Misugaru S’mores Checkerboard Cake

This cake was the result of a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a strong desire to make a s’mores checkboard cake. This recipe is not for the faint of heart. It was complex, difficult, and honestly on a scale of 1-10, 1 being microwave fudge, and 10 being you’re screwed if you don’t have a stand mixer, ring molds, and a ton of patience, this is easily a 10. I’m not even sure myself what compelled me to complete this besides an obsessive need to see it through. I just wanted to do a s’mores dessert, and a checkboard cake, and figured, why not combine the two into one? Two birds, one stone, I figured. Since chocolate, marshmallow, and graham cracker are the stars of this cake, I figured, why not make my own graham crackers? They usually use whole wheat flour, but I didn’t have that on hand. I did, however, have misugaru available. Misugaru is a Korean 7 to 23-grain blend that tastes almost like peanut butter. I figured, using that in place of whole wheat would make perfect sense, and it would have a very similar flavor profile anyways! I usually prefer my misugaru in a latte ala Cafe Bene, but in a cake and graham cracker works for me as well. Since this is a checkboard cake, to contrast the misugaru sponge cake, we also have a chocolate sponge cake as well. I used black cacao powder for the chocolate sponge, since it has a nice, rich chocolate flavor, while also using coffee to enhance that. I used a genoise cake for this recipe, since those hold their shape will in the baking process. Those kinds of cakes do run the risk of drying out too much(fun fact, I overbaked mine by 5 minutes by accident), so as a failsafe, my recipe includes a cake soak, just to guarantee that the final cake will not be sawdust when biting into it.

For the components, and this is a laundry list, we have a misugaru sponge, a cocoa sponge, chocolate ganache, vanilla soak, Italian meringue buttercream, chocolate ganache drip, homemade torched marshmallows, homemade misugaru graham crackers, and tempered chocolate. I went with an Italian meringue buttercream to further effect the marshmallow-flavor, since a meringue is quite similar to that, and an Italian meringue buttercream is light and marshmallow-y enough. The ganache can be made in a large batch, since half of it is being used to bind your checkerboard cake layers together, and the rest of it is the drip on top of the cake. Between the two sponge cakes, the homemade marshmallows, and the Italian meringue buttercream, I pray you have a stand mixer, or else your arms will probably fall off from all of the whisking required in this recipe. While this cake takes a TON of time(for me, it was a 4-day project), I will say that it was a ton of fun to assemble and bring together. Cutting the cakes, arranging them to form the pattern, frosting it, all just fun times that make me love making this particular kind of cake. The beauty of a checkerboard cake is cutting into it and seeing all of those fun layers inside. The fact that it has basically an entire s’mores ensemble on the outside is just a bonus on top of all of that. While this cake will probably take your blood, sweat, and tears, it is bloody delicious, and whoever is lucky enough to eat a slice will probably love you for the rest of their life.

For the misugaru sponge cake:
4 eggs
a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup misugaru powder
1/4 cup canola oil

In a bowl, whip the eggs with salt, vanilla, and sugar to ribbon stage(should be pale yellow in color and you can whip the figure “8” with the mixture). In a bowl, mix together the flour, misugaru, and canola oil. Fold together the two mixtures to form your batter. Pour into a lined 9-inch cake ring and spread into an even layer. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 minutes. Cool before unmolding.

For the cocoa sponge cake:
4 eggs
2 tsp coffee grounds
a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp black cacao powder(can sub with cacao as well)
1/4 cup canola oil

In a bowl, whip the eggs with coffee, salt, vanilla, and sugar to ribbon stage(should be pale yellow in color and you can whip the figure “8” with the mixture). In a bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa and cacao powders, and canola oil. Fold together the two mixtures to form your batter. Pour into a lined 9-inch cake ring and spread into an even layer. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 minutes. Cool before unmolding.

For the soak:
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
a pinch of salt

Mix together and keep refrigerated.

For the ganache:
1 cup milk
2 cups dark chocolate chips
a pinch of salt
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Heat together until melted and combined. Take off heat and allow to cool down until just above room temperature. Pour half of it into a container and reserve for your final assembly. Use the other half for the initial assembly.

For the buttercream:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
2 egg whites
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat up sugar with water until fully dissolved and brought up to a boil. Whisk egg whites to soft peaks before whisking in the sugar syrup. Whip into that the butter and vanilla until everything is combined together.

For initial assembly:
8-inch ring mold
6, 4, and 2-inch ring molds
Acetate
Serrated knife
Offset spatula or a bent spoon

Start by shaving off the top of the cakes. Cut out the cakes using the 8-inch ring mold. Line the 8-inch ring mold with acetate. Then press all of the chocolate cake scraps into the bottom of the cake, soaking the layer generously while pressing to form an even layer of cake on the bottom.

For the cakes themselves, cut them in half horizontally. Then cut out 6, 4, and 2-inch rings from those cakes. All in all, you should have 2 6-inch, 4-inch, and 2-inch rings of each flavor of cake. To assemble your checkerboards, start with a 8-inch ring of vanilla cake. Then place inside of that the 6-inch ring of chocolate. Then the 4-inch ring of vanilla. And finally, the 2-inch ring of chocolate. Repeat that step again. Then do the same steps, using the 8-inch ring of chocolate cake, and alternating the flavors as you go to add the next ring. Now you should have 4 assembles rounds or layers of cake.

Spread the ganache in the soaked chocolate cake scrap layer that is in the lined ring mold. Then place down one of the layers that has an 8-inch round of vanilla. Pour in the soak, spread on the ganache, then add on a layer that has an 8-inch round of chocolate. Repeat the steps, adding in another 8-inch round of vanilla, and then an 8-inch round of of chocolate, making sure you spread ganache on the top layer as well. Freeze the cake for 2 hours. Unmold from the ring mold and acetate then spread on an even layer of the buttercream. Then transfer bake to the freezer for at least 1 more hour before transferring the cake to a serving platter.

For the marshmallows:
2 packets gelatin powder
1/2 cup water, in two parts
1/2 cup granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
cooking spray
cornstarch

Mix gelatin with one part of the water in a mixing bowl. In a pot, heat up the sugar with the remaining water and salt and bring up to a boil. Once the sugar is fully dissolved and the liquid is reduced by half, pour over your gelatin and whisk with vanilla until the mixture is tripled in volume and resembles loosely whipped cream. Spray either silicone ice cube molds or a shallow surface with cooking spray and line with cornstarch. Pour in the marshmallow batter. Freeze for at least 2 hours before attempting to unmold. Store in an airtight container.

For the misugaru graham crackers:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup misugaru powder
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp honey
a pinch of salt

Mix to form your dough. Chill down for 20 minutes in the refrigerator. Roll out on a floured surface to about 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out desired shapes(I used stars), and place on a lined sheet tray. Bake at 350 degrees F for 8 minutes. Allow the crackers to cool down before using.

For the tempered chocolate:
1/2 cup dark chocolate
a pinch of salt

Heat up the chocolate and salt over a double boiler until half-melted. Take off heat and continue to stir until combined. Pour onto acetate or parchment and spread into a thin layer. Allow the chocolate to firm up at room temperature for 1-2 minutes before cutting out desired shapes. Store in the refrigerator so that the chocolate and completely set before removing from the parchment.

For final assembly:
Reserved ganache

Heat up the reserved ganache until it is liquid. Stir to make sure it is even in consistency before spread over the cake of the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. Skewer your marshmallows with a fork and hold over an open flame, rotating until the exteriors are toasted lightly. You can also use a blowtorch to do this. Arrange your marshmallows on top of the cake, then garnish with the graham crackers and chocolate to finish.

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