It’s that time of year again… my guy’s birthday! We sort of alternate between “boring” normal birthday cakes, and creative/challenging cakes. This year entailed the latter.
Choosing the cake was up to me this year – sometimes that’s dangerous, because I’ll always pick something I’ve never made before, and it usually requires literally hours’ worth of preparation. No matter, I’m always up for it! We’ve been on a Girl Scout Cookie kick this year (Samoas and Thin Mints, of COURSE) and I was inspired by this blog post about making a giant Samoa cake. She had a great idea, but I wanted to make some variations on her idea to include more “cookie” elements, and of course frosting.
The end result was this:
The bottom layer consists of shortbread cookie, topped with dark chocolate ganache and salted caramel sauce. Above that is vanilla/white cake, covered in caramel frosting, and coated with toasted coconut flakes, drizzled with melted dark chocolate. To say it was delicious would be an understatement!
I used a variety of recipes here – some online, some from actual cookbooks..yes, people still use those! I’ll do my best to include any actual recipe I used for this, but for some of the steps I just eyeballed it with no recipe or real measuring. (Sorry!) Here’s the step-by-step process I used to assemble, followed by some recipes:
Giant Girl Scout Cookie Cake
*Notes: I made this a two-day process since I had class on his actual birthday, and would need more time to finish the cake. The first day I made the shortbread crust, made the salted caramel sauce, and toasted the coconut. The second day I baked the cake, made the ganache, made the frosting, and assembled it all together. This seemed to work out fine, and you could do them all in one day, but you would need to leave adequate time for cooling each part (caramel especially) which can take some waiting time. I’m posting the photos in the order I prepared everything and assembled the cake.
I started by making a half batch of a shortbread recipe (from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook.) Knowing ahead of time that I wanted to have a hole in the center of my cake, I used a large round cookie cutter as a place-holder, and smoothed down the cookie batter around the cutter. I removed the cutter before baking, of course, since it's plastic.
You can see the "hole" here where I removed the cookie cutter. I used a tart pan for this, to make removal of the shortbread easier.. the tart pan also happened to be the same width as my bundt pan for the cake! This is the shortbread pre-baked.
While the shortbread was baking, I made the salted caramel sauce. (The recipe was for regular caramel sauce, but I added sea salt and homemade vanilla extract!) This needs to cool for at least a few hours -plan ahead!
Here's the flaked coconut I bought for the topping - it's HUGE! Doesn't it look delicious? I bought raw unsweetened coconut from the bulk bin at my favorite grocery store (Berkeley Bowl!) I think this was a good idea to use (if you can find it) versus the shredded kind, because it looks more to-scale with the "giant" theme of the cake. Giant cookie, giant flakes of coconut!
I placed the coconut on a sheet of parchment and baked it in the oven for the last 10 minutes left of the shortbread's baking time. (350-degrees F.) If you're using sweetened coconut, check on it frequently as it will brown faster because of the sugar content.
Toasted coconut, removed from the oven. Yum!
Here's the shortbread fresh out of the oven! I suppose you could use a sugar cookie for this as well, if you preferred.
After the shortbread and caramel had cooled, I made a small amount of ganache. I simmered some heavy cream (about 1/4 cup) over a double boiler, and stirred in about 1/3 Cup Ghirardelli 60% Cocoa chips into the cream until they had melted, stirring until smooth. I spread a layer of ganache over the cookie, then drizzled some of the caramel sauce on top of that. You know, for good measure. :)
Next I baked the cake! I used a small batch recipe for vanilla/white cake and baked it in a silicone bundt pan. (About halfway full.) Well, supposedly you don't need butter or non-stick spray on silicone bakeware, but I beg to differ. It definitely stuck to the pan! Not to worry, the cake would be covered in frosting and coconut, so I really didn't care much about the appearance.
There were a LOT of crumbs in the process of removing the cake from the pan! Tasty crumbs.. :)
Once the cake was cool, I made the frosting. Okay, I didn't measure here. I tossed in one stick of softened butter (1/2 cup) and beat it with a whisk attachment until fluffy. Then I poured in some caramel.. probably about 3/4 cup, and blended them together. Then I added confectioner's sugar until it reached the consistency I wanted. I think it was somewhere around 2 cups, but add however much you like depending on how thick or thin you want the frosting to be. I also didn't want to lose too much of the caramel flavor by adding too much sugar, so I didn't go beyond 2 1/2 cups.
