Here's How To Hack A Layer Cake Without Actually Baking

Baking is a science. And if you're someone who may be scarred from repressed memories of certain Advanced Chemistry classes past, avoiding it at all costs might sound like the best option. But, relying on the store-bought route for cakes and other oven-made treats doesn't always work out. Sometimes we are called upon by friends, family, and even co-workers to bring (read: bake) something special to the table. And it's times like these (when a grocery store sheet cake is not so appropriate) that we're forced to actually bake something.

But instead of reliving our science fears and those flunked Chem. class nightmares, we have an alternative idea: the secret layer cake. What's the secret? Other than lacking any scary baking-science, these dessert creations are stacked with hidden layers of unexpected flavors and fillings. Dini Kodippili's Secret Layer Cakes shows us oven-avoidant how to successfully craft this major layered magic in our own kitchens. From a no-bake Mexican hot chocolate cake to a Fruity Pebble-encrusted cheesecake, the recipes ahead will help to conquer those homemade sweets scaries. So you can bring (not bake) something special to that table, after all.

Photo: Courtesy of Dini Kodippili.
Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookie Pudding
Makes one 8-in. cake

Mexican Chocolate French Buttercream Ingredients
6 egg yolks
3 eggs
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp cayenne pepper
10.5 oz. granulated sugar
½ tsp kosher salt
16 oz. unsalted butter, softened
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
5 oz. plain Mexican chocolate, melted
2 tsp vanilla extract
Stabilized Whipped Cream
3 tbsp water
1½ tsp powdered gelatin
2 cups plus 1 tbsp chilled whipping cream, divided
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cookie Layer Ingredients
10–15 oz. Maria cookies
1 cup milk, warmed

Decorative Ingredients
Marshmallows
Extra grated Mexican chocolate
Mexican Chocolate French Buttercream

Mexican Chocolate French Buttercream Instructions
1. Place the egg yolks, eggs, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and granulated sugar in a metal bowl. Using a mixer, whisk until pale and frothy.

2. Bring some water to a boil in a saucepan. Lower the heat to a simmer. Place the metal bowl over the simmering water and whisk continuously until the sugar has completely melted.

3. If you’d like to pasteurize the eggs, bring the temperature of the egg-sugar mixture to 150°F and retain the heat at this temperature for 10 minutes (remember to continuously whisk the egg yolks so that they don’t cook and harden!)

4. Remove the bowl from the simmering water. Add the salt and whisk on medium speed until the bowl is cool to the touch (this is important—or it’ll be too hot for the butter, and will result in a runny frosting). Add the softened butter 1 to 2 tbsp at a time, whisking well between each addition. The frosting will appear runny and broken, but keep adding all of the butter and it’ll become smooth and creamy.

5. Melt the bittersweet and Mexican chocolates in the microwave or over a double boiler. Let cool. Add the cooled, melted chocolate and vanilla and whisk to combine. Keep the frosting covered until needed. Mix with a spatula to make it smooth just before using.

Stabilized Whipped Cream Instructions
1. When ready to assemble the cake, place the water in a small heatproof bowl and evenly sprinkle the gelatin over it. Set aside for 10 to 15 minutes to let the gelatin bloom. Microwave the bloomed gelatin in 10-second intervals, stirring in between, until the gelatin is completely dissolved (it’s important that you don’t let the gelatin boil).

2. Add 2 cups of the chilled whipping cream, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla to a cold bowl. Whisk with the whisk attachment of your hand mixer on medium speed. Add the remaining 1 tbsp of chilled cream to the hot, dissolved gelatin mix. Add this gradually to the cream that is being whipped (being careful to pour it near the whisk, so that the gelatin gets mixed in with the cream immediately!) Whisk on medium speed until you get soft peaks, and use it immediately.

Cookie Layer Instructions
1. Line an 8-in. springform pan on the bottom with parchment paper, and line the sides with acetate paper or parchment paper.

2. Soak the cookies, about two at a time, in the warm milk for a second or two and place them on the bottom of the pan, letting them overlap. Then spread a layer of Mexican chocolate French buttercream over it. Repeat with milk-soaked cookies and buttercream for at least four or five cookie layers, ending with a buttercream layer. Top the buttercream with the stabilized whipped cream. Refrigerate for at least a few hours (or even overnight).

Decorative Instructions
Carefully remove the cake from the pan. Line the edge of the cake with marshmallows and toast them using a blowtorch. Sprinkle with grated chocolate. This is best eaten as soon as the marshmallows have been toasted and the buttercream is slightly softened.
Photo: Courtesy of Dini Kodippili.
No-Bake Popping Raspberry Chocolate Truffle Cake
Makes one 8-in. cake

Popping Candy Crust Ingredients
7 oz. Biscoff cookies
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 oz. unsalted butter, melted
1 oz. popping candy (cocoa butter coated or strawberry flavored)
Raspberry Chocolate Truffle
16 oz. semisweet chocolate
¾ cup whipping cream, divided
4 oz. raspberries (fresh or frozen)
Pinch of salt

Chocolate Fudge Glaze Ingredients
⅓ cup water
3 tsp powdered gelatin
⅔ cup whipping cream
3 tbsp corn syrup
1.7 oz. granulated sugar
2.5 oz. brown sugar
1 oz. cocoa powder
¼ tsp kosher salt
7 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped or chips
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Decorative Ingredients
Freeze-dried raspberry powder
2 tbsp popping candy
Pink luster dust
Fresh raspberries
Popping Candy Crust

Popping Candy Crust Instructions
1. Line the bottom of an 8-in. pastry ring or a springform pan with parchment paper. Line the sides with acetate paper or parchment paper (so that it’s easier to remove at the end).

