After the last few months off (you know the story, life got in the way) Courtney and I decided we need to revive BLK. In order to revive BLK we needed to go on vacation (okay, maybe vacation was already planned). Courtney, her husband Tom, their son Jackson, her brother Riley, our friend Abi, and I all caravanned up to Vinalhaven, Maine for a week in July.
No joke, we had been planning on going on this trip since at least October 2010 and I think we were all more than ready to be on vacation in Vinalhaven. However, with ten months of waiting and thinking of what we could make while we were there, I might have gone a little crazy. Some might say I became obsessed with s’mores. Others might say I am totally normal and to shut up if they want any s’mores desserts. [Yes, ma’am – C]
I am not really sure where my obsession came from. I mean, I’ve always liked s’mores-flavored food stuffs, but I have never been completely crazy about them. But this summer? This summer, by GOD, was going to be The Summer of S’mores. I mean, think about it, what isn’t to love about graham crackers, chocolate, and toasted marshmallows? [Perhaps Pinterest had something to do with it? – C]
I planned for seven different s’mores desserts—one for each night we were on vacation!—and bought most of the ingredients beforehand just in case (because maybe Vinalhaven would be bizzare-o world and wouldn’t have graham crackers or butter? I don’t know, it made sense at the time!). In the end, I only made five recipes, because two nights of the trip were up eaten up by driving. I think everyone (except maybe Jack, who I don’t think got ANY – his mom is mean) were satisfied with the recipes we did have [Cram it, he was always asleep by the time we made everything –C].
You can never have too many s’mores desserts.
S’mores Pie [My personal favorite. Abi’s too! – C]:
S’mores Giant Cookies [Tom’s favorite – he said he ate “SO many” of them. – C]
Of course, the s’mores love didn’t end in Maine. Recently, Courtney and I got together to make this spectacular s’mores cake.
Even while we were in Maine, we didn’t do a whole lot of cooking. Riley is a chef, trained at the CIA—were we really going to pass up the opportunity to let him cook for us? I think not. And, I’m not sure about Court, but I have been fairly lazy in the kitchen lately. [Ditto! Did you know that Safeway-brand frozen pizzas are really good? Just saying. – C] I don’t think it is exaggerating to say this was my first “hard” recipe is several months, at least since the beginning of summer.
Court and I conferred on a Friday afternoon, over IM, on who would take care of what ingredients for when we met at her house the next day. She assured me she had all the dry ingredients and the tools we’d need for the three-layer cake, and I would bring the rest.
Saturday afternoon I drove over to her house in order to get cracking on this thang. Our momentum was momentarily put on hold when Courtney a) only had two cake pans, not three and b) did not have enough sugar.
Tom and Jack came to our rescue and went out to get a cake pan, sugar, and some butane for her kitchen torch.
While they were out, Court and I worked on the cake up to the step where we needed the extra pan and more sugar. First, we made the graham cracker layer that goes on two of the cake layers. It starts with making some browned butter to mix in with the graham crackers, and what sugar we did have.
We burned the butter.
Actually, we pretty much blackened the butter. BLK, off to yet another spectacular start. We salvaged what we could and then melted s’more (I am punny) butter in the microwave. Eff browning. We did manage to heat water and mix it with cocoa without incident. [A word of wisdom: as good as it might smell, cocoa powder with no sugar in it does not, I repeat NOT, taste good. – C] Around this time, Tom and Jack got back with the pan and sugar.
So we creamed the butter and sugar together, measured the dry ingredients, and mixed them with the cocoa liquid. Although, not without error. Accidentally, I mixed the cocoa with the dry and the wet, instead of adding half the dry to the wet and half the dry to the cocoa. I really don’t think this was crucial. The batter came together fine with no weird lumps.
Everything mixed together, the graham cracker layers in place in two of the pans, we poured the batter evenly into all three prepared cake pans. We put them in the oven, set the timer for 12 minutes and 30 seconds (half of the estimated time so that we would remember to rotate them) and were very proud of ourselves.
Until about 3 minutes in when I looked at the counter and saw the eggs still sitting out. See this step? The adding-the-eggs step? That is a crucial step.
So out came the cakes. Thankfully, no real baking had occurred yet. We beat the eggs separately, and then we poured and scraped as much batter as possible back into the bowl to mix in the eggs.
Back into the oven the cakes went.
Next we made the ganache. Jack "helped." We did not screw this step up.
Next we made the marshmallow frosting. We did not screw this step up.*
The cakes came out and we let them cool while we all worked on putting Jackson to bed. (On vacation there was a five-to-one ratio of adults to child; I think we needed it sometimes.) [I agree. Hillary Clinton was totally on to something. – C]
It was time to frost the cake, and Court did most of the heavy lifting here. Well, that is after I turned over the second layer and it started to crumble and huge chunks fell off. She did an admirable job of fixing my mistakes and putting on a lovely crumb coat.
While Court was frosting and I was reading to Jack before bedtime (specifically requested, I might add), our friend Sarah came over. It should be noted that this cake was, ostensibly, for Sarah's birthday, although honestly that was just an excuse to make ridiculous s'mores cake. For the final frosting I took the reins once again and added a thicker layer of ganache and the marshmallow frosting while Sarah made us snacks.
Frosting on, we started to play with the kitchen torch. The butane didn't seem to work at first, so we decided to be better safe than sorry and use matches to try to toast the frosting. Um, that did not work. It also hurt.
Finally, it was time to actually eat the cake. It is a fairly tall cake, made that much taller by the mound of marshmallow frosting on top, so it was a little hard to cut and plate while keeping everything together. Of course, we all know that great looks aren’t necessary to taste great and this cake was AWESOME. Especially once Court got the milk out.
In the end, was it a complete success? No. We sucked our first time back baking. But, it wasn’t a complete failure either. I mean, no one died, so it must not have been too bad. [I might have had a hard time falling asleep due to the extremely full stomach and sugar overload, but I guess I can’t complain. There are worse ways to go. – C]
* Of course this triumph was short lived when the marshmallow frosting started to slide off the cake. Yeah, when making the marshmallow frosting I let it get to stiff peaks but did not take the 5 minutes to beat them until really stiff (that’s what she said) and shiny. I think that might have been a mistake. It is my guess the frosting would have been drier, fluffier, and lighter from more air being beaten into the mix. Instead of the wet (but tasty), heavy (but really tasty), slippery frosting we had.
P.S. Notice that lovely cake plate? The next day after we'd cleaned it off, Jack leaned on it and it broke into pieces. We had to Facetime Turk so he could apologize. He keeps saying "Sarah happy birthday cake? Broken. Sorry, Turkey."