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Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal-infused cake with crunchy praline buttercream for a Christmas brunch!
I had the honour of chatting with our British nanny the other day about traditional English Christmas desserts. She asked if I'd ever made Fruit Cake before, and I nearly laughed. I'm not sure when fruit cake turned into bricks of the most undesirable treat at the dessert table or why they have such a bad reputation, but traditional English Fruit Cake is likely very different than the inedible stuff I saw stacked up at the grocery store last week.
Emily, our lovely nanny straight from London, explained to me how she used to start a batch of fruit cake months before Christmas day. Every few days you poke holes in the top of a dried fruit-filled loaf, feed it sherry, and then flip it over until the sherry completely soaks into the cake. This cycle repeats itself for a month or two until it's ready to become a dense doorstop, I mean, dessert. Just kidding guys! I am sure it's lovely. I wouldn't really know, but I am definitely intrigued and think maybe I should give it a shot next October...
And then there's Christmas pudding, which seems pretty far from any custard that I've ever had. Much unlike any sort of pudding that comes from a box, this is a steamed cake loaded (again) with dried fruit and tons of booze. Emily told me how she would make pudding with her grandmother, each one of the grandkids getting a chance to stir the batter and make a wish. A coin was then hidden in the in the batter to bring luck to whomever found it about three months later. Yes, 3 months!! Again with the booze and the soaking, Emily told me her grandmother would store her Christmas puddings in the cupboard months in advance.
Cake for breakfast, anyone? This cake is basically the opposite of those traditional English desserts that Emily described. It takes minutes, in comparison, to bake and comes together even faster with the use of one of my favorite store-bough cereals: Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Oh yes, you read that correctly. I've turned a tasty breakfast cereal into a brunch-time treat! The cake is baked with Cinnamon Toast Crunch infused milk that makes it taste just like the cereal. For the frosting, I wanted more than just added cinnamon and cereal topping, so I create a Cinnamon Toast Crunch praline buttercream. Mind-blowing, I tell you.
Using a standard praline base of sugar, water, and cream of tartar, I cooked it all up until golden before quickly stirring in the cereal and spreading it to cool. On its own, the Cinnamon Toast Crunch praline is pretty delicious and could be used as a garnish on your cake. But to turn it into a buttercream, the praline needs to be ground down in a food processor until it is nearly a powder. The caramelized sugar can be quite hard, so you will need to make sure to grind, grind, grind to keep your guests' teeth from chipping. Who knew a boxed cereal could be transformed into something to really celebrate with?!?
Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cake Recipe
Makes one, four-layer 8-inch round cake; Serves 12 to 16
For the cinnamon cake:
1 3/4 cups milk
1 heaping cup Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal
3 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cup cereal milk
In a large pitcher of bowl, combine the milk and cereal. Carefully weight the cereal down by fitting a bowl or plate on the surface the milk. Let steep for 20 to 30 minutes. When done, strain out the infused milk using a mesh sieve. Gently press down on the cereal with a rubber spatula to release any excess milk. Measure out 1 1/2 cups of milk and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two, 8-inch cake pans and set aside.
Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl using a hand mixer), mix the butter on medium until smooth. Add in the sugar and continue to mix until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. With the mixer on low, add in the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
With the mixer on low, carefully add in half of the dry ingredients. Stream in the milk and mix until combined. Carefully add in the remaining dry ingredients and mix on medium for no more than 30 seconds after the last streaks of flour are combined.
Evenly distribute the batter between the two pans. Bake in the preheated oven for 3o to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Let the cakes cool on a wire rack for 10 to 20 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.
For the Cinnamon Toast Crunch Praline:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
pinch cream of tartar
2 cups Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Like a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat and set aside.
Place the sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and continue to cook, without stirring, until the mixture turns a medium amber color. Remove the saucepan from the heat and quickly stir in the cereal and cinnamon. Tip the mixture onto the prepared pan and quickly spread it into a thin layer with a greased spatula. Allow the praline to completely cool then break into pieces.
For the Cinnamon Toast Crunch Praline Buttercream:
1 1/2 cups finely crushed praline
1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, or to taste
double batch Swiss meringue buttercream
Break the cooled praline in small enough pieces to fit in the bowl of a food processor. Grind the praline into a powder and set aside.
Mix the buttercream until silky smooth. Remove about 2 1/2 cups of buttercream and set aside.
Stir 1 cup praline and cinnamon into the remaining buttercream.
