This week I finished the second round of edits on my new book. That’s about half way through the process, but it still felt like a reason to celebrate. I like to celebrate, even the small stuff. Why wait? Celebrate along the way, since the process is the whole reason I do this. Cake seemed the right way to mark the moment. A slightly-over-the-top cake at that. Piping icing into flowers is a zen moment for me, it’s how I relax and the results are so satisfying.
The inside of the cake is a collection of things I had stocked up in my freezer, because I always feel a little more secure knowing there is a cake just a thaw away. I typically bake extra cake layers and make more buttercream than I need for a single cake, then I freeze them. This may be a result of years in the catering world, when a rush order would come in and we’d have to create something in minutes, not hours. Cake and buttercream freeze like a dream.
The cake is chocolate, the buttercream I flavored with cinnamon and for the filling I made cajeta flavored mascarpone cream. Cajeta is often called “Mexican Caramel,” even though it’s not really caramel at all, but a reduction of goat milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and baking soda. You cook it low and slow for a couple of hours until it is both the color and consistency of caramel. The baking soda (an alkaline) reacts with the milk (slightly acidic) and it quickly darkens. Without the addition of baking soda the milk/sugar would have to actually caramelize (burn) to darken and that’s not what we want. You can watch me make the cajeta and this entire cake in my instagram stories.
Cajeta has an earthy flavor that I love, but it definitely tastes of goat milk. It is related to the dulce de leche and is made in the exact same way, so you can swap out the cajeta for the cow milk version if you’re not a fan of goat milk. Or, you can combine the two types of milk to mellow out the flavor a bit. You decide.
(Dulce de Leche and Cajeta)
Chocolate cake with Cajeta (or Dulce de Leche) and Cinnamon Buttercream (the picture if of a 6-inch cake, but the recipes below will make a tall 8-inch cake or a shorter 9-inch cake).
Swiss Meringue Buttercream (plus 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon)
Ganache for between layers (10 ounces cream heated to simmer, poured over 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate and gently stirred, Let set until room temperature)
Cajeta or Dulce de Leche:
1 quart goat or cow milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Simmer the milk, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon until sugar melts. Add the baking soda and continue simmering until the mixture is thick and deep caramel color, stirring often. This can take up to 2 hours.
Cajeta or Dulce de Leche Filling:
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces mascarpone
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup cajeta or dulce de leche
Whip to medium peaks in a stand mixer fitten with whip attachment.