"Real Sweet" Black-and-White Pancake CakeHello, hello! Spring has sprung (sort of), and while the slightest hint of birds in the yard or mild breezes uplift me to a much-needed post-winter place, I have to admit that perhaps the most exciting part of spring is the release of incredible and inspiring cookbooks! The recipe for this towering stack of maple, mascarpone, ganache and chocolate pancake goodness I made above, fittingly named the Black-and-White Pancake Cake, comes from my dear friend, Shauna Sever and her latest book Real Sweet: More Than 80 Crave-Worthy Treats Made with Natural Sugars, just released one week ago! Congratulations, Shauna! So, as the title indicates, Real Sweet is filled with glorious treats made from all natural sugars--everything from maple syrup to muscavado, but don't let the word "natural" confuse you with anything less than awesome. I mean that and I don't say this lightly, truly. As she explains in the book, this book is not about "diet-y" recipes, but rather full on flavour and satisfaction (I mean, look at the cake I made above!). And, as Shauna says, while sugar is sugar, she believes these less processed sugars and sweeteners have their place in a balanced life, and I agree whole heartedly. Not only has she created more than 80 incredibly tempting natural-sugar-and-sweetener recipes, but she has managed to give every recipe in the book a modern spin, which as a fellow cookbook author and baker, I can say is no small feat! Of course, just like her blog and other fabulous books, her witty and known-her-your-whole-life energy seals the deal. I adore this book. She divides the recipes among All-Day Snacks and Lunch Box Treats; Bakes Sales and Edible Gifts; Picnics and Potlucks; Candies and Confections; Dinner Party Fancies; Spoonable Sweets; and Frostings, Fillings, and Accoutrements--yep, she's got us covered! Some of the recipes I'm most excited to make: Maple Spun Sugar, Honeycomb Candy, Toblerone Tart, Maple Marshmallows, Five-Flavors Party Cake, and more. Dying. This book has spun me into a baking tizzy. What I'm most excited about, is that I suddenly feel armed with this whole new world of baking, and not just as alternate, more "natural" options, but just across the board--I am inspired. So pure pancake-y decadence, yep. The fluffy maple and chocolate pancakes paired with the creamy richness and tang of the mascarpone filling, and of course the gloriously oozy and intense dark chocolate ganache. Think of this cake as more of a dinner party dessert, than a (clearly magnificent but likely a little over the top) breakfast meal. Although, come to think of it, what an amazing addition to brunch or any-day-of-the-week dinner. Just saying. Since I don't make a ton of pancakes (truth be told, it's one of my major weaknesses, so I have to avoid whenever possible!) mine weren't perfection, but this was, honestly, so much fun to make. It was also surprisingly doable! Simply cooking the pancakes and creating the two quick and easy fillings, and then stacking. You can even make the cake a day ahead, which we always love, right? So here's the recipe for this stunning stack o' yum, as written in Real Sweet:
Black-and-White Pancake Cake
Talk about a showstopper! A stack of traditional flapjacks with butter and syrup is fabulous enough as it is, but here we're taking that idea into mind-blowing dessert territory. Maple-sweetened chocolate cake batter is cooked up like pancakes into thin layers and then sandwiched with lost of maple cream that beckons for a covert finger swipe. A few hidden slicks of bittersweet chocolate ganache add a major swoon factor to this over-the-top sweet stack.
- 1 batch of Maple Chocolate Cake batter:
- 1 1/2 cups 6 3/4 ounces/192 grams unbleached all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- 3/4 cup 2 1/2 ounces/72 grams unsweetened natural cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup 11 7/8 ounces/242 grams 2% Greek yogurt
- 1 cup 11 7/8 ounces/336 grams pure maple syrup (dark or very dark preferred)
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup 2 ounces/57 grams grapeseed or canola oil
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup 4 ounces/113 grams water
- 1/2 cup 4 1/2 ounces/120 grams heavy cream, chilled
- 1/2 cup 4 ounces/113 grams mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 tablespoons 1 1/8 ounce/32 grams pure maple syrup (dark or very dark preferred*)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
- 5 ounces 142 grams bittersweet chocolate (60% to 70% cacao), chopped
- 6 tablespoons 3 ounces/85 grams heavy cream
- A cast-iron griddle (about 10 x 17 inches in size **)
- A very thin (flexible, metal spatula, such as a fish spatula)
- Preheat a griddle over low heat for at least 10 minutes. (You want the griddle nice and hot over as low heat as possible to avoid burning the pancakes and to give them ample time to cook through.)
