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A couple weeks back I was looking for birthday cake ideas for the hubby’s B-Day. Every year I have uncontrollable urge to surpass the previous year’s cake. Last Year I whipped up a an easy, but delicious chocolate cake, with peanut butter frosting and a layer of peanut butter caramel in the center. A recipe I’ll have to repeat again one of these days as my note taking was horrible and I know need to revalidate the whole recipe. I hate when that happens. I rush to bake the cake and think; I remember what I put in, I’ll write it down tomorrow. Suddenly, tomorrow turns to next month, leaving me plagued with doubt as I scribble down what little notes I can remember.

Millionaires Layer Cake

© David James Di Pardo – 2015

Anyways, back to this year’s cake. When in need of inspiration, I often turn to my Pinterest boards, where I found this beauty. Sweet & Salty Millionaires Layer Cake by Rosie over at Sweetapolita.com. I dare say it was love at first sight. All those flavours and textures, and oh so many layers. The original recipe isn’t vegan but that didn’t seem like too big of a deal. Naturally some components required a little more thought (like vegan swiss meringue buttercream, yes it can be done!), but with a print out by my side and a pen in hand, I was able to scribble down a vegan version.

This was by far one of the best cakes I have ever made. Rich and decadent, and let me tell, it feeds a crowd. 6 layers of dark chocolate cake, 5 layers of vanilla bean Swiss meringue buttercream, salted caramel, shortbread crumbs, the entire cake covered with chocolate ganache, and sprinkled with a combination of sugar and pink Himalayan salt. It took an entire day to prepare and assemble, but it was totally worth it. Several of the components can be made ahead, so if you’re going to make it, plan to make the cake layers, caramel, and ganache ahead of time. They can keep a couple days to a couple weeks in the fridge, which will make the assembly that much easier.

Millionaires Layer Cake 02

© David James Di Pardo – 2015

Unfortunately my pictures didn’t turn out nearly as pretty as Rosie’s as I was working with the left over cake and fleeting day light. Be sure to check out her site for her assembly instructions, pictures, and lots of drool worthy recipes. Definitely a crown pleaser, in your face last year’s cake!

Vegan Millionaire Layer Cake

Serves 16-18 people
For the Chocolate Cake:
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened cashew milk (or other non-dairy milk) + 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, mixed together
  • 3/4 cup brewed coffee, hot
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • For the Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  • 3/4 cup reduced aquafaba, reduced from one 19 ounce can
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups non-hydrogenated vegan margarine (such as Earth Balance), softened, cut into cubes
  • 3/4 cup non-hydrogenated vegan shortening (such as Spectrum), softened, cut into cubes
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
For the Salted Caramel:
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 14 ounce can full fat coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons non-hydrogenated vegan margarine (such as Earth Balance)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Generous pinch of sea salt
For the Shortbread Crumbs:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup non-hydrogenated vegan margarine (such as Earth Balance), softened, cut into cubes
For the Ganache Frosting:
  • 400g bar dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 can coconut cream, chilled overnight (I used Trader Joe’s coconut cream)
  • 1/3 cup (110 g) corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup non-hydrogenated vegan margarine (such as Earth Balance), cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract

For the Chocolate Cake:

Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease three 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper rounds.

In a large mixing bowl sift together; flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a large measuring cup, stir together the cashew milk and apple cider vinegar, coffee, oil, apple sauce, and vanilla.

Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the liquid mixture, whisk until smooth. Divide batter evenly among the 3 cake pans.

Note: Using cake strips will give you a perfectly flat top which makes the cake much easier to slice into thin layers. If you don’t own any cake strips you can find a tutorial to make your own here. It takes only a couple minutes, an old cloth or towel, and safety pins.

Bake the layers until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs, about 20-25 minutes. Try not to over-bake. Let cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then turn onto a wire rack until completely cool. Cooled cake layers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in refrigerator until ready to use.

For the Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

In a small sauce pan, bring the aquafaba to a simmer and allow to reduce to 3/4 cup. Remove from the heat and stir in the granulated sugar. Stir until dissolved and transfer to a glass measuring cup to chill. Chill in the freezer for 10-15 minutes, or in the fridge overnight.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the chilled aquafaba and whip on high until glossy stiff peaks form. Add in the confectioners’ sugar and whisk one minute longer, starting on slow and gradually increasing the speed.

With the mixer running, add softened margarine and shortening in chunks until incorporated. Mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if it curdles, keep mixing and it will come back together). Increase speed to medium and beat until the mixture becomes thick and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add vanilla bean paste and salt, continuing mixing until well combined, scrapping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day, refrigerated for up to 1 week. Bring chilled buttercream back to a smooth consistency by bringing to room temperature and then beating on low speed with an electric mixer for a few minutes.

For the Salted Caramel:

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir the sugar and water until combined. Brush down the sides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush and increase the heat to medium-high.

Stop stirring, and let the mixture bubble until it reaches an amber color, about 340°F on a candy thermometer. Remove the saucepan from the heat, temporarily remove the candy thermometer, and whisk in the coconut milk (be careful, as this will bubble and steam aggressively for a moment) until smooth, followed by the margarine.

Clip the candy thermometer back onto the saucepan and return the mixture to medium-high heat until it reaches 240°F). Transfer the caramel to the heatproof bowl and stir in the vanilla and sea salt. As the caramel reaches room temperature it will become thick and spreadable. Store in a sealed jar in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

For the Shortbread Crumbs:

Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour and sugar. Cut in the margarine using a pastry blender or two butter knives, until you have distributed the margarine and achieved pea-size bits. Turn the mixture in an even layer onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

Remove the tray from the oven and, using a heatproof spatula, gently break up the mixture and return to the oven for 10 more minutes. Let tray cool completely on a wire rack. Once cool, keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

For the Ganache Frosting:

Place chopped chocolate and coconut cream in a large heatproof mixing bowl, set over a pot of simmering water. Gently stir until the chocolate is completely melted, watching that the simmering water does not come to a full boil.

Set the mixture aside and allow to cool completely.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cooled chocolate, corn syrup and salt and beat until smooth. Add the margarine and vanilla and mix again until smooth. Mixture with thicken to a spreadable frosting consistency.

Assembly of the Millionaire’s Layer Cake:

Prepare your fillings and frosting and ensure they are all at spreadable consistency, gently heating the caramel if needed. Make sure the caramel isn’t warm or this will melt your buttercream. It should fall off your spoon in thick glossy ribbons.

Slice all three cake layers in half horizontally, so you have a total of 6 cake layers.

Smear a small dollop of the ganache frosting on a cake plate, pedestal or cake board, and place your first layer cut side up (so bottom of the cake layer is touching plate), and using a small offset palette knife, spread about 1 cup of buttercream on the layer leaving about 1/4-inch around the edge, followed by the caramel and then a generous handful of shortbread crumble. Repeat with the remaining layers.

Place last layer face down (cut side down) and frost entire cake with the ganache frosting. Let sit for about 15 minutes in the fridge and then finish with a thick “coat” of more ganache frosting.

Use a turntable and palette knife to create texture -use one hand to turn the turntable and hold the palette knife in the other hand. Keep palette knife in place and let the turntable do the moving. Use a small offset palette knife to create texture on the top of the cake and sprinkle on some Pink Himalayan salt and sugar crystals. Finished cake can be kept at room temperature for up to 8 hours. Keep refrigerated if longer than 8 hours, but serve at room temperature.