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Tiramisu Cake

From smittenkitchen.com, taken from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.

Difficulty rating: I think a 3 is fair. None of the steps are especially difficult, but there are a lot of them.

Note: There is a very small amount of alcohol in this recipe, but if you abstain completely, just be aware.

Tip: Give yourself at least 5 hours if not more to make this since it needs to chill for a few hours when you're all done.)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350. Grease two 9" round cake pans with butter or shortening and dust the insides with flour, tapping out all but a thin layer.

Making the cake:

  • 2 C. cake flour 
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 sticks (10 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 C. buttermilk

Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and beat for 1 minute after each addition, adding the egg yolk last. Beat in the vanilla.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk a little at a time, alternating flour, buttermilk, flour, buttermilk, flour. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients are just blended. Pour the batter evenly into both pans and smooth the tops.

Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Make sure a toothpick (or other small poking object) comes out clean, then place cakes on a wire rack and let cool for 10-15 minutes. Run a knife around the sides of the cakes and pop them out, then let sit right-side up on rack until completely cool.

Making the espresso extract:

  • 2 Tbsp. instant espresso powder
  • 2 Tbsp. boiling water

Heat the water in the microwave until just boiling, then stir in the espresso powder until blended. Set aside. Note: You will use some of this to make the espresso syrup (below) and the rest will be added to the frosting later on. Don't confuse this extract with the following syrup.

Making the espresso syrup:

  • 1/2 C. water
  • 1/3 C. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. amaretto, Kahlua or brandy

Stir the water and sugar together in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil, then pour the syrup into a small glass bowl and mix in 1 Tbsp. of the espresso extract and the 1 Tbsp. of liqueur or brandy; set aside. 

Making the filling & frosting:

  • 1 8-oz. container mascarpone
  • 1/2 C. powdered sugar, sifted 
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp. amaretto, Kahlua or brandy
  • 1 C. heavy cream
  • 2 1/2 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, or 1/2 C. mini chocolate chips

Put the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla and liqueur/brandy in a large bowl and whisk until just blended and smooth.

Working with the stand mixer with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, whip the heavy cream until it holds firm peaks. (I used a medium speed and it took somewhere between 5-10 minutes. Don't overdo it or it'll re-mush.) Using a rubber spatula, stir about a quarter of the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream with a light touch.

Putting it all together:
If the tops of the cake layers have crowned, use a long serrated knife to even them.

(I didn't need to do this, but in retrospect, I'd recommend doing it regardless, because it would remove the crust layer of the cake, making it texturally more like ladyfingers.)

Place a piece of waxed paper or something similar to cover your countertop and begin building your cake on it. Don't transfer to your cake stand or plate until you're ready to frost because these steps can be a little messy.

Using a pastry brush or small spoon, soak the top of the first cake layer with about 1/3 of the espresso syrup. (About 2 oz.) Smooth about 1 1/4 C. of the mascarpone filling over the layer and gently press the chopped chocolate into the filling.

Put the second cake layer on the counter and soak the top of it with half the remaining espresso syrup (2 oz.), then turn the layer over and position it, soaked side down, over the filling. Soak the top of the cake with the remaining syrup. (2 oz.)

For the frosting, whisk 1 Tbsp. of the remaining espresso extract into the remaining mascarpone filling. Taste the frosting as you go to decide if you want to add more extract. (I stopped at 1 Tbsp., though it was most of what was left anyway.) If the frosting is too soft to spread over the cake, press a piece of plastic wrap against its surface and refrigerate both it and the cake for 15 minutes. 

Frost the cake, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours (or for up to 1 day) before serving.

Just before serving, dust the top of the cake with cocoa. Feel free to cut out your own fun stencil from waxed paper. Chocolate-covered espresso beans would also make a tasty decoration.

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