To many people, March represents spring break vacations, spring training baseball games, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, and the beginnings of spring with buds on the trees and breaking out with the Easter decorations complete with bunnies and pastels. For me, March represents all of that, PLUS the “birthday month”. We have 6 family members with birthdays this month and that includes mine and my husband’s! That means a lot of birthday meals and birthday cakes. This year I thought a change was in order for the traditional 2 layer frosted birthday cake.
We celebrated my mother’s birthday with a birthday brunch. Eggs Benedict with homemade Hollandaise sauce, smoked salmon and capers, mini yogurt and berry parfaits and mimosas were on the menu. I needed to add the dessert-the birthday cake finale. So what type of cake (besides a coffee cake with a streusel crumble) would go well with a brunch? I asked myself. Then I flashed back to my visit to Italy last fall- that tasty coffee dessert of tiramisu. The attempt at the perfect Tiramisu Chocolate Layer Birthday Cake was thus born.
Tiramisu is an Italian dessert that literally means, “pick me up”. This delicious concoction is traditionally made with espresso, a sweet Marsala wine, mascarpone cheese, and ladyfinger cookies. There are so very many variations of tiramisu out there, that is was difficult to decide which one to make. I chose to make a layer cake version with a buttercream frosting and modify the ingredients to my mother’s tastes. Amaretto is my mother’s favorite liqueur, so I used that in place of a Marsala wine and instead of a white or yellow cake, I chose CHOCOLATE, of course. Milk chocolate is my mom’s fav, but dark chocolate would work wonderfully, too. I did decrease the amount of mascarpone cheese and made a substitute due to the high cost- thus the cream cheese in the recipe.
This is a cake that is a labor of love, but it is worth the time. This scrumptious dessert is certainly to be savored and seems to intensify in flavor as the days go by (I had a lot of leftovers and they keep calling my name when I walk past the refrigerator!).
Tiramisu Chocolate Layer Cake
1 box MILK CHOCOLATE cake mix
Ingredients on cake box – water, eggs, oil (I always substitute ¼ cup of the water with nonfat plain yogurt for extra moistness)
¾ cup Italian roast coffee (strong) or espresso
3 Tablespoons amaretto
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese
¼ cup whipping cream
2 Tablespoons sour cream
2 Tablespoons amaretto
1 cup whipping cream (whipped)
1/3 cup butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
¼ cup milk (may need more to get to spreading consistency)
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder for dusting on top of cake
Dark chocolate shavings
Ladyfinger cookies or Stella D’oro Margherite Combo Cookies (I used the latter)
Make the cake:
1. Prepare cake as directed on cake mix using 2 8” round cake pans. Bake. Cool.
Prepare the coffee syrup:
1. Brew ¾ cup strong coffee or espresso. Cool.
2. Add 3 Tablespoons of Amaretto
Prepare the mascarpone filling:
1. Whip the 1 cup whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
2. Combine the mascarpone cheese, cream cheese, ¼ cup whipping cream , sour cream, amaretto and powdered sugar until well combined and fluffy.
3. Fold in the whipped cream. Set aside.
Prepare buttercream frosting:
1. Cream butter and vanilla until fluffy.
2. Gradually add powdered sugar alternating with milk until well mixed. Add more milk , if needed, for spreading consistency. Set aside.
Assemble the cake: (FINALLY!)
1. Remove cakes from pans. Place one round on cake stand. Slice the other round in half (horizontally!) with a serrated knife or cake slicer.
2. Brush the tops of each 3 layers with the coffee syrup.
3. Spread the ½ of the mascarpone filling on the bottom cake layer.
4. Place the second cake layer on top of the bottom layer. Spread the remainder of the filling on top.
5. Place the third cake layer on top of the second.
6. Frost the sides and top of cake with the buttercream frosting. Place the cookies around the sides of the cake. Dust the top with cocoa powder and garnish with chocolate shavings.
7. Be sure to KEEP REFRIGERATED.