*editor’s note: I’ve known Shauna Sever, San Francisco-based blogger at The Next Door Baker, for a few years now, and I’ve long been a fan of her simple, crave-worthy recipes as well as her kind and fun personality. I couldn’t have been more excited to receive her newest book, Real Sweet, in the mail recently, and have promptly wanted to try every single recipe in its pages. I love that the recipes are as indulgent as great desserts should be, but nix overprocessed white sugar in favor of natural, unrefined alternative sweeteners. It’s definitely a must-have cookbook for any baker, and I asked Shauna to stop by and share my favorite dessert in the book: this Black & White Pancake Cake. Take it away, Shauna!
Talk about a showstopper! A stack of traditional flapjacks with butter and syrup is fabulous enough as is, but here we’re taking that idea into mind-blowing dessert territory. Maple-sweetened chocolate cake batter is cooked up like pancakes into thin layers and then sandwiched with lots of maple cream that beckons for a covert finger swipe. A few hidden slicks of bittersweet chocolate ganache add a major swoon factor to this over-the-top sweet stack.
- 1 batch of Maple Chocolate Cake batter
- ½ cup (4 ounces/113 grams) water
- ½ cup (4¼ ounces/120 grams) heavy cream, chilled
- ½ cup (4 ounces/113 grams) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
- 1½ tablespoons (1? ounces/32 grams) pure maple syrup (dark or very dark preferred)*
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
- 5 ounces (142 grams) bittersweet chocolate (60% to 70% cacao), chopped
- 6 tablespoons (3 ounces/85 grams) heavy cream
- Preheat a griddle over low heat for at least 10 minutes. You want the griddle nice and hot over as low heat as possible to avoid burning the pancakes and to give them ample time to cook through.
- Make the pancakes: Whip up a batch of Maple Chocolate Cake, adding the water to the wet ingredients before whisking the batter until smooth.
- Spray the griddle generously with nonstick spray. Making 2 pancakes at a time, pour two ½-cup scoops of batter onto the griddle. Use the back of a spoon to gently swirl and coax the pancakes into 7-inch circles. Cook the pancakes until the edges appear dry and set and bubbles are no longer popping on the surfaces, about 4 minutes on the first side. Use a thin, flexible metal spatula to gently flip the pancakes. Cook about 2 minutes more, or until the centers of the pancakes spring back when lightly touched. Remove the layers to wire racks to cool completely. Repeat the batter scooping and cooking process until you have 8 cake layers.
- Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and place 4 cake layers in a single layer on each sheet. Chill in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Make the cream filling: Pour the cream into a medium bowl. Whip the cream on high speed to stiff peaks. In a separate medium bowl, place the mascarpone, maple syrup, and vanilla bean paste. Beat on low speed, just until the mixture is smooth and begins to thicken, about 30 seconds—don’t overbeat, or the mascarpone will seize. Gently fold in the whipped cream until smooth.
- Make the ganache filling: Combine the bittersweet chocolate with the cream in a small heatproof bowl. Microwave on high power for 45 to 60 seconds. Whisk the ganache until the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth and the texture of chocolate pudding. Remove about 2 tablespoons of ganache to a small bowl and set aside for garnish.
- To assemble the cake, remove the pancake layers from the refrigerator. Inspect the layers; choose the most handsome to be the top layer and set it aside. Place 1 cake layer on a serving platter or cake stand. Dollop on ? cup of the maple mascarpone cream and use a small offset spatula to smooth it out, with a ½-inch border all around. Place a second layer on top, and press lightly to help it adhere. Spread about 2½ tablespoons of ganache onto the layer, also with a ½-inch border around the cake. Continue the layering process 6 more times, alternating maple mascarpone cream and chocolate ganache with the layers, placing the best-looking cake layer on top.
- To the remaining chocolate ganache, add a drizzle of cream, only about ½ teaspoon or so, just enough to thin it to a honeylike consistency (warm the ganache in the microwave for about 10 seconds or so to loosen it up first, if necessary). Drizzle the ganache artfully over the cake. Chill the cake for about 30 minutes before serving. This cake can be made up to 1 day in advance (let it soften on the counter for 15 minutes before slicing).
- With all the chocolate power in this recipe, using the darkest maple syrup in the cake and the filling will help the maple flavor come forward a little more.
- You can also use a very large heavy-bottomed skillet; you’ll just have to cook the pancakes one at a time, and the cooking time may vary.
- Be prepared to lower the heat accordingly if the pancakes are threatening to burn—just as with making regular breakfast pancakes, depending on your griddle and your stove, it may take a bit of adjusting to get the heat just right. Making a tiny test pancake.