You can (and probably should) read this post as a cautionary tale of the evils of electronic social networking. Because of the words of a few people that I've never even met I ended up making a single serving of this week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe. Yep, in my kitchen, based on a virtual dare, I turned Dorie Greenspan's lavish Tiramisu layer cake into a dessert so small it fit into a jelly jar.
Tiramisu has had an unusually long run in the spotlight, gaining notoriety from the 1993 film Sleepless in Seattle. A sweet little movie propelled an obscure dessert into the limelight where, in a display of inordinate staying power, it has remained for over 15 years.
I am personally ambivalent about tiramisu. This is a little odd, given that coffee is my favorite flavor of ice cream. In theory tiramisu should be a perfect dessert for my coffee-fanatic, chocolate-allergic husband, but he really dislikes it. "Sometimes a dessert tries to do too much," is his assessment. Because this is the first recipe for May, we only had a week's notice of what we would be baking, and my search for a likely recipient was coming up dry. My husband and I weren't going to eat an entire layer cake with flavors that neither one of us really cares about.
I made the mistake of saying to a couple of my bloggy buddies, "I'm thinking one tiramisu cupcake" It was a joke, but they turned it into a challenge. Next thing I know, "It's on!" with the encouraging footnote, "I think if anyone can figure out the math to turn that ginormous cake into a single cupcake, you can."
People who know me in person would probably find it pretty funny that I have this blog reputation as being very math-oriented and precise; in real life I'm much more verbal and visual than mathematical. I scale and measure my baking, because, well baking is precise. Check out Amanda's very recent interview with Dorie Greenspan, our baking guru, on this score. I also do the recipe scaling because I usually like the challenge.
Well, now I had quite the challenge on my hands and I had to use lots of my math abilities to scale this recipe for a big cake down to a single serving size. Luckily for all of you I won't go into details, just the overall approach that I took to this challenge - and of course the results! You'll thank me for sparing you; at the end of the afternoon's baking my digital scale, my calculator, and my brain were smoking.
The cake batter before the dry ingredients + buttermilk. This was so fluffy and good I could have eaten it all with a spoon and been happy.
- I initially planned to make one cupcake, but then my head was turned by Dorie Greenspan's blog entry about food served in canning jars, so I made a deconstructed cupcake in a jar.
- The recipe is an assemblage of several elements, each prepared separately. I made varying percentages of the different elements, aiming to use approximately 1/8 recipe of everything in my single serve dessert
- I baked 1/3 recipe of the yellow cake, figuring I'd freeze the leftover cake for other purposes (have you seen my freezers? They are a real treasure troves! More about that later.) The cake recipe was easy to scale, although I had to eyeball the leavening amounts ( 1/3 of 1/8 tsp baking soda, 2/3 tsp of baking powder) since these amounts were too small to register accurately on my digital scale.
- For the cake I used 2 small vintage loaf pans that are a really unusual size. Two of them were equivalent to 1/3 of the area of the two pans Dorie specified.
- The cakes baked "until done" - translation: I forgot to set timer, and went by smell and broomstraw cake tester.
- I reserved one of the cake rectangles and cut the other to make the layers for my little cake in a jar. Although I have cookie cutters in nearly every shape/theme imaginable, I managed not to have a circular cutter the right size, so I used a peanut butter jar lid. Luckily the cake layers got covered with filling/frosting, so it didn't really matter how bad the cut was. Or that the top of the cake stuck to the inside of the jar lid. Note to self: buy set of biscuit cutters. I kept the cake scraps. Waste not, want not.
- I didn't want to buy mascarpone when I'd need just 1 0z for my cakelet. I had a block of cream cheese that needed to be used, and I followed a few links suggested by Lindsey of Cafe Johnsonia (thanks!) and came up with this site which gives a bunch of recipes for mascarpone substitutes that could be whipped up - specifically to use in tiramisu. Many recipes call for wait times of 24+ hours, but I'm all about the instant gratification, so I went for a variation I call "Three Creams" - which is a combination of cream cheese, butter, and (what else?) cream itself.
- I used the whole block of cream cheese (actually had to scale this recipe bigger!), which I creamed with 5 T of butter and 5 T of whipping cream. This ended up making about 12 oz of creamy faux-mascarpone goodness. You did follow my logic there, right? I didn't want to buy 8 oz. of mascarpone, so I made my own and then I had 12 oz. And I only needed 1 oz... Well at least my cream cheese was put to good use!
- Faced with this abundance of mascarpone, I weighed out 8 oz to use for a full recipe of Dorie's filling/frosting.
- I used some pretty tiny amounts to make 1/6 recipe for the espresso extract and syrup. It was easier to scale 1/6th than 1/8th recipe, and I just left a bit unused in the bowl when I assembled the little cake.
- Assembly was quick and fun. The circles fit into the jar without breaking, and cake + filling pretty much filled the jar. The best part? I could just screw the lid on the jar to pop it in the fridge.
This cake was a spot-on evocation of tiramisu. The cake part is lovely, and a perfect stand-in for ladyfingers. But the absolute star of the show is the mascarpone filling! Soooo good!
And what did I do with the other 7/8 of the filling, you ask? Faced with a big bowl of the cream, I figured I should make some other single-serving desserts! 7 of them, to be exact. Using elements already in my fridge or freezer, here's what I made:
1. The second rectangle of the ladyfinger cake, halved then layered with mascarpone filling and blackberries. Sweet and simple. This was my husband's dessert on day 1, and he loved it.
2. Scraps of ladyfinger cake (left from cutting the circles), soaked with citrus simple syrup (left from making candied mixed peel for my Easter Dove Bread) and layered trifle-style with mascarpone filling and chopped mixed peel, topped with mixed peel and crystallized ginger - for a ginger-citrus effect. This was my dessert on day 2
3. Cubes of gingerbread (in the freezer, left from my gingerbread experiments), layered with mascarpone filling, topped with chopped crystallized ginger. This was my husband's dessert on day 2.
4. Scraps of ladyfinger cake (from cutting the circles), drizzled with berry sauce (in the fridge, leftover from some Saturday morning yogurt parfaits, made with same recipe as this post), layered trifle-style with mascarpone filling, and topped with blackberries. This was my husband's dessert on day 3.
5. Pound cake (from freezer) topped with mascarpone cream and berry sauce. My dessert on day 3.
6. Tiny devil's food cake (in the freezer, left from the White Out Cake), topped with mascarpone cream. Um, lunch?
7. Mascarpone cream all by itself. I make no excuses -this was the best way to enjoy the filling!
I love how making a single serving of tiramisu cake could lead to desserts for three nights and a few snacks, too. You better believe that the rest of that mascarpone will be turned into more of this delicious filling! See how much trouble a person can get into as a result of social networking?