There’s a reason why it’s a classic flavor. Just think about biting into a freshly toasted, warm, delicious s’more right now. It’s crunchy, melty, and gooey; sweet, salty, bitter, and smokey all at once. It’s the perfect dessert in a tiny little square. Good with children, will easily travel.
So when some friends and I booked a weekend cabin in Wisconsin for The Hubby’s birthday, I thought what better-flavored cake for a cabin in the woods then a s’mores cake? Long story short involving drinking, spaghetti and meatballs, a complicated board game, way too much corn on the cob, and some other things I won’t mention here… cake didn’t happen. But I had all of the ingredients already, and Facebook reminded me that it was Crumb What May’s birthday as well, so I made it when we got home.
There is certainly no shortage of s’mores cakes online, but I wanted something with graham cracker flavored cake (not just white or chocolate cake) and a toasty marshmallow frosting. Something complex but not complicated. I found this s’mores cake from preppy kitchen which seemed to fit the bill. It had a buttermilk and sour cream cake with graham cracker crumbs for flavor, chocolate buttercream frosting, and “marshmallow” meringue filling with chocolate drizzle for added measure.
Just so happened to be the first few chilly days of fall when I made it too… perfect.
I’m always wary of things that are meant to taste like something else. It sets you up to expect something very specific, then if it doesn’t taste like that, you’re disappointed. This s’mores cake was a pretty good match, had all of the elements of s’mores: graham, chocolate, toasted marshmallow, while still being it’s own thing. The toasted meringue did a good job of mimicking the flavor of toasted marshmallow, and the graham cracker crumbs in the cake lent just enough graham flavor, although if I made it again I would probably add a little more and take out a little flour accordingly.
The chocolate buttercream is the only thing that I’m having a hard time judging. I made it ahead of time and it ended up in the fridge (woops! never refrigerate your buttercream if you can help it!). I brought it back to room temperature before frosting, but it was still rather firm. After frosting and refrigerating the cake it got pretty hard because of the chocolate. Like crunchy hard. Which, I actually kind of liked the added texture, but my husband felt the need to microwave his cake slice a couple of seconds to soften it up. The only other thing, this cake is VERY sweet. Mostly due to the many layers with chocolate and meringue between each layer. If I made it again I would stick to 2 layers so there’s a better cake-to-frostings ratio.
So I decided to make this cake a little rougher than the original post. I figured it’s smores, you usually make them with a dirty stick in the woods, it should be a little rough! So I left the buttercream a little patchy and pushed the meringue down the sides a little. I think it turned out quite nice, don’t you? The meringue browned up beautifully and actually kept pretty well in the fridge for a few days. I chose not to go through the effort of baking up the graham crumble and just used plain crushed graham cracker on the base as well.
I did find it a little difficult to do the first layer of frosting (the crumb coat) because the meringue between the layers is very soft, and the buttercream is very thick due to the chocolate (and me putting it in the fridge) the layers tended to slide around a lot. But after I got a rough coat on I put the cake in the fridge for about 30 minutes and put on a second coat and it went on much nicer. For the meringue, I piped random blobs and rosettes with a star tip, then swirled them all together with an offset.
I found the instructions to be pretty clear – although the assumption of some skills is implied. You are expected going in to know things like the proper consistency of buttercream, and stages of egg peaks. Good news about the latter, I talk about it and provide helpful links in this post about lemon meringue tarts! Although, if you’re taking on a 4 layer cake with homemade chocolate frosting and piped, toasted meringue, I expect you probably have a certain level of skill. Which brings me to…
Ok so it’s not gooey butter cake, you can’t just dump, mix, and bake (although apparently some people can still manage to mess that one up, that’s a story for another day). The cake itself is pretty standard: mix dry, mix wet, cream butter and sugar, add dries and wets to the butter in batches. This is a process you’ll see in a lot of cake recipes. Really the hard part is just the meringue. I do believe, however, just like all the recipes I post, so long as the instructions are clear and you follow them closely, and read the whole damn thing beforehand even a beginner can achieve it. It just might not look as good. Sorry, but if you’ve never flat frosted a cake before or piped meringue… that shit takes practice. I’m still pretty rough at it myself, as you can see.
It also requires some more advanced equipment: stand mixer, candy thermometer, and torch. I suppose you could accomplish it with an electric egg beater, but standing there for 10 minutes while the fluff cools would be an epic pain. You could also just not torch the meringue as the egg whites are cooked with the sugar syrup, but what fun is that? The toasted marshmallow flavor is half the point! And I certainly don’t recommend putting it in the oven to toast or you will end up with melted buttercream.
Surprisingly enough given the skill level this S’mores Cake recipe didn’t take as long as expected. The cakes and the buttercream came together pretty quickly, and the hands-on time for the meringue isn’t much either. Always utilize downtimes to prepare other parts of the cake, such as making the buttercream while the cakes are in the oven, and preparing the piping bags while the meringue finishes whipping. Frosting and assembling the final product takes the longest of course, but the nice part about this particular cake is that it’s meant to be a little imperfect so you don’t have to take too long trying to be precise. The topping and accouterment hides a multitude of sins.
Luxury ain’t cheap my friends. This one came in at $18.12 for exact amounts of ingredients needed for the cake ($5.50 alone for butter!). If you needed to buy ingredients you didn’t have in whole portions, it would likely be more. You do get a decent amount of slices out of the cake though. Even though it’s only 6 inches diameter, it’s pretty tall and rich, so you can get away with serving pretty thin slices.
So, anyone up for a challenge? I promise it’s worth it, and taking on bakes such as these are what really teaches you how to take your baking up a notch. Tell me your thoughts!