Cake, meet Stuff. Yum!
February 12, 2016 4:28 AM   Subscribe

I like elaborate cakes, with complicated and/or interesting combinations of flavored fillings, icing and other add-ins-- the sort of thing one sees all the time at restaurants, but that seems to turn up surprisingly infrequently in cookbooks. Thus, two questions: first, what especially yummy, original cake flavor or texture combinations have you encountered in the wild, or in restaurants, etc.? And second, anybody have any excellent recipes for flavored fillings, or similar interesting stuff to add to a cake?

These don't necessarily have to be fancy looking, and ease of construction is great, too-- but I do want to shoot at least one level above the chuck-some-candy-into-a-box-cake level that's so prominently featured on the likes of Allrecipes. Concept ideas ("yellow cake + white chocolate icing + banana filling + chocolate chips," or whatever) are fine, or whole recipes also great. Thanks, Metafilter!
posted by Bardolph to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
I got the recipe from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook but red wine, chocolate and cinnamon go very nicely together in red wine chocolate cake.
posted by peppermind at 4:38 AM on February 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

Momofuku Milk Bar is your friend. They have a cookbook you might enjoy as well.
posted by STFUDonnie at 4:41 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I invented a cake and I think it's yummy.

I use Julia Childs's Genoise cake recipe, I cut the granulated sugar by half. Prepare the batter as directed and separate into four different bowls.

Take a bag of frozen berries, separating them, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries. You don't need a lot of them, about 1/8 - 1/4 cup. Use a small food processor or mash them into a liquid. Incorporate each one into a bowl of cake batter, creating 4 different colors.

You can do cupcakes, or a layer cake, either way, drop the batter spoonful by spoonful into the cake pan creating a dappled appearance.

Bake as directed. Serve with some of the fruits, syrup and whipped cream.

It's Monet cake!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:52 AM on February 12, 2016 [8 favorites]

A real custard filling, made with egg yolks, is hard to beat. Here's a lemon mousse recipe for the general procedure, though I might skip the egg whites in a cake filling. If you're really feeling elaborate, you can alternate custard layers with fruit or jam layers.
posted by yarntheory at 4:59 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

My wife's last creation was a cardamom angel cake with saffron rosewater whipped cream.
posted by nicwolff at 5:14 AM on February 12, 2016 [8 favorites]

I enjoy getting elaborate cakes and other desserts from patisseries. I have a weakness for cake fillings not flavored with the typical flavors such as chocolate or vanilla - think lavender, rosewater, earl grey tea, green tea, etc.

the sort of thing one sees all the time at restaurants, but that seems to turn up surprisingly infrequently in cookbooks

Have you looked at books such as Patisserie: Mastering the Fundamentals of French Pastry? The presentation of techniques in such books will also give you ideas on how to mix and match them to create your own elaborate desserts.
posted by needled at 5:46 AM on February 12, 2016

Mix up your chocolate. Use three different brands to get your own flavor. Always use the best ingredients. Go to for special ingredients. Look at the history of Black Forest Cakes and try to duplicate some of the recipes. Experiment. I worked on one for weeks before I settled on the following recipe. I had my neighbors tasting every cake. When I hit this recipe, they told me to stop experimenting, that this was the one. It has been requested for birthdays and special occasions since, always being referred to as:

The Cake

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup special dark cocoa
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350┬║. Grease 2 round pans, 1 13x9 pan, or 1 bundt. In large mixer bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Add wet except for water. Mix for 2 minutes, then add water (have the water in your microwave and heat for 2 minutes, timing your mixing and boiling your water at the same time). Add water carefully and mix well. Pour into pans and bake for just under 30 minutes. Do not overcook. If it seems a little undercooked in the middle, then it is done. Cool for 10 minutes then release from pans and let cool.
If you are making the 4 layer version, you will have easier results if you chill the cakes for a bit. Use a long, serrated knife to carefully make a horizontal cut through the middle of the cake. Flip your round pan over, place the cake on it, start at the shallowest edge and work around, turning the pan to get easy access to all sides.

