Homemade Seven-Layer Cake, by Aaron Hamburger
Don’t let the four-stage process scare you off. Each of the steps is easy to perform, and the topping and frosting can be done in advance. Total prep time is about 90 minutes active time, plus 30 minutes chilling.
For a pareve version, replace butter in cake with margarine, and heavy cream in ganache with non-dairy topping. For filling, combine 1/2 cup softened margarine, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 tsp. instant espresso mixed with 1 tsp. hot water, and 3-4 tablespoons soy milk. Add 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, and then 2 to 2 1/2 cups of confectioner’s sugar, just enough to achieve a creamy, light texture.
Step One: Ganache Topping
8 oz. heavy cream
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
1. Place chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. In a medium saucepan, bring cream to a simmer, then pour over chocolate. After it sits for two minutes, slowly whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
2. Let the mixture set and thicken on the counter before using, at least an hour.
Step Two: Sponge Cake
1/4 cup butter
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
4 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
zest of 1 lemon
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1. Melt the butter and set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Grease a 12” x 17” baking sheet and cover with parchment, leaving at least a 2-inch overhang of parchment on two ends. Lightly grease the parchment and pan. Spread a kitchen towel on work surface and dust with confectioner’s sugar. Nearby, place a metal rack and also dust with confectioner’s sugar.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine eggs, sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest. Set bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water and lightly whisk egg mixture until warm to the touch. Remove from heat, place in stand mixer, and beat egg mixture at medium to medium-high speed until it’s pale golden and foamy, and the mixture has at least doubled in volume, about 5 minutes.
4. Sift together flour and salt onto a piece of wax paper. When egg mixture is done beating, remove bowl from mixer, and sift half of the flour over batter. Fold in lightly and quickly. Next, fold in the melted butter (which should be warm to lukewarm, not hot). Finally, fold in remaining flour just until incorporated.
5. Immediately pour batter around the edges of the pan, then tilt the pan back and forth until batter covers pan completely in thin uniform layer.
6. Bake for about 9 minutes, until cake is light golden and springs back slightly when touched. Remove from oven and run a knife along sides of cake to help release from pan and parchment. Grab parchment overhangs, and with confidence, invert the cake onto the kitchen towel. Carefully peel back parchment and then remove from the cake. (The delicate cake may tear, so be gentle. But don’t worry if your cake is a bit ragged—you’ll have plenty to work with.) Place rack upside down on the cake, grab towel edges and rack, and then quickly invert again so the more delicate and sticky topside of the cake is right side up. Let cool completely, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make the filling.
Step Three: Filling
2 oz. softened butter
4 oz. softened cream cheese
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, melted
1/2 tsp. instant espresso powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2-3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1. In a stand mixer, beat butter and cream cheese to combine.
2. Add the chocolate and beat to combine. Mix espresso with 1/2 tsp. hot water, then add along with vanilla to frosting. Beat to combine.
3. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the confectioner’s sugar until the frosting is thick and creamy.
Step Four: Grand Finale
1. Snip off any loose edges of cooled cake until you have an even rectangle. Measure your cake with a ruler, then split in half by pressing knife into cake rather than dragging it across. Next, divide each half into equally sized thirds (or fourths, and set one layer aside). Stack layers, trim so they’re as even as possible, then unstack layers so they don’t stick together permanently.
2. Place bottom layer onto serving plate and tuck pieces of parchment underneath. Spread a thin layer of filling over cake. Place next layer on top and repeat the process until all layers are stacked.
3. Cover cake with thin layer of ganache for a “crumb coat.” Chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes to set, then continue frosting with ganache until the entire cake is covered and smooth. (If ganache is too thick, heat over a double boiler, whisking until loosened.) Carefully remove parchment underneath to avoid tearing away too much cake or frosting and serve.
4. Keep any leftover cake in the fridge and bring back to room temperature before eating.
Yield: One 3” x 7” cake, serves 6 to 8