Assemble the cake:
Once the cakes are cool, carefully cut them in half horizontally with a long, serrated knife to create four, even layers. Place one layer of cake on a cake board or serving dish. Spread on 1 cup of praline buttercream. Top with the next layer of cake and repeat. Crumb coat the cake with the buttercream and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, use a mesh sieve to sift any large bits out of the remaining praline. Stir the praline powder into the reserved buttercream. This buttercream will be smoother for frosting the outer layer of the cake.
Smoothly frost the chilled cake with the buttercream. Fill a piping bag fitted with a start tip with any remaining buttercream and pipe swirls around the top of the cake.
This post was sponsored by Life Made Delicious. Thoughts and words are all my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Style Sweet CA possible.
Tender Pear Cake filled and frosted with a caramel-like Dulce de Leche Buttercream and bits of oat crumble.
Canadian Thanksgiving was over a month ago, but that can't seem to keep my overwhelming feelings of thanks and gratitude away. As the holidays approach, the days grow darker, and the rainy weather keeps us huddled together inside, I can't help but reflect on lucky I am to be surrounded by love, family, and lots of baked goods. So when our family friend and editor-in-cheif of Risen Magazine asked if I'd share my story, I didn't hesitate to agree.
In the "Expressions" section of the latest issue, you will find my full creative journey. From ballet lessons to baby bottles, I discuss my motivations for starting my own cake business to trying to do it all as a working mom to ultimately leaning on a bit of faith that these big, life-changing decisions I've made along the way were the right ones for our little family. Cake design has been my major creative outlet over the past decade, my way of expressing my fears, doubts, joys, and triumphs. Worry blocks creativity, so I've been trying my best to be more patient, a little less controlling, and to embrace the imperfections in life.
This Pear Cake is slightly adapted from my book Layered. The shredded pears nearly melt into the cake and keep it incredibly soft and tender. Adding Dulce de Leche to homemade buttercream is so luxurious. Similar to caramel, the dulce de leche adds a deeper, not-as-sweet creaminess to the frosting. Making dulce de leche from a can of sweetened condensed milk is super simple, but you may also try a store-bought variety.
For an additional layer of texture, I added an Oat Crumble in the middle. The cake is so moist and the buttercream so silky, I really feel like this cake benefits from a bit of crunch. The oat crumble recipe will certainly make more than you need, so sprinkle leftovers over yogurt or roasted fruit!
Pear Dulce de Leche Cake Recipe
For the cake:
2 ½ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cardamom (optional)
3 medium pears, such as Bartlett
½ cup vegetable or canola oil
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
½ cup buttermilk
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans and set aside.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and cardamom (if using) and set aside. Peal the pears and shred the pears (a box grater works great here) and place in a mesh sieve (or a few paper towels) over a bowl to drain. If they are extra juicy, press down gently with a rubber spatula to release some of the excess liquid (or gently bundle them up and squeeze the paper towels). Set aside.
Using an eclectic mixer, beat together the oil and sugar until combined. Add in the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Add in half of the flour mixture and mix on low until combined. Slowly stream in the buttermilk until incorporated. Add in the remaining flour and mix until mostly combined. Stop the mixer and fold in the drained shredded pears
Evenly divide the batter between the two pans and bake in the pre-heated oven for 25 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans. Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.
For the buttercream:
2/3 cup prepared or store-bought Dulce de Leche (recipe to follow)
Small batch Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Mix the buttercream until silky smooth. Add in the Dulce de Leche and mix until fully combined.
For the oat crumble (optional):
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced and softened
½ cup rolled oats
Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
Place all of the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Stir together with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the mixture forms small clumps of what looks like “wet sand.” Dump the contents on a lined baking sheet and spread out. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes (stirring halfway) until the crumble starts to crisp and turn slightly golden brown. Cool on a wire rack then break up into small pieces (if the pieces are left large, then the cake will be difficult to slice).
For the Dulce de Leche:
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Place an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk in a slow-cooker. Fill with enough water to full submerge the can. Turn the slow-cooker to “low” and cook for 8 hours. Very carefully remove the can from the hot water and let it cool at room temperature. Open the can and store the Dulce de Leche in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
Place a cooled cake on a cake board or serving dish. Spread on about 1 cup of buttercream with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Sprinkle on a generous amount of oat crumble and top with the second layer of cake. Frost the cake with the buttercream and decorate as desired.
For the boarder, fill a piping bag fitted with a petal tip (Wilton #104), and pipe interlocking "V's" around the top and bottom edges of the cake. Keep the narrow end of the tip facing up as you pipe.