Truffle filling

16 ounces dark chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons butter

The chocolate should be in small bits and slightly melted. If you are not using a high quality chocolate, you may have to use your hand mixer to achieve a smooth finish. Do not over-mix.
Prepare your chocolate and have ready in a large bowl. Cut butter into small pieces and have ready. Bring heavy cream to a simmer over med. high heat. Pour over chocolate and stir until smooth. Add butter and stir until smooth.
Depending on the temperature of the kitchen, your ganache may need to cool a little before using. You can put it in the fridge or freezer for a few moments. Check frequently and stir every time. Avoid precipitation or it will leave streaks. Once it begins to hold it's shape, then you can use on cake. I adapted this from a recipe for truffles. If you make a 4 layer cake, then you will only have the bowl to lick. If you make a 9x12 cake then you will have extra. Allow extra to firm up in fridge, roll into balls and roll in crushed nuts, hot cocoa mix, coconut, whatever. Put frosted cake in the fridge to set. Once it is set, you can cover it without it sticking.

Serve fresh, serve cold, serve room temperature or heat for a few moments in microwave for molten cake.

I use Hershey's special dark chocolate when making 'the cake' but any chocolate will do. Ghirardelli cocoa is lovely in the bundt cake version.
posted by myselfasme at 5:47 AM on February 12, 2016 [9 favorites]

I just discovered this cake recipe via the Great British Bakeoff - haven't made it yet, but the layers look amazing
posted by Mchelly at 5:48 AM on February 12, 2016

I recently had the most delicious cake dessert: a simple, moist, not-too-sweet poundcake with a little scoop of some kind of sweetened lemony ricotta on top, accompanied by a few pieces exquisitely done candies orange peel sort of scattered on/around it. It was the highlight of 2016 so far. You could really appreciate the different components -- each was delicious -- but they were amazing taken together.

perfect poundcake + perfect sweet cheesy topping + perfect candied orange peel = so good.

(For NC Triangle residents, this was at "The Boot" Italian restaurant) (which is never as crowded as I think it should be) (and has amazing lemon/cheese ravioli)
posted by amtho at 5:59 AM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I like to use maple syrup when making frosting - powdered sugar, your fat of choice, vanilla, a pinch of salt and then maple syrup to taste. The syrup gives it a gloss as well as a maple flavor. You can do the same thing with coconut milk.

Here is a vegan brown sugar cake as modified by me:
2/3 cups unbleached cane sugar
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup Spectrum Naturals Spread or other non-hydrogenated vegan margarine
2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 T. baking powder
3/4 t. salt
1 3/4 cups soy milk, rice milk, or other non-dairy milk of choice (add additional 1/4 C if batter is dry)
1 T. vanilla
1 t. almond extract - in an ideal world, use cardamom extract; failing that, 2 tsp cardamom

This is a fairly heavy cake; I usually bake it in either two or three layers (or else two layers and split them) and frost with coconut or coconut cardamom frosting. You need a lot of frosting! It's also perfectly adequate as a sheet cake.
posted by Frowner at 6:08 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh man, Rose Levy Berenbaum would be your jam (and citrus curd, and buttercream). Any of her cake books will include recipes for complicated, multi-step, multi-stage cakes and the associated fillings and toppings, and the recipes are reliably terrific.

To give you an idea, one of her basic bar cookies is chocolate shortbread base with orange curd (which requires evaporating the fresh-squeezed orange juice by just the right amount) with a ganache swirl laced with Grand Marnier. (Recipe is in her Christmas Cookie book and it's delicious.) And that is simple compared to her cake recipes.

