely amazing! If I didn't read this post, I would have thought you bought this cake! It''s just gorgeous! Have a fantastic week my friend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. haha - Anne, I find it really hard to post savory. Sometimes I don't cook from recipe and even though I'm branching out and learning a lot more lately, I'm always in a rush to get the food hot on the table so there's no time for picture-taking. Plus, I usually "cook-cook" at night when it's not ideal for picture taking. I've been making that risotto for years...it's a Martha Stewart recipe. I lighten it a bit and add peas sometimes, etc. It changes a bit but it's my husband all-time fave.

      Thanks about the cake. I don't know if I'd be happy with my lopsided cake if it came from a bakery but I thank you, my friend! : )

      Delete
    2. I hear ya about savory dishes. There are a few times when I had to shoot and the food got cold. Chris is a real trooper though... he didn't mind eating it cold or re-heated. haha! I'll have google your recipe from Martha and see if I can locate it. Sounds so good! Take care.

      Delete
    3. This is the recipe that I follow: http://www.marthastewart.com/316771/saffron-and-shellfish-risotto. I do make a few changes to it (like leaving out the cheese...yes, call me crazy!) . Depending on what kind of veg broth you use (some with tomatoes in it or not), the color of the dish will be different...I also like to throw peas in now since I rarely have parsley around. I've showed some pictures (not very good quality, I'm afraid) of some savory dishes I like to make, mainly risotto and pastas here:
      http://www.playingwithflour.com/2011/06/savory-break.html
      http://www.playingwithflour.com/2012/01/rambling.html

      I know this is way more info. than you ever wanted! : )

      Delete
  14. What a beautiful cake Monica! So sweet of you to stay up late and bake for him. Tiramisu is a favourite in our house too and I keep looking for ways to get creative with it. I love the idea of using extra syrup in the cake..I'm sure it tasted divine! Happy Birthday to your husband.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much! The extra syrup was a huge tip from the comments section...people said they would double up...and I know my husband wants lots of espresso/liqueur flavor. : ) It was fun and I'm glad it worked out.

      Delete
  15. Happy birthday to your husband!! As a serious tiramisu lover myself I am kind of enamored with this cake! I'll definitely be making it for future celebrations!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The fact that you'd consider making it makes me smile. Spread the cake love! : ) Thank you, Joanne.

      Delete
  16. Happy Birthday to your husband! How sweet of you to make a surprise cake for him! It looks so good. Mascarpone and amaretto are two of my favorite things :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Christin! I have got to get using mascarpone more often. It's really divine. You have great taste.

      Delete
  17. Happy Birthday to him and glad to hear this year was a little better then last year!
    This cake is gorgeous, you both are so lucky to enjoy it together! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Pamela. We're both definitely lucky and have a lot to be thankful for! I'm sure it's the same for you. : )

      Delete
  18. Happy Birthday to your hubby, Monica!! What a sumptuous homemade treat! Love tiramisu :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Kiran. We had a great birthday celebration!

      Delete
  19. What a cute and gorgeous cake! I'm speechless and what a big piece of this cake! I love tiramisu, in any form. :) Oh my, your hubby is a lucky guy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Amy. Your family sure is lucky to benefit from your cooking and baking skills!

      Delete
  20. aw, what a lovely treat for your husband! he's certainly a lucky man :) hope he had a wonderful birthday!
    the hobbit kitchen x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He did, thank you! Birthdays are nice when you can slow down and enjoy it. : )

      Delete
  21. Happy birthday to the hubby!!! Beatty's cake is great - but surprise cakes are always better! Esp THAT cake! It looks amazing - tiramisu is one of my faves so I might have to make it for my own birthday in March! That gives me about 4 months to learn how to make my frosting look like that...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Natalie. Beatty's is a family-wide fave. I love that you'd make yourself a treat for your birthday. : ) You're really sweet but my frosting doesn't look at that good, I'm afraid. You can tell cake decorating is not my thing and the recipe is a bit "fancy" in that you add more liquid to the frosting that goes around the outside of the cake...that makes it a bit more grainy and wet. I just went with it.

      Delete
  22. what a nice thing to do for your husband! it's always nice to surprise them with something, especially because more often than not, guys like to be the "oh don't do anything big for me" type. I love what you did here, and the way you decorated it is my favorite part! say happy birthday to your husband for me...i'm sure he had a great one with all that cake!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm just glad things are quieter this year that I had a chance to do a bit more. Thanksgiving being a bit "late" helped. Thanks, Shannon!

      Delete
  23. Who would not love this special tiramisu cake! Not to mention it is such a 'sweet' birthday idea. I adore your creativity Monica : ).

    ReplyDelete
  24. Omg.. Beautiful cake and lovely clicks.. I love tiramisu a lot :) Thanks for this delicious recipe monica :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awww...you're very sweet. I'm glad to know another tiramisu lover. I now consider myself one too. : )

      Delete
  25. Really sorry for wishing late, but HERE's wishing him a belated Birthday. Happy Birthday.
    He sounds so sweet, a keeper for sure. THis cake is stunning, I really enjoy a tiramisu, and in this form, oh wow. I need to make this, it's being a while.
    Oh yes, I have no clue too, why the groceries are this much for a family of four. I am always grocery shopping and yes, constantly dragging hubby here and there.
    Have a great weekend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Appreciate the birthday wishes, Asha! I hope you make a tiramisu cake one day soon.
      As my son gets older, I'm just going to the store more and more often and I've just come to terms with it. Good thing I enjoy it (as long as it's not crowded!).

      Delete
  26. Wow this recipe looks amazing, Monica! I think the idea of a tiramisu in cake form is simply tantalizing, and I would very much like to try out this recipe in the future. Bookmarking it! I also really appreciate the thorough explanation of how and why you changed up the recipe to enhance it (: Hope you're having a wonderful Friday!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great for a tiramisu lover, Monica. : ) You know what I appreciate? The fact that you took the time to read the explanation and to comment back about it. Not everyone has time to do that (which I totally understand since I'm the same way - in a rush - a lot of times) but it's really nice to know you took an interest and read what I wrote despite how busy you must be. Thank you so much! xo

      Delete
  27. Happy birthday to your husband! He's truly a lucky husband who gets to eat all the baked goods "daily" and special cake on his birthday! My husband will be very jealous. He overly gets excited if/when my oven is on. Hahaha! Gorgeous cake. So detailed and beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much! Your husband is as lucky as it gets with all your amazing food and I know you do bake! : ) I'm jealous of *him* and your kids! haha

      Delete
  28. How sweet of you to go through the extra trouble of making the special cake for your husband. Sometimes the best gifts come from time and effort--and not material things. Your family is so lucky to have you make all this for them!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's so sweet of you, Tiffany. I feel lucky to be able to have this hobby and to learn so much and when I make something my family likes, it is such a happy feeling! : )

      Delete
  29. He sounds like a lovely man and you sound like a super lovely lady! The cake is *stunning*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awww...thanks, Aimee. He is lovely for sure and I hope I'm decent enough. : )

      Delete

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...