Pastry chef and blogger Irvin Lin has a new cookbook out that will have you reaching for the nearest sheet pan. Love to bake? Like elaborate projects? Grab a copy of Marbled, Swirled and Layered and get ready to impress some folks with this “nostalgic” marshmallow-filled chocolate cake.
Nostalgia is powerful emotion. I’ll be walking down the aisle at the grocery store, minding my own business, looking to buy some kale and maybe a free-range chicken to roast, and then wham! a box of mass-produced cupcakes with the little squiggly white loops are staring me in the face and I get weak in the knees. They’re too sweet for my adult taste buds and the chocolate cake will be slightly dry and oily at the same time. But I still hesitate and think about buying them because the nostalgia draws me in. The solution is to make a version from scratch. My homemade tube cake version perfectly satisfies that nostalgic itch. Once you get a bite of this cake, you’ll know what I mean.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup freshly brewed coffee, cooled to lukewarm
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 large egg whites
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
- 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 ounces dark bittersweet chocolate (about 60 percent cacao)
White Squiggly Icing
- 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 teaspoons whole milk
- 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
For the cake batter
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat the sides, bottom, and center of a tube pan with a removable bottom (the kind you would use for an angel food cake) with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a round piece of parchment paper with a hole cut out in the middle. Set the pan on a rimmed baking sheet.
Combine the flour, cocoa powder, both sugars, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Using a balloon whisk, vigorously stir until the ingredients are uniform in color and fully blended.
Place the eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil, and vanilla in another bowl and beat together with a fork. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the liquid into the center. Mix with a large spatula until a batter forms.
Pour into the prepared baking pan (it should only come about one-third up the sides of the pan).
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for at least 3 hours, or up to overnight.
For the marshmallow filling
Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat until soft peaks form, then stop the mixer.
Combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt in a medium saucepan and cook over high heat until the syrup reaches 245°F on a candy thermometer (the firm-ball stage). Remove from the heat and turn the mixer back on to medium speed. Slowly drizzle a little bit of the hot sugar syrup into the egg whites, avoiding the moving whisk (or else the hot syrup will fly everywhere!). Raise the speed to medium-high and continue to drizzle the syrup into the egg whites until it is all added. Don’t rush it — just slowly drizzle. Once it’s all added, continue to beat for an additional 7 to 10 minutes, until the marshmallow fluff is stiff and glossy white.
Scoop the fluff into another bowl and let cool completely.
Once the cake is completely cool and ready to assemble, place the butter and vanilla in a clean bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until the vanilla is incorporated and the butter becomes creamy and sticks to the side of the bowl. Add the marshmallow fluff and beat until well blended.
For the cake
Remove the cake from the pan and set it with the rounded side up (the way it baked in the pan). Create a tunnel in the cake for the filling by first making a “moat”: With a small paring knife, cut a curved rectangle, 2 inches long by 1 inch wide, into the top of the cake about halfway between the center hole and the outside edge of the cake, following the curve of the cake. Cut into the cake about two-thirds deep and use the knife to lift the rectangle out from the cake. If the hole isn’t deep enough, just use the knife to cut and scrape out more cake (but don’t cut all the way through to the bottom).
Repeat, working around the cake, cutting out rectangular pieces to make a continuous moat. Place the cake pieces right next to where you cut, so you can put them back when the time comes. Once you’ve gone all the way around the cake, spoon the marshmallow filling into the moat, filling it about halfway. You may not use all the fluff, but that’s okay. Save it for another use.
Cut off about half of each rectangular piece of cake from the rough side (the inside part). Replace the remaining cake pieces in the moat over the marshmallow filling to plug up the cake. Repeat all the way around the cake. Nibble on the scraps if you want (I do).
Turn the cake over so that the “flat” side of the cake is on top and the “plugged” rounded side is on the bottom, and place on a cake stand or serving plate.
For the chocolate frosting
Combine the powdered sugar, milk, corn syrup, and vanilla in a medium pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture starts to bubble on the sides of the pan.
Reduce the heat to low and add the chocolate, stirring until the frosting is smooth. Now quickly spoon the warm frosting over the cake. The frosting is a bit finicky and will start to crust immediately as it cools. If this becomes a problem, spoon as much as you can, getting it where you want it, then wet your fingers and use them to smooth out the frosting.
For the white squiggle icing
Mix together the powdered sugar, milk, and corn syrup to form a thick paste. Scrape it into a pastry bag with a small round tip or a zip-top bag with a small part of the corner snipped off. Make some test squiggles on a piece of paper to get the feel of it, then squeeze squiggle loops over the top of the iced cake.
Simplify the filling by beating 1⁄2 cup room temperature salted butter with 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or paste until creamy. Add a 7-ounce jar of store-bought marshmallow creme or fluff and beat until incorporated. Use that as the filling.