- Make the pancakes: Whip up a batch of Maple Chocolate Cake, adding the water to the wet ingredients before whisking the batter until smooth.
- Into a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- In a large measuring cup or medium bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, yogurt, eggs, oil, and vanilla extract. Add the water and whisk until smooth.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Using a whisk, energetically blend the batter by hand until smooth and thick, about 1 minute.
- Spray the griddle generously with nonstick spray. Making 2 pancakes at a time, pour two 1/2-cup scoops of batter onto the griddle. Use the back of a spoon to gently swirl and coax the pancakes into 7-inch circles. Cook the pancakes until the edges appear dry and set and bubbles are no longer popping on the surface, about 4 minutes on the first side. Use a thin, flexible metal spatula to gently flip the pancakes. Cook about 2 minutes more, or until the centers of the pancakes spring back when lightly touched. Remove the layers to wire racks to cool completely. Repeat the batter scooping and cooking process until you have 8 cake layers.
- Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and place 4 cake layers in a single layer on each sheet. Chill in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Make the cream filling: Pour the cream into a a medium bowl. Whip the cream on high speed to stiff peaks. In a separate medium bowl, place the mascarpone, maple syrup, and vanilla bean paste. Beat on low speed, just until the mixture is smooth and begins to thicken, about 30 seconds--don't overbeat, or the mascarpone cheese will seize. Gently fold in the whipped cream until smooth.
- Make the ganache filling: Combine the bittersweet chocolate with the cream in a small heatproof bowl. Microwave on high power for 45 to 60 seconds. Whisk the ganache until the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth and has the texture of chocolate pudding. Remove about 2 tablespoons of ganache to a small bowl and set aside for garnish.
- To assemble the cake, remove the pancake layers from the refrigerator. Inspect the layers; choose the most handsome to be the top layer and set it aside. Place 1 cake layer on a serving platter or cake stand. Dollop on 1/3 cup of the maple mascarpone cream and use a small offset spatula to smooth it out, with a 1/2-inch border all around. Place a second layer on top, and press lightly to help it adhere. Spread about 2 1/2 tablespoons of ganache onto the layer, also with a 1/2-inch border around the cake. Continue the layering process 6 more times, alternating maple mascarpone cream and chocolate ganache with the layers, placing the best-looking cake layer on top.
- To the remaining chocolate ganache, add a drizzle of cream, only about 1/2 teaspoon or so, just enough to thin it to a honeylike consistency (warm the ganache in the microwave for about 10 seconds or so to loosen it up first, if necessary). Drizzle the ganache artfully over the cake. Chill the cake for about 30 minutes before serving. The cake can be made up to 1 day in advance (let it soften on the counter for 15 minutes before slicing).
TIP: Be prepared to lower the heat accordingly if the pancakes are threatening to burn--just as with making regular breakfast pancakes, depending on your griddle and your stove, it may take a bit of adjusting to the heat just right. Making a tiny test pancake before cooking the rest of the layers can let you know if you're on the right track.
*With all the chocolate powder in this recipe, using the darkest maple syrup in the cake and the filling will help the maple flavor come forward a little more.
**You can also use a very large heavy-bottomed skillet; you'll just have to cook the pancakes one at a time, and the cooking time may vary.
- As recommended in the recipe, I used Dark Maple Syrup for the Maple Chocolate Cake batter--this is a must to really taste the maple among the intense chocolaty cake. So good.
- For flipping pancakes, I use this Large Stainless Steel Slotted Turner, which is super thin and easy to use.
- When filling the mascarpone layers, I used a large Pastry Bag fitted with large star tip #1M Star Tip, just for fun. This creates a lovely swirly effect, but you certainly don't need to. However, if you don't already own this decorating tip, I highly recommend it--it makes for a perfectly frosted cupcake, piped cake border and more.