Not everyone can press my buttons to push me just that ‘little bit’ over the limit and out of my comfort zone. But I do enjoy being pushed out of my comfort zone, and I thrive under that kind of pressure. The one little person who knows when and how to push those buttons is nobody else but my son. He knows I won’t turn him down and I will make it happen. He doesn’t ask for things often, but when he does, they really are something.
When I asked my little guy what he wanted for his 12th birthday, he just said he wanted a multi layered cake with lots of coffee in it. He recently developed a taste for coffee flavoured things and cappuccinos, so he wanted a coffee flavoured cake. I thought I would make him a Tiramisu cake but he then said he wanted the cake to have 28 layers since his birthday falls on the 28th day of the month. What? I didn’t want to say to him that it would be a a few feet high if I baked 28 layers but it was something I had to think about.
So, the silent thinking process began. It usually takes me a little while to get my head around something very challenging as I have to get it perfect. I finally decided on the crepes as the layers for the cake, but decided to infuse coffee into the crepes. I made the crepes in 3 batches and the first batch was the darkest in colour as I may have put too much coffee in that one, the second one was lighter than the first batch and the third batch was the lightest. Fortunately, this gave the cake a bit of an ombre effect and I loved how it turned out. This wasn’t intentional but nobody needs to know that.
The icing was the tricky part as I didn’t want it to slide around and I wanted to be able to slice the cake neatly instead of the layers collapsing on me. I like my cakes in a neater pile rather than them turning into an Eton mess kind of a dessert with lots of creams. However, since this was going to be a little challenging for me, my back up plan was if the pile of crepes collapsed on me, I would just call it a Tiramisu mess and serve it up as a new dessert anyways. Thankfully, we survived on the original plan.
The trick with the icing was to keep it really thick on the bottom layers to stop them slipping and sliding. Whilst I used a foil covered piece of cardboard as a base for my cake (the top of a pizza box) I placed it on top of my cake revolving stand to help get an even layer of the icing. Since the crepes were frozen with greaseproof paper between them, it was easier to ice them whilst they were hard and cold.
The outer layer of the icing was a lot softer than the bottom layers and then it was a simple sprinkling of cocoa and some Ferraro Rocher’s on top as it felt incomplete without some chocolate on top. I was going to make some chocolate shavings for the top but after icing 31 layers, my wrists were crying out for some rest. The hardest part in all this was trying to ice the layers with the boys running around with their tongues hanging out waiting to bite into the cake and the dogs panting as they were waiting for the little icing droppings that occasionally fell to the floor. I’m sure the floor is shinier at that spot now. I dropped the spatula a couple of times which was fun for the dogs and every time I turned, my wooden spoon or sides of the bowl were licked clean by the non-furry assistants. It was fun putting it together in the midst of the commotion it created. I had very eager assistants running around waiting to help me for a change, and at one point I even heard someone say ‘anything for you, Madam’. That alone was worth the hours of toiling over this cake.
3 cups Cake flour
1/2 cup sugar
5 large egg yolks
5 large eggs
1 tsp salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 cups whole milk
3 tsp Instant Espresso powder (for first batch only)
2 tsp Instant Espresso powder (for second batch only)
1 tsp Instant Espresso powder (for last batch only)
The crepes I made were on the thicker side, as I wanted them to stay in place through the process. If you would like your layers to be thinner, then you may be able to get enough crepes in just two batches. I did make extra crepes, as they kept mysteriously disappearing through the cooking process, but then I have some naughty elves in my house. They are delicious with some bananas and nutella too – it was all part of the experimental process.
The Tiramisu icing
6 x 500gm tubs of Mascarpone cheese (yes, it was a LOT!) at room temperature
2 cups heavy cream or whipping cream
1 lb bag of icing sugar
A glug of sweet Marsala wine
I made the icing in small batches – one 500gm tub of mascarpone cheese at a time as I had to control the consistency of the icing from the bottom up. The bottom most layer did not have any whipping cream added to it, whereas I added 2-3 tablespoons in the next one and kept on increasing it slightly with each batch. The top most layers had the softest icing which also covered the top. I ran out of icing to cover the outside layers at the end and to be honest, I didn’t fancy going out in the cold to pick up another tub of mascarpone cheese.
Adjust the sweetness to how sweet you like your dessert and to control the consistency. Unfortunately, as I’m not a baker, I eye balled it as I normally do for my cooking.
The icing was made by first softening up the mascarpone cheese and when using the cream incorporating this into the cheese before adding the sugar. Just mix it up really well using a wooden spoon or electric hand mixer. I used my husband with the wooden spoon and it worked really well. Don’t over mix – just enough to blend all the sugar in and until it fluffs up a little, which it does pretty quickly.
I used a 10 inch non-stick saucepan to make all my crepes. If you want a smaller cake, just use a smaller pan size. I spread nearly 3/4 cup of crepe batter on to a heated pan (cooked on medium heat) and whilst I did put some butter in the pan for the first couple of crepes I didn’t need to for the other ones as I got the hang of it.
Make all the crepes and put a layer of greaseproof paper between the crepes so its easy to pull them apart after they are frozen. Freeze the crepes until ready to ice the cake. I made mine the weekend before I was going to put the cake together. Its a long tedious process, but totally worth it.
This is the tricky part, but once you get the hang of it, it works really well. If I can put it together, anybody can!
For the base of the cake – need something very flat. I used the top of a pizza box and covered it in foil. For next time, I must make sure I don’t do that as when I sliced the cake, the foil cut through with it and it wasn’t fun clearing that out. You definitely need a revolving cake carousel of some sort to help spread the icing evenly between the layers.
Spread some icing on the base before placing the first crepe and get icing. Spread it evenly on the top before adding the next layer. Don’t worry about the frayed edges of the crepes if you have them, as I did, it all blends in. Even torn crepes join in really well in the cake with the icing.
Keep on icing each layer slowly and patiently until you have iced all the layers. Spread some icing on the top and put the cake into the fridge for an hour or so to set before serving. I kept mine in the fridge overnight. Slice it whilst its still hard and cold, so you get a clean slice but let it soften and reach room temperature before eating. Sprinkle some cocoa and enjoy with a cup of cappuccino or a nightcap. Bon Appetit!
Why 31 layers?
Simple. I lost count! They were supposed to be 28 ……
Secret to slicing cake:
Take the sharpest Chefs knife you have. Wet a tea towel in the hottest water you can handle and just dampen the knife before slicing – each time, for each slice. You will always, always, always get a clean slice of a cake.