I’m so easily tempted by cake. The combination of tender, sweet crumb and rich frosting on top is always decadent and usually a sign of a celebration. The new book Layered: Baking, Building, and Styling Spectacular Cakes by Tessa Huff has you covered for every type of cake you could want to bake, and I received a review copy. These are all very pretty, polished cakes, and there are instructions for achieving each type of finishing touch shown throughout the book. But, don’t be intimidated by the professional look of these cakes. There are photos and instructions for piping, swirling, and smoothing frosting. There are also options for applying frosting and decorations in different ways, and you’re encouraged to mix and match flavors and toppings however you wish. Many of the cakes are constructed from six-inch layers, but there are some eight-inch cakes as well. They’re organized by category like Classic Cakes, Chocolate Cakes, Casual Cakes, Whimsical Cakes, Adventurous Cakes, and Holiday Cakes. The instructions give you a sense of ease about bringing these lovely creations to life, and you can always simplify the presentation or reduce components. There are several I wanted to bake right away like the Cookies and Cream Cake with chocolate layers and white chocolate-cream cheese frosting with crushed chocolate sandwich cookies, the Lemony Zucchini Cake with goat cheese frosting between layers and a lemon glaze drizzled on top, and the Oatmeal Cookie Cake with oatmeal cookie dough frosting as a filling. Some of the more intricate cakes include a Strawberry Confetti Cake with both strawberry and vanilla layers, strawberry cream, confetti buttercream, and homemade sprinkles; a Raspberry Stout Cake with raspberry cheesecake filling and raspberry chocolate bark on top; and a Pumpkin Vanilla Chai Cake with pumpkin ganache, pumpkin chai buttercream, and homemade spiced marshmallows on top. I want to try all of the techniques used, and I really want to taste all of these cakes. First, I chose something a little simpler. The Cinnamon Roll Cake sounded like a sweet tooth’s dream, and there was no need for a piping bag to frost this one.
This cake was made from two eight-inch layers, and the cake batter was made with sour cream, milk, butter, cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and eggs plus an egg yolk. I sensed this was going to be a delicious cake with all that richness baked into it. In addition to the cake batter, a mixture of melted butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon was prepared for swirling into the layers. One quarter of the cake batter was added to each prepared pan, one quarter of the cinnamon mixture was drizzled over each, a skewer was used to swirl the cinnamon mixture into the batter, the remaining batter was added to each pan, the remaining cinnamon mixture was drizzled over each, and the swirling was repeated. While the layers baked, a cinnamon crumble was made with flour, brown sugar, butter, honey, and cinnamon. Clumps of crumble were baked until set and golden. Next, frosting was made with cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla. There was to be a fourth component of cinnamon syrup to drizzle on top of the assembled cake, but my sweet tooth hit a wall at that point. The cake was already going to be so delicious I decided to skip the syrup topping. So, in my case, assembly involved placing the bottom layer on a platter, topping with cream cheese frosting, scattering the baked cinnamon crumble over that layer, adding the second cake layer, and topping with more cream cheese frosting.
I have to tell you, even without the cinnamon butter swirl that went into each layer, these would have been the tastiest vanilla cakes I’ve ever made. That cinnamon swirl made them perfect for a cinnamon roll cake. I already mentioned my sweet tooth surrendered before I got to the cinnamon syrup step for finishing, but I also wondered about the cinnamon crumble to be added between layers. I’m glad I went for it with the crumble because it added crunchy cinnamony-ness to the middle of the cake. And, cream cheese frosting is never anything but great. This was deliriously decadent, and now I can’t wait to try more cakes from this book.
Cinnamon Roll Cake
Recipe reprinted with publisher's permission from Layered: Baking, Building, and Styling Spectacular Cakes.
MAKES ONE TWO-LAYER 8-INCH (20-CM) CAKE; SERVES 10 TO 12
My husband, Brett, and his siblingswere often treated to cinnamon rolls on the weekends. Brett is the youngest child by many years and always got to select which roll he wanted first. Being the big sweet tooth that he is, he remembers always picking the one from the middle of the pan—the one with the most frosting. Clever kid! I developed this cake with him and the roll in the middle of the pan in mind. The cream cheese in this Cinnamon Roll Cake makes it extra rich and velvety, while the ribbons of cinnamon throughout give it a punch of flavor. Serve it as a special weekend breakfast treat or to celebrate with any cinnamon roll enthusiast.
Cinnamon Swirl Cake:
Butter or nonstick cooking spray, for the pans
2 1⁄4 cups (295 g) cake flour, plus more for the pans
2 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 cup (60 ml) sour cream
1⁄2 cup (120 ml) whole milk
1 cup (2 sticks / 225 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces (115 g) cream cheese, softened
1 1⁄2 cups (300 g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick / 55 g) butter, melted
1⁄4 cup (55 g) firmly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (65 g) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (75 g) firmly packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick / 55 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 ounces (225 g) cream cheese, softened
3⁄4 cup (1 1⁄2 sticks / 170 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups (375 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 1⁄2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1⁄2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Make the CINNAMON SWIRL CAKE:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease and flour two 8-inch (20-cm) cake pans and set aside.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
3. Stir together the sour cream and milk and set aside.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Add the granulated sugar and mix on medium-high until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
5. Turn the mixer to medium-low and add the vanilla, then add the eggs and egg yolk one at a time. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
6. Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix on medium for no more than 30 seconds after the last streaks of the dry ingredients are combined.
7. In a small bowl, mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
8. Pour one-quarter of the batter into each of the prepared pans. Spoon one-quarter of the cinnamon mixture on top of the batter in each pan and use a wooden skewer or the tip of a knife to gently swirl it. Divide the remaining batter between the pans. Divide the remaining cinnamon mixture between the pans and gently swirl it. Bake for 24 to 26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Let them cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.
Make the CINNAMON CRUMBLE:
9. While the oven is still at 350°F (175°C), line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
10. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, butter, honey, and cinnamon with a wooden spoon until combined. The mixture should resemble little clumps of sand. Sprinkle them over the lined baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring halfway through, or until golden brown. Let the crumble cool before use.
Make the CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
11. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until smooth. With the mixer on low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla until incorporated. Turn the mixer up to medium- high and mix until the frosting is fluffy.
Make the CINNAMON SYRUP:
12. Just before assembling the cake, in a saucepan, place 2 tablespoons water with the sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Heat over medium-high until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture starts to simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter until melted. Mix in the flour until combined.
13. Let the syrup cool slightly, then use it immediately before it thickens.
ASSEMBLE THE CAKE
14. Once the cakes have completely cooled, level them and choose which layer will be at the bottom. Place it on a cake plate or serving dish. Spread on half of the cream cheese frosting with an offset spatula. Sprinkle it with the cinnamon crumble pieces. Drizzle half the cinnamon syrup over the top. Top with the second layer of cake and repeat with the remaining frosting. Use a spoon and a zigzag motion to drizzle the remaining cinnamon syrup across the top layer of cake, letting it drip over the edges. Discard any extra syrup.
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