The other one you might enjoy -- which is online rather than in book form -- is Joe Pastry, a pastry blogger. Sadly he no longer updates, but his archives are up, and include a wide variety of complex, multi-stage cake projects. I have made a bunch of his recipes. Of the ones I've tried, you might enjoy the jelly roll or the Rehr├╝cken (an Austrian cake baked in a special tin, filled with jam, glazed with chocolate, and studded with almonds).
posted by pie ninja at 6:11 AM on February 12, 2016 [7 favorites]

Chocolate and passionfruit are an unexpectedly great combination. I recently had a chocolate cupcake with passionfruit curd filling and slightly passionfruit-flavored chocolate frosting. The same bakery used to do a "high tea" cupcake that had lemon curd filling and Earl Grey frosting.
posted by ostro at 6:16 AM on February 12, 2016

You need The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. It's filled with the most complicated delicious sounding cakes. (P.S. The recipes are really serious about the measurements. You need to be accurate & not substitute ingredients.)
posted by gregr at 6:38 AM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've found lots of unique flavor combinations in cupcake recipes which you can tweak to create cakes (or just make cupcakes) - try Cupcake Bakeshop, also seconding Smitten Kitchen.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 6:39 AM on February 12, 2016

Things to add to other things to bring them out of basic:

Cake batter or frostings/icings:
Flavorings. Your bog-standard extracts/oils, or specialty ones like rose, orange cream, butter rum. Try LorAnn.
Jams, curds. Make, or buy jams, lemon or lime curd, stir into frosting.
Syrups. Maple syrup, sweet syrups, spicy syrups, stir into frosting.

Chopped or shaved chocolate of any kind.
Candied fruit or fruit peels.
Toasted or glazed nuts.
Crushed cookies, wafers, etc, to roll the sides in or sprinkle on.
Edible flowers.

Great combos:
White or pound cake, lemon, ricotta, rosemary.
Almond or chocolate cake, orange/Grand Marnier in frosting, candied orange.
Spiced peanut butter cake with chopped peanuts, sesame-peanut frosting, sriracha.
Maple and vanilla cake, maple cream frosting, candied bacon.

Think about traditionally delicious flavor combos and creatively implement them into a cake. Peanut butter and jelly? Stir raspberry jam into the batter, make a peanut butter frosting, top with a little more jam and maybe some freshly macerated berries. Maybe sprinkle on some toasted biscuit crumbs or graham crackers to evoke the bread.
posted by rachaelfaith at 7:14 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I agree with the Beranbaum recs; her recipes always work and range from very simple to very complicated.

Chestnut cakes are great, especially with both ganache and buttercream. I made a lovely chocolate cake with chai buttercream, chocolate cake with intense strawberry buttercream, banana and penuche, lemon and pistachio.

I've recommended this big deal cake before.
posted by jeather at 7:23 AM on February 12, 2016

Sweetapolita is my favorite cake recipe destination. A lot if the recipes are built from classic flavor combinations, but clever and amazing. Some are pretty novel, just like you want.
posted by meese at 7:29 AM on February 12, 2016

Croquembouche and Gateau St. Honore are two french cakes which are made from pate a choux (puff pastry) rather than, you know, cake. The former is a cone made of cream puffs and bound together by threads of caramel, while the latter is a disk of puff pastry topped with a a ring of puff pastry topped with cream puffs, all joined pastry cream and whipped cream. Croquembouche is part of the french wedding tradition.

Pate a choux is really easy to do; it's just a new technique if you've only done regular baking. In my experience, it's pretty resilient to amateurish efforts like my own-- just be sure to let the steam out when its job is done.
posted by Sunburnt at 7:38 AM on February 12, 2016

I cannot give recipes, and those you will find online are likely to be in impenetrable Mitteleuropean languages, but investigate ludlab and rigo jancsi.
posted by zadcat at 8:04 AM on February 12, 2016

Bake an angel food cake. let it cool. Remove cake from the top to make a 2"x2' channel around the top, reserving the removed cake. Half fill the channel with softened vanilla (or other flavor according to taste) ice cream. Top the ice cream with a small drizzle of creme de menthe. Using the reserved cake, cover the ice cream tying to make the cake look natural. Ice with a drizzle of dark chocolate icing.

posted by SemiSalt at 8:06 AM on February 12, 2016

Chocolate cake + avocado mousse + pear compote is surprisingly great. There used to be a bakery in NYC that made parfaits with that combination and they were amazing. I have no recipe though.