Mixing the caramel and the butter.. yummy. I would eat this as-is!
Checking frosting consistency.. this looked about right to me. Not too sugary or stiff.. good consistency for sticking coconut to it!
Yep.. another frosting shot.. can't resist!
Okay, time for assembly.. I used a GIANT spatula to lift the cake and place it on top of the cookie section. Did I mention how absolutely perfect the cake and cookie fit together?! I guess it pays to have a lot of bakeware!
.. checking the alignment of the hole. Yep, it matches up. :)
Frosting time! I coated the whole cake in caramel frosting, and then drizzled some extra caramel on top.. just because I can.
Okay, this part is messy. Just embrace it! I literally took handfuls of toasted coconut and pressed them against the cake, gently patting down to help them stick to the frosting. Don't be shy.. make sure you cover all edges inside and out!
Last step.. melted chocolate, drizzled across the top. (I used the 60% Cocoa Ghirardelli Chocolate Chips for this, too. They're my favorite, and they melt beautifully!)
The completed cake! I used TWO giant spatulas (one in each hand!) to move the cake off of the waxed paper and onto the cake plate. Thankfully this was made somewhat easier because of the cookie crust bottom, but I still wanted to be careful so that the crust wouldn't crack. Ta-da! I placed the whole cake in the refrigerator to help it set up properly, since it was a bit warm in here. Probably a good idea to do if you also have a slightly warm kitchen.
Here’s the recipes I used:
from Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook 1980 ed.
Minutes to Cook: 35
Number of Servings: 18
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
– in large bowl beat 1st 6 ingredients until well mixed, occasionally scraping the bowl
– pat down into 9 in round cake pan and with fork, prick well
– with spoon, sprinkle sugar over dough
Bake 30-35 minutes
– cut into wedges while warm, cool on wire rack, separate cookies
Serving Size: 18
***I used HALF of the shortbread recipe, since I just wanted a crust. I did not sprinkle with sugar, and I did not cut it into wedges.***
Bon Appétit | April 2006
|Yield: Makes about 1 1/3 cupsIngredients
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup whipping cream
Combine sugar, 1/2 cup water, and corn syrup in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil without stirring until mixture turns a deep amber color, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Carefully add cream (you may want to stand back — mixture will bubble vigorously). Stir sauce over low heat until any caramel bits dissolve and sauce is smooth. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium-low heat just until pourable, then let caramel sauce cool to room temperature.)
***After adding the cream and mixing the sauce, I removed it from the heat and stirred in about 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract and a dash of sea salt.***
No recipe, but I wanted to mention I used unsweetened coconut, spread out on parchment over a cookie sheet.. baked it for about 10 mins at 350-F. Carefully watch and/or use less toasting time if you’re using sweetened coconut, as it burns faster than unsweetened.
Dark Chocolate Ganache:
No recipe for this either, but I heated 1/4 Cup heavy cream over a double boiler, removed it from the heat and then stirred in about 1/3 Cup chocolate chips (Ghirardelli 60% cocoa) until they were melted and the mixture was smooth.
Simple White Cake
by: SCOTTOSMAN (Allrecipes.com)
Original Recipe Yield 12 cupcakes or 1- 9×9 inch pan
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup butter
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 cup milk
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9×9 inch pan or line a muffin pan with paper liners.
- In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Finally stir in the milk until batter is smooth. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven. For cupcakes, bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cake is done when it springs back to the touch.
Salted Caramel Frosting:
No real recipe for this either.. I softened 1 stick (1/2 Cup) unsalted butter, then beat it with the whisk attachment on my mixture until fluffy. Next I mixed in about 3/4 Cup of the salted caramel sauce until smooth. Then I gradually beat in confectioner’s sugar until the desired consistency. (About 2 1/2-cups. You may want more if you like a thicker frosting. I didn’t want the caramel taste overpowered by the sugar, so I kept it on the “less sugar” side.)
And there you have it! The end result was a delicious combo of cookie and cake. I wouldn’t change a single thing! This is definitely not a healthy cake , and is best intended for special occasions.. like birthdays. :)