Tiramisu Layer Cake

"Tiramisu.....what is that, some city in another country?" 

I stumbled pretty blindly into the tiramisu world a handful of years ago - but it'll suffice to say I've been hooked since the first time I tried it. ;) Tiramisu is a classic Italian dessert consisting of layered coffee-soaked ladyfingers (a type of long, thin wafer cookie) and mascarpone cream. Some recipes soak the ladyfingers in a mixture of coffee and a liqueur like rum or amaretto. It is often topped with a dusting of cocoa powder and decorated with shaved or chopped chocolate.

SO good. You *have* to try it if you've never had it. ;) 

I got a request for a tiramisu-flavored cake for a baby shower not long ago, and that's how this cake came into being. My husband always says "practice makes better," so I actually took this one to work with me as a trial run to see how it would go over - we didn't have a huge number of staff working on that particular day, but the cake was still gone by the end of my shift!  ;)  Looked like a sign of success to me. :) 

Let's get to the recipe, shall we? ;) 

Editors note: When I made this cake for the second time, I used a cake leveler to cut the cake layers in half, so that the coffee and amaretto mixture soaked further into the layers.

My current favorite layer cake recipe is below - a slightly-modified version of Martha Stewart's Vanilla Layer Cake recipe - multiplied by 1.5 to make 3 8-inch layers.

Cake (x1.5 recipe)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 c granulated sugar
4 eggs + 2 egg whites
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 
1 1/2 T baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 c whole milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans and line with buttered parchment or spray with baker’s floured cooking spray. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
Cream softened butter and granulated sugar together on medium speed for 1-2 minutes. Add vanilla, eggs and egg white and beat well, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture, alternating with the milk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and mix until well combined.
Divide batter between pans (I find a kitchen scale helpful for this part) and smooth tops with an off-set spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean; about 25-30 minutes. Cool in pans for 15 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely. 

Coffee/Amaretto soak: 
1/3 c brewed espresso or coffee, cooled 
1/3 c amaretto liqueur (or rum) 

Filling - modified cream cheese frosting recipe
8 oz (one package) cream cheese, softened
8 Tablespoons (one stick) butter, softened
3-4 c powdered sugar
2-4 Tablespoons milk
3/4 c cocoa powder
1/4 t. salt

Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with milk until filling reaches a light, spreadable consistency. Beat until light and fluffy.
Divide in half; add cocoa powder to half of filling and mix until combined, adding 1-2 T more milk if needed to maintain a spreadable consistency.

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:
8 oz (one package) cream cheese, softened
16 Tablespoons (two sticks) butter, softened
6-7 c powdered sugar
2-4 Tablespoons milk
1 T clear vanilla extract 
1/4 t. salt
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. 

1/4 c cocoa powder 
1/2 bar semisweet or dark chocolate, chopped 

Additional Supplies/Equipment:
- 1 8- or 9-inch cardboard cake circle
- basting brush (or paint brush reserved for kitchen use)  
- small sifter 
- Cake turntable, offset spatula, and bench scraper - not all 100% necessary but incredibly helpful!

Once your cakes are cool, level them (if needed/desired) and use your basting or paint brush to soak the layers in the coffee/amaretto mixture. Spread a small amount of filling or frosting on your cake circle to stick the bottom layer to the circle, and center the first cake layer on your circle. Add a layer of cream cheese filling and then a layer of chocolate filling. Repeat with  the second cake layer.
Finally add your third cake layer - don't use any filling on top of this layer though, or you'll have a horrible time crumb-coating. I know. I tried. :/  

Now you're ready to crumb-coat . If you're unfamiliar with crumb-coating, it's just what it sounds like - a thin layer of frosting over the entire outside of the cake to keep crumbs out of your final layer. 
Once your crumb coat has set (this takes about 5-10 minutes in the fridge), add your final layer of frosting and smooth. I like to use an offset spatula and bench scraper for this part.
Pipe small stars of frosting around the upper rim of the cake and sprinkle with chopped chocolate. Using your small sifter, sprinkle the top of the cake with a dusting of cocoa powder. Add a rim of chopped chocolate around the base of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve - then enjoy!

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