Diced! Dessert Challenge Finals!
The Diced! Dessert Challenge is coming to an end with the finals.
Each participant won several rounds. For this round, I am allowing the participant to choose any dessert category.
The posts will run Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The poll will run from Friday to the following Friday. To date the winner will receive:
- Dodo Book for Cooks
- A beautiful Bamboo Cutting Board with a Butterfly Motif, graciously donated by competitor Lindy (The Kozy Nook)
This finals highlight:
- Luis from The Chef Cat (Wednesday)
- Stephanie from The Haute Meal (Thursday)
- Jenee from JCooksGlutenFree (Friday)
6-Layer Chocolate Elvis Cake
The final round is here, and the limits are gone – we can make whatever we want. So what do you make when the sky’s the limit? Well, my favorite desserts tend to be those that play with contrasting flavors and textures: sweet and salty, or soft with a contrasting crunch. Those are the flavor combinations that people tend to think will taste weird but which often end up tasting the best. And what’s the “king” of weird food combinations if not Elvis’ infamous fried peanut butter and banana sandwich? I can tell by your breathing that you can already see where I’m headed with this.
Elvis sandwiches aren’t dessert, but the flavor combination seemed like it would make an incredible recipe and once I started thinking about it there was really no going back. Since I haven’t made a full-size cake in a while, I decided to transform the Elvis sandwich into a cake for my final entry. Get ready, folks, because there’s gonna be some bacon involved.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it: incredibly moist, tender chocolate layer cake filled with peanut butter-banana custard. “But wait!” I cry, in my best Billy Mays impersonation. “There’s more!” You’re going to smother that cake in heavenly brown sugar Swiss meringue buttercream, and instead of sprinkling on bacon at the end like uncultured heathens, we’re going to fold it right into the frosting, so every bite has a little salty-smoky crunch.
This chocolate cake is my go-to, because the recipe is easy and straight-forward, but I swear it manages to be the moistest, most scrumptious chocolate cake ever. In fact, you could just make the cake, top it with your favorite frosting (or a dusting of powdered sugar) and you’d have a killer dessert. But the custard, steeped with fresh bananas and vanilla bean, is such a rich, creamy filling that I know you’ll love it. It cements the cake layers together and gives it a texture inside that’s similar to a parfait or a trifle, except sturdy enough to stand on its own. Combine that with the soft caramel undertones of the brown sugar frosting, and the salty crunch of the bacon, and every bite is bound to have your eyes rolling back in your head.
And how does it taste? I have 4 words for you:
The cake layers, custard filling, and frosting (without the bacon) can be made in advance, but once you fold the bacon into the frosting, it’s best eaten the same day. Otherwise, the bacon loses its salty crunch and starts to get a bit chewy. If you want to make this in advance, the cake layers may be baked, cooled, wrapped very well in plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 2 months with no ill effects. The custard will keep for 3 to 4 days in an air-tight container, as will the frosting (without the bacon). I would suggest doing everything including crumb coating the cake up to a day before you plan to serve. Then, on the day you plan to serve it, prepare the bacon and fold it into the remaining buttercream, then add the final layer of frosting and serve.
6-Layer Chocolate Elvis Cake
Peanut Butter-Banana Pastry Cream
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
4 egg yolks (reserve the whites for the frosting if you can)
1/3 cup peanut butter
2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split & scraped (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
Heavy pinch of kosher salt
3 large bananas, sliced
Chocolate Buttermilk Cake
2 cups white sugar
2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1.5 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened but still cool
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup hot coffee
Bacon-Brown Sugar Swiss Buttercream Frosting
5 egg whites
1¼ cup packed brown sugar
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1½ cups unsalted butter (3 sticks, softened, cut into 1 tbsp pieces)
2 tsp vanilla
8 slices of bacon, roughly chopped
- For the custard: Bring the milk, split vanilla bean and its caviar, and sliced bananas to a boil in a large saucepan. If you’re using vanilla extract, just leave it out for now. Turn off the heat, and allow the mixture to steep until cool. You can also do what I did, and store it in the refrigerator overnight for extra banana flavor.