2. Process the Biscoff cookies in a food processor to form crumbs. Add the brown sugar and butter, while processing (the crumbs should stick together). Transfer the cookie crumbs to a bowl, add the popping candy and mix in gently.

3. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan (you don’t have to press too hard, just firm enough to form a flat surface). Put the crust in the freezer to set.

Raspberry Chocolate Truffle Instructions
Place the semisweet chocolate, ½ cup of the cream, raspberries and salt in a heatproof bowl. Microwave in 45-second intervals, stirring in between, until the chocolate has melted. The raspberries will break up and mix in with the chocolate. Let the chocolate mixture cool. When it’s cool to the touch and has thickened, whip the remaining ¼ cup of cream to stiff peaks and fold it into the chocolate. Pour this over the frozen cookie crust. Place the cake in the freezer for at least a few hours until frozen.

Chocolate Fudge Glaze Instructions
1. Place the water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the surface. Let the gelatin soak up the water and bloom for 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Place the whipping cream, corn syrup, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk to melt the sugars and cocoa powder and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.

3. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chopped chocolate and butter. Finally, add the bloomed gelatin and stir to dissolve. Let cool (but not set).

Decorative Instructions
1. Remove the frozen truffle cake from the freezer. Then gently remove it from the pan, and place it on top of a tall but stable glass (or cylindrical object that can support the cake—this is to catch runoff fudge sauce that we are going to pour over it next). Pour the cooled chocolate fudge sauce over the cake, making sure it completely coats the top and the sides. Use a spatula to spread the sauce. Let the chocolate glaze set. Keep the truffle cake in the fridge to let it soften (until you’re ready to serve).

2. Mix the freeze-dried raspberry powder and popping candy in a bowl. Sprinkle the popping candy over the surface of the cake, and decorate with luster dust and fresh raspberries just before serving. When ready to serve, slice the cake with a warm knife to get clean edges.
Photo: Courtesy of Dini Kodippili.
Wake-Me-Up Breakfast Cheesecake
Makes one 8-in. cake

Fruity Pebbles Crust Ingredients
5 oz. Fruity Pebbles cereal
4–6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
0.7 oz. popping candy
7 oz. white chocolate, melted

Cornflakes-Infused Cream Ingredients
4 cups cornflakes cereal
4 cups whipping cream

No-Bake Cornflakes Cheesecake Ingredients
3 tbsp water
1½ tsp powdered gelatin
16 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Stabilized Cornflakes-Infused Whipped Cream Ingredients
2 tbsp water
¾ tsp powdered gelatin
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

Decorative Ingredients
½ cup cornflakes, crushed
Extra Fruity Pebbles cereal, crushed

Fruity Pebbles Crust Instructions
1. Line the bottom of an 8-in. springform pan with parchment paper and the sides with parchment paper or acetate paper. Alternatively, you can simply use a pie dish.

2. Process the Fruity Pebbles cereal in a food processor until you get coarse crumbs. Add as much of the melted butter as needed to make the crumbs sticky enough to form a crust. Press the crushed cereal into the prepared pan to form a firm crust. Freeze the crust.

3. Stir the popping candy into the melted (and slightly cooled) white chocolate. Once the crust is frozen (1 to 2 hours), dollop and spread the mixture on top of the crust, taking care not to crush the popping candy. Keep frozen until needed.

Cornflakes-Infused Cream Instructions
1. To toast cornflakes in the oven: Preheat the oven to 300°F. Spread the cornflakes on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly toasted. The cornflakes should be slightly darker, but not burned.

2. To toast cornflakes on the stove: Heat a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Toast the cornflakes in the hot pan, stirring and shaking frequently, until they become a shade darker, being careful not to burn them.

3. Place the cream in a jug or a bowl and add the hot cornflakes from the oven or stove. Let the cornflakes infuse the cream for 30 minutes. Strain the cream through a fine sieve or a nut milk bag. Squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible. Cover and return the cream to the fridge to let it chill. You should get 2½ to 3 cups of infused cream.

No-Bake Cornflakes Cheesecake Instructions
1. Place the water in a heatproof bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the water and let the gelatin bloom for 10 to 15 minutes. Microwave the bloomed gelatin in 10-second intervals, stirring in between, until the gelatin is completely dissolved (taking care not to let the gelatin boil).

2. In a bowl with a mixer, combine the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add 1 cup (236 ml) of cornflakes-infused cream, and whisk again until the mixture is fluffy and creamy. Add the gelatin gradually while whisking. Scrape the cream cheese mixture on top of the frozen crust and smooth the top. Place the cheesecake in the fridge and let it set for a few hours. Keep it refrigerated until you’re ready to serve.

Stabilized Cornflakes-Infused Whipped Cream Instructions
1. Place the water in a heatproof bowl and evenly sprinkle the gelatin over it. Set aside for 10 to 15 minutes to let the gelatin bloom. Microwave the bloomed gelatin in 10-second intervals, stirring in between, until the gelatin is completely dissolved (taking care not to let the gelatin boil).

2. Add 1 cup of the chilled infused whipping cream, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla in a cold bowl. Whisk with the whisk attachment of your hand mixer on medium speed. Add ½ tbsp of chilled infused cream to the hot, dissolved gelatin mix. Add this gradually to the cream that is being whipped (being careful to pour it near the whisk, so that the gelatin gets mixed in with the cream immediately!) Whisk gently until you get stiff peaks. Transfer the cream to a pastry bag with a pastry tip. Use immediately.

Decorative Instructions
Pipe the whipped cream on top of the cheesecake layer. Sprinkle with the crushed cornflakes and Fruity Pebbles cereal before serving.
Secret-Layer Cakes: Hidden Fillings & Flavors That Elevate Your Desserts by Dini Kodippili, $13.74, available at Amazon.
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