Task: Make a camping-themed wedding cake for 40 people that looks like a giant s'more.
Challenge accepted! I love making unusual cakes and was happy with the results. (If I were ever to make a giant s'more cake again, I would change a couple of details, as mentioned below.)
To make the cake in the photo, I used:
Graham crackers - 2 batches of Alton Brown's recipe (I used half honey, half molasses, as recommended by several in the comments.)
NOTE: I would have liked the graham crackers to be thicker for the proportions to be more like a real s'more.
Graham cake, honey syrup, ganache, Swiss meringue (for the outside of the cake), toasted marshmallows (my favorite part!!!!!) and instructions for assembling the cake itself: MarthaStewart.com's Scrumptious S'mores Cake
NOTE: The cake recipe says it's for two 9 by 2 inch round cake pans. I feel it makes more batter than that, so if you are planning a two-layer 9-inch cake, only fill the pans halfway, then put the remaining batter in an extra pan or discard. I filled a 14 by 2 inch pan and a 6 by 2 inch pan with one batch, then an 11 by 2, an 8 by 2, a 6 by 2, and 12 cupcakes with the the second batch! And one batch makes a LOT of batter. My 4 1/2 quart bowl Kitchen Aid couldn't handle it at the end and I had to finish mixing it by hand in a larger bowl.
Instead of the Swiss meringue buttercream, I opted for Italian meringue buttercream. (This goes between the cake layers, on top of the ganache. I also used it to frost the smaller, extra cake.)
1. Roll out a batch of graham cracker dough between sheets of parchment paper, as directed. I regularly peeled off a sheet & sprinkled the dough with a little flour, then replaced the sheet & kept rolling. Roll it to make a 12 by 14 inch rectangle. Place the dough on your baking sheet & trim the edges with a pizza cutter. Use a table knife to mark the seam or break-apart line in the middle and a skewer stick to mark the holes, using a store-bought graham cracker as a guide. Bake as directed. Repeat with other batch of dough.
2. Bake cake layers, as desired. Cool completely and cut in half to create four layers. I think an 11" and a 12" are ideal to make a little bulge in the middle (start with 1/2 of the 11", then the 12", finish with the other half of the 11") to mimic a toasted marshmallow, squished down a little.
3. Prepare ganache, toasted marshmallows, honey syrup, and meringue buttercream (I made two batches of meringue buttercream. I used about 1 1/2 batches for the cake, then the extra for the mini cake shown below.)
4. Place 1/2 of a cake layer (my first was 11") in the center of the cooled graham cracker. Brush with honey syrup, spread with 1/3 of the ganache, then a layer of meringue buttercream. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the toasted marshmallows. Repeat with each half of the 12" cake and top with the other 11" half.
5. Apply a layer of melted chocolate to the exposed graham cracker around the bottom of the cake. Chill entire cake while you prepare the meringue for the outside.
6. Prepare Swiss meringue. (I made two batches. Save a dollop for testing the blow torch.) Use the first batch to coat the outside of the cake, use the second batch to apply a thin layer to the top and to add to the sides. Smooth the sides as much as possible.
7. Test the blow torch with the reserved Swiss meringue. Lightly brown the outside of the cake with the torch. Place remaining graham cracker on top of cake.
Since I ended up with extra cake layers, I used the two 6-inch layers to make a mini cake. I assembled it like the big cake, then frosted the outside with Italian meringue buttercream. Since the buttercream isn't torchable, I pressed in a layer of toasted marshmallows. In some ways, I like the mini cake better than the big one!
I overheard one wedding guess say she thought the cake would be better with ice cream. The cake isn't as sweet as most American-style cakes and I was conscious of not overwhelming this one with frosting, since the bride is not a frosting fan, so perhaps the guest was right, for her tastes. My own preference would be twice as much ganache (I love chocolate) and extra toasted marshmallows!