- When you’re ready to continue, bring the milk back to a simmer. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, pressing lightly to ensure you’re getting out as much liquid as possible, but not so much that you’re pressing the banana solids through the sieve. Check to make sure you have 2 cups of milk; if not, add a little milk until you’re back up to 2 cups.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg and yolks together with the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and vanilla extract (if using extract instead of whole vanilla bean). Slowly drizzle in the hot milk, whisking constantly, until you’ve incorporated at least half of it. Then add the tempered egg mixture back into the hot milk on the stove, whisking constantly. Continue whisking the egg mixture over medium heat until it’s very thick and begins to bubble. Once it begins to bubble, continue to cook for another minute.
- Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat at low speed until the cream has cooled enough so that the mixing bowl is neutral to the touch. Add the peanut butter, and continue to beat at medium speed until well combined, scraping the paddle and the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Scrape the custard into an airtight container (you can press plastic wrap into the top to prevent a skin from forming), and refrigerate until ready to use. I used a resealable bag, which had the added bonus of allowing me to simply snip off a corner of the bag and pipe the custard directly onto the cake when I was ready to do final assembly.
- For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Thoroughly grease three 8″ round pans, and line them with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the first six dry ingredients for the cake and set the mixer to stir, stirring until the dry ingredients are well combined. With the mixer still on stir, add the butter pieces one at a time until they’ve all been added. Bump the speed up slightly (still very low), and mix until the mixture looks like wet sand, and the biggest piece of butter is no larger than a small pea.
Meanwhile, combine the egg, buttermilk, and vanilla in a small bowl. With the mixer still running on very low speed, drizzle in the wet mixture until just incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high, and beat the batter until light and fluffy, about a minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and continue beating another 10 to 15 seconds. Reduce the speed to very low and drizzle in the hot coffee. Continue mixing until the mixture is fully combined, stopping once or twice to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tops springs back with lightly touched. Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes, then carefully turn the cakes out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
- For the frosting: Fry the bacon pieces in a pan over medium to medium-high heat, stirring occasionally so all the pieces get a chance to brown and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon to a plate lined with a paper towel and allow it to cool.
- Meanwhile, in a metal mixing bowl set over a pot of lightly simmering water, whisk together the egg whites, brown sugar, and cream of tartar. Heat gently, whisking often, until the sugar has all melted and the mixture has reached 160°F.
- Move the bowl back to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat the egg white mixture on medium speed until the mixture is thick and glossy, and the bowl is cool to the touch, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Switch over to the paddle attachment, and with the mixer running on medium speed, drop in the butter one piece at a time until it has all been added. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue beating the frosting until very smooth. You can beat in the vanilla at this point.
- Use a food processor to pulverize the reserved bacon, pulsing until it is very finely chopped. Scrape the bacon into the frosting, and beat the frosting for another 30 seconds or so to incorporate the bacon throughout. Note: The bacon should only be added to the frosting on the day you plan to serve the cake.
- Assembly: Torte each of the 3 cake layers into 2 layers, so that you’re left with 6 layers of chocolate cake. The cake will be quite moist and tender, so be gentle while handling the layers (or you can chill the layers first to make them a bit sturdier).
- Place the first layer on your cake plate, and top with about ½ cup or so of the peanut-banana custard, spreading it out into a thin layer so the cake is evenly covered. Don’t be afraid to use a little more custard if it looks like it’s spread too thinly, but don’t lay it on too thick – you don’t want to run out before finishing all the layers. Top with the next layer of cake, and another ½ cup of custard. Continue alternating the layers, topping it off with the last layer of cake (you should have used all the custard by now). Give the cake a thin crumb coat of frosting and refrigerate until the crumb coat is firm, at least 30 minutes.
- Coat with the remaining frosting. Serve, and take a bow!