Our contributor, Olivia Bogacki, is sharing a crème brûlée inspired layer cake recipe! Vanilla bean cake, vanilla custard, and crunchy bits of caramel, all covered in a silky vanilla buttercream and decorated with caramel sugar shards.
I’ve only made crème brûlée once in my life. It was in pastry school, and I remember the process being a bit finicky. It wasn’t exactly difficult to make, but I’m turned off by anything that you need to bake in a water bath. I vaguely remember there being a small window of time where the crème brûlée was either underdone or overdone, but you’re also not supposed to open the oven too often to check it. Stressful!! This is based on my one experience, mind you, so perhaps it’s actually easier than I remember.
As such, I am in no rush to make the real thing, so I’m continuing the theme of turning desserts into cakes because everything is better in cake form. This month, I bring you the Crème Brûlée Cake! Are you as excited as I am??
Crème brûlée (aka burnt cream) is a silky smooth custard topped with a thin layer of crunchy caramel. The contrasting textures are amazing together. The most common and most traditional flavour is vanilla, but these days you can find crème brûlée infused with all sorts of delicious flavours.
I’ve had very good crème brûlée and very, very bad crème brûlée. I will never forget this one I had at a local restaurant. It was completely curdled! Chunks of “stuff” in what was supposed to be a smooth as silk dessert. Needless to say, I took one bite and left it. I’m still kicking myself for not sending it back!
This crème brûlée cake takes all the elements of a traditional crème brûlée and turns them into a delicious layer cake! Vanilla bean cake, vanilla custard, and crunchy bits of caramel, all covered in a silky vanilla buttercream and decorated with caramel sugar shards. A note on the shards: sugar work does not stand up well over time. The shards will get very sticky the longer they sit, so I recommend using them the same day.
I hope you’re enjoying these posts on desserts turned into cakes. There will be more to come!
CREME BRULEE CAKE
a recipe by Olivia Bogacki
(makes one 8” cake – 12 servings)
For the Vanilla Bean Cake:
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs (room temperature)
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1 cup + 2 tablespoons buttermilk (room temperature)
- Preheat oven to 350F and grease and flour three 8″ cake rounds, line with parchment.
- In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt until well combined.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth. Add sugar and beat on med-high until pale and fluffy (2-3 minutes).
- Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla bean paste.
- Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of milk). Fully incorporating after each addition. Do not overmix.
- Spread batter evenly into prepared pans. Smooth the top with a spatula.
- Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.
- Place cakes on wire rack to cool for 10 minutes then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.
For the Vanilla Custard:
2 cups milk, divided
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
¼ cup cornstarch
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
- Place 1 ½ cups milk and vanilla bean paste into a medium saucepan. Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally until it just starts to simmer. Remove from heat.
- In a medium bowl, whisk remaining ½ cup milk, egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch.
- Once the milk mixture is simmering, slowly pour it into the egg mixture while whisking vigorously.
- Return mixture to pot and cook over high heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens and comes to a boil.
- Pass through a strainer and into a small bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on top of cream to prevent a skin from forming. Cool completely and refrigerate.
For the Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:
5 large egg whites
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
2 cups unsalted butter, cubed (room temperature)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Place egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer*, whisk until combined.
- Place bowl over a pan of simmering water to create a double-boiler. Whisking constantly, heat the egg mixture until it registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer. Carefully transfer the bowl onto the stand mixer.
- Using the whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes until the bowl is no longer warm to the touch and the meringue is fluffy, glossy and holds a stiff peak.
- Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, slowly add cubed butter and mix until incorporated.
- Add vanilla and whip on medium-high until silky and smooth, about 3 to 5 minutes.**
For the Sugar Shards (do this day of serving):
3 cups granulated sugar
½ cup water
- Line 2 half sheet pans with tin foil, set aside.
- Place sugar and water into a medium saucepan over high heat. Stir to combine and until sugar dissolves. Do not stir from this point forward. Use a pastry brush to wash down the inside of the pot occasionally to prevent sugar from crystalizing.
- Cook sugar, swirling pot occasionally until desired color of caramel is reached (10-15 minutes).
- Immediately pour onto baking sheets. Tilt the sheets as needed to distribute the sugar. Allow to cool slightly (approximately 5 minutes).
- Once sugar has cooled and set (but is still warm), peel off tin foil and break sugar into shards.***
For the Assembly:
- Place one layer of cake onto a cake stand or serving plate. Using a large round tip, pipe a dam of frosting along the top to hold the custard.
- Top with approximately 2/3 cup of custard and spread evenly. Crush up some smaller bits of the sugar shards and sprinkle over top.****
- Repeat with remaining layers and crumb coat the cake. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
- Frost the cake and smooth the sides and top (do a swirl if desired). Place back in the fridge for 30 minutes to set.
- Just before serving, place sugar shards randomly on the outside of the cake. You may need to spackle some leftover frosting on a few pieces to help them stick. Remove shards before cutting.
* Ensure there is NO trace of egg yolks in your whites and that your mixer bowl and whisk are completely grease free or your meringue may not whip up.
** The buttercream may look like it’s curdled at some point. Keep mixing until it is completely smooth.
*** Do not let the sugar cool completely. It will shatter when broken and you won’t get large shards.
**** The sugar will dissolve over time but adds a nice caramel flavor.