No-Bake S’mores Cake
I've had "s'mores cake" on my baking bucket list since last summer. I envisioned 3 brown sugar cakey layers enveloped with milk chocolate frosting and marshmallow-y meringue topping. Toasted, of course. I scheduled the recipe for this month and after I arrived home from the Kansas farm tour, I got to work in the kitchen. We were going to a friend's house that weekend, so I'd bring the s'mores cake. Things were perfect.
Only I didn't feel like testing a brown sugar cake recipe and feared it wouldn't taste graham cracker-y enough and I didn't have graham flour on hand and figured you don't keep graham flour on hand either and I was tired from traveling and my glasses slid off my face and into my bowl of cereal. It just wasn't my morning.
So I slightly switched gears, reached for graham crackers, made chocolate ganache and the beloved marshmallow-y Swiss meringue from baked Alaska, and began layering. I had seen something like this on Tasty, so I used that as inspiration. I made the marshmallow layer from scratch and used pure chocolate. I stuck the whole thing in the refrigerator, crossed my fingers, and waited what seemed like a lifetime.
Topped the whole thing with toasted marshmallow and my day that started out pretty rough ended with a sublime slice of no bake s'mores cake. Let me share this perfected s'mores cake recipe with you because it'll make your summer even sweeter!!!
BEHIND THE RECIPE
This no-bake s'mores cake has 14 layers:
- 6 layers of graham crackers
- 5 layers of marshmallow-y Swiss meringue
- 3 layers of chocolate ganache
You only need 7 ingredients to prepare it and that includes the ingredients for the meringue and the ganache!
Did you know you only need 2 ingredients to make rich, velvety, smooth chocolate ganache? I taught you how to make it in chocolate covered strawberry cupcakes and way back I shared party angel food cake. To make the ganache, heat the heavy cream until warm and pour over chopped chocolate. Use pure chocolate. You know the 4 ounce bars you buy in the baking aisle? I like Baker’s, Ghirardelli, Nestle Toll House, or Lindt baking bars. Chop the chocolate into super tiny pieces. The smaller the pieces, the quicker and easier they’ll melt to create the ganache.
Tip on chopping chocolate: remember from Sprinkled episode 2? Use a serrated knife to chop chocolate.
Let the warm heavy cream and chocolate sit in the bowl for a few minutes, then stir together. It will seem too liquid-y at first, but it will come together as you continue to stir. Set the ganache aside as you prepare the meringue.
Don't let the word meringue frighten you. This is a simple 4 ingredient Swiss meringue cooked on the stovetop, then beaten into stiff peaks. It tastes like marshmallow fluff-- but better because, you know, it's homemade!! You can watch me make it in the video below. And if you've been following my blog for awhile, you've seen it many times before:
- baked Alaska (this is June's Baking Challenge recipe!)
- s'mores brownie cupcakes
- ultimate birthday cupcakes
- chocolate mousse pie (March 2017 Baking Challenge recipe!)
- peanut butter hi-hat cupcakes
- s'mores tartlets
So hopefully you've had some practice up to this point! Whisk egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar together in a double boiler or heat-proof bowl over a small pot. You can use the stainless steel bowl that comes with your stand mixer. You'll need your stand mixer for whipping anyway!
The cream of tartar is imperative. It stabilizes the egg whites and helps the meringue whip into stiff peaks. Once the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar are gently cooked, remove from heat, add some vanilla extract, and begin whipping.
Whipping is where the magic happens. The mixture will go from thin liquid to as voluminous as my hair on a humid day. But much prettier and appealing. While the structure of the Swiss meringue is stiff, the texture is soft, gooey, and sticky. The best part of marshmallow!
The graham crackers are the structure of the entire cake. You need a little over 1 standard box, about 30-36 graham crackers. There are 6 layers of graham crackers, so about 5-6 graham crackers are used for each layer. As the cake sets up in the refrigerator, the graham crackers soften. They're chewy and tender, not crunchy in the slightest!
Watch the cake come together in the video below!
First, let's line our square baking pan with parchment paper. This allows us to lift the whole cake out of the pan and cut into squares for serving. Spread a thin layer of meringue on the bottom. This layer doesn't have to be even because all it's doing is giving the graham crackers something to stick to.
Now the graham crackers. Break them apart to assemble an even layer. On top of the graham crackers is our first "real" layer of meringue. Follow with another layer of graham crackers, then a layer of chocolate ganache, graham crackers, meringue, graham crackers, and so on.
A layer of graham crackers lies between each layer of either meringue or chocolate ganache. You'll finish with a layer of chocolate ganache before refrigerating for at least 12 hours and up to 2 days. This is the best make-ahead cake for the summertime because it literally needs to be made ahead.
TOP IT OFF!