Peaches + basil are also really good, but that might be more of a pie idea than a cake idea.

If you're up for more of an ice cream cake, I think the Dirt Candy cookbook has a recipe for an ice-cream, green pea + mint version of naniamo bars that's just delicious (I've eaten it at the restaurant, have not tried the make at home version so am not 100% sure it's the same as a the restaurant version).
posted by snaw at 8:54 AM on February 12, 2016

I think you might really like the wonderful blog Sprinkle Bakes. The author has a couple of cookbooks too. Everything she makes is beautiful (she's an artist in addition to a baker), but many of them have really delicious, unique flavor combinations.

For example:
Malted Nutella and Biscoff Brownie Torte
Matcha Cake Sushi Rolls
Earl Grey Poppy Seed Tea Cakes
Double Chocolate Stout Mousse Cake
Ultimate Sampler Cake

I haven't made many of her recipes (mostly out of laziness - these days I'm much more of a drop-cookie baker), but I drool over pretty much all of them.
posted by bananacabana at 9:05 AM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Dorie Greenspan's perfect party cake has flavors of lemon, coconut, and jammy fruit. I made it once with apricot jam and it was wonderful. I made it again with black raspberry jam and it was transcendent.

(Note on assembly: she has you spread jam on each cake layer, then cover the jam with buttercream, then plop down the next cake layer and repeat. It is both easier and prettier if you spread the buttercream on the next cake layer before plopping it down, instead of trying to spread buttercream neatly on top of slippery jam. Alternatively you can do the buttercream first, then brush the jam on top of it. Do it in the order you would usually make a PBJ.)
posted by mama casserole at 9:59 AM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I once consumed, at the end of what I am told was an amazing meal, a pistachio saffron cake studded with roasted apricots and served with a lightly minted whipped cream. I don't remember the meal, just that cake. That cake.
posted by Mizu at 10:55 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Every Japanese person I have told about umeboshi cheesecake has been horrified at first, but since my (Japanese) boyfriend loves umeboshi and cheesecake, googling for a recipe seemed like a good idea for his birthday, and I actually found one. He loves it.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 12:19 PM on February 12, 2016

Molly Yeh has lots of unusually flavoured cakes on her blog.
posted by jrobin276 at 1:02 PM on February 12, 2016

I flipped through Sitting in Bars With Cake at the library and decided it was not for me, but a lot of the recipes were definitely unusual and might scratch your itch. I may be hallucinating that one was made with parsnips? Her Sweet Potato Marshmallow Cake is a more conventional but sounds pretty darn good.
posted by theweasel at 1:49 PM on February 12, 2016

My cousin made me this extraordinary cake that had a surprise when you cut into it - M&Ms! It was delicious and fun.
posted by radioamy at 2:37 PM on February 12, 2016

Momofuku Milk Bar was mentioned by STFUDonnie. Case in point: I held onto this recipe for a good year or two before making it. There seemed to be a high ratio of risk to reward, with so many components to make, and the odd combination of peach, coffee, and chocolate. But it was so good. Which is a double-edged sword, because it turned out great, and why is it so hard to convince someone else to make it and give me a slice?

I was also suspicious of The Concorde, in which the cake part of cake is replaced with meringue, but the crispiness combined with creamy chocolate mousse icing is absolutely glorious. It's availability in New York was newsworthy to Florence Fabricant, too.

Last, five-spice seasoning goes well with chocolate. Although I've never met a flourless chocolate cake I didn't like.
posted by MrBobinski at 2:43 PM on February 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

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