In the recipe and video below, you can read and see that I reserve some meringue for the topping. Why? Meringue breaks down overtime when exposed to even the smallest crack of air. (The layers inside the cake are fine, don't worry.) We want a creamy, fluffy, soft top so that's why I recommend reserving about 1 heaping cup of meringue for the topping. Cover and refrigerate it separately from the cake. When ready to serve the cake, give the topping a little whisk to reincorporate some air, then spread all over the top.
Maybe you purchased a kitchen torch this month for your brownie baked Alaska? Break it out again and toast this marshmallow topping. If you don't have one, they're surprisingly inexpensive. I love mine! If you're not in the market for one or don't feel like using yours, no worries. The cake is literally a 14 layer s'more so it will taste good with or without a toasted topping. Do not attempt to toast the topping in the oven. The entire cake will melt.
No-bake s'mores cake, including preparing the ganache and meringue, took me about 1 hour to assemble. Most of the work is hands-off in the refrigerator. Grab your kids or a friend to help break up those graham crackers and they'll surely be entertained as you torch the topping!
No-Bake S'mores Cake
- three 4-ounce bars (339g) semi-sweet or milk chocolate, finely chopped*
- 1 and 1/2 cups (360ml) heavy cream
- 6 egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 and 1/2 cups (300g) granulated sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 30-36 full-sheet graham crackers (a little over 1 standard box)
- Line a 9x9-inch or 8x8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the sides to lift the cake out (makes cutting and serving possible!). Set aside.
- Make the ganache: Place chopped chocolate in a bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it begins to gently simmer. (Do not let it come to a rapid boil-- that's too hot!) Pour over chocolate and let it sit for 2-3 minutes to gently soften the chocolate. Slowly stir until completely combined and chocolate has melted. Cover and refrigerate as you make the meringue. Ganache can be prepared, covered, and refrigerated for up to 3 days before using.
- Make the meringue: Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in a heatproof bowl. Set bowl over a saucepan filled with two inches of simmering water. Do not let it touch the water. (You can use a double boiler if you have one.) Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and mixture has thinned out, about 4 minutes. Add the vanilla extract, then using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat on high speed for 5-6 minutes until stiff glossy peaks form. Remove 1 heaping cup (just eyeball it), cover tightly, and refrigerate for up to 2 days. This will be the topping.
- Assemble the cake: If meringue and ganache are still slightly warm as you assemble the cake, that's ok. Spread a super thin layer of meringue on the bottom of the pan. Doesn't need to be even or perfect; it's just so the graham cracker base has something to stick to. Do the best you can with the meringue because it's sticky. Spread it slowly. Top with a layer of graham crackers. You'll need to break them apart to evenly arrange them; see my video above for a visual. Top with a layer of meringue, then another layer of graham crackers, then a layer of chocolate ganache, then a layer of graham crackers, then another layer of meringue. Repeat for a total of 6 layers of graham crackers, 4 layers of meringue (including the thin bottom layer), and 3 layers of chocolate ganache. The top layer will be chocolate for now. Layers listed out: super thin meringue, graham crackers, meringue, graham crackers, chocolate, graham crackers, meringue, graham crackers, chocolate, graham crackers, meringue, graham crackers, chocolate.
- Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 12 hours and up to 2 days.
- Remove reserved meringue from the refrigerator. If it seems deflated, whip it with a fork or whisk a few times.
- Remove cake from the refrigerator, then remove from the pan using the overhang on the sides. Peel off the parchment paper (or don't-- if you trust yourself torching the top without the paper lighting up!) and place onto a heat-proof serving platter or cutting board. Spread meringue on top. Use a spoon to create peaks and swirls. Serve immediately OR torch it with a kitchen torch and serve immediately OR loosely cover and refrigerate for up to 1 hour before torching/serving.
- Cover and store leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer for up to 2 days. Topping may begin to wilt.
Make ahead tip: Ganache can be prepared ahead of time. See step 2. Entire cake (without top layer of meringue topping applied) can be assembled and refrigerated up to 2 days. To freeze: prepare only enough meringue for the layers inside the cake. This would be 4 egg whites, 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar, and 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract. Assemble cake as instructed in step 4. Cover tightly and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Prepare the meringue topping: 2 egg whites, 1/2 cup (100g granulated sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract. Continue with step 7.
- The meringue will break down overtime. (The layers inside the cake are fine!) We want it fluffy on top, so that's why I recommend separating the top layer (1 heaping cup) in step 3 and gently whipping it with a fork or whisk in step 6 before adding to the top of the cake.
- Non-US readers: Use digestive biscuits instead of graham crackers. I'm unsure exactly how many.
- What to do with leftover egg yolks? Here are recipes using only egg yolks. I recommend lemon curd!
- What to do with the rest of the 2nd box of graham crackers? Here are recipes using graham crackers and graham cracker crumbs.
Inspired by Tasty
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