Picture it: A campsite, in the height of summer. A campfire crackling away merrily in front of you, spitting showers of orange sparks into the inky blackness of the night sky. You’re wearing a Patagonia fleece, which will smell faintly of wood smoke for weeks. You can just make out the outline of people sitting across the fire from you, clamoring for space above the flames as they roast their marshmallows. Some char them, pulling off the shattered blackened crust to reveal a gooey lump within. Some treat it like an art form, lightly toasting them to a perfectly uniform golden hue. Some (okay fine, YOU) just hang out eating marshmallows straight from the bag. Keeping it real, kids. Keeping it real.
The nighttime is cool but the sticky heat of the day lingers. You slide a graham cracker out of the box as it’s passed to you, and break it in half. On goes a slab of chocolate—Hershey’s, naturally, this is not the time or place for getting fancy—and then a warm marshmallow. You squish it all together and take a bite, making an absolute mess of graham cracker crumbs and melted chocolate on your fingers. But who cares? S’mores are not a dainty affair.
It’s hard to remember the warmth of summer when you’re deep in the shortest, darkest days of winter. Happily, however, s’mores need not be relegated only to those long, languid summer nights—and the flavor of chocolate and marshmallow is just as nice in January as it is in August.
I originally intended for this to be a full-blown s’mores layer cake, complete with graham cracker crumbs in the buttercream frosting. But between you and me, I forgot to buy graham crackers and didn’t feel like making an extra trip to the store for them…but what I did have…was bourbon. Seems like a sign, no?
So consider this a s’mores-adjacent cake. Chocolate layers, a marshmallow bourbon buttercream, and bourbon-brûléed marshmallows on top. If you’re really clamoring for a full-on s’mores situation, just skip the bourbon and mix 1/2 cup of crushed graham crackers into your frosting. Voila! Instant s’mores cake.
Chocolate Bourbon Marshmallow Cake
Makes one 8” three-layer cake
For the cake layers
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups (396g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (63g) unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tablespoons (22g) black cocoa powder (find it here)
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (180g) buttermilk
3/4 cup (177g) strong brewed coffee, cooled
For the buttercream
2 cups (4 sticks, 452g) unsalted butter, softened
5 cups (567g) confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup marshmallow fluff
3 tablespoons bourbon
½ teaspoon salt
For the topping
2 cups mini marshmallows
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon raw sugar
To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line three 8” round cake pans with parchment, then grease the bottom and sides of the pans.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and light in texture. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each one. Add the vanilla.
Whisk together the flour, cocoa, powders, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and coffee.
Add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture to the egg/butter/sugar mixture, alternating between each, in 3 additions. Mix until the batter just comes together but don’t overmix.
Divide the batter between the three pans. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cakes spring back lightly when you touch the surface. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans before turning out onto a wire rack to finish cooling. I like to freeze the layers for at least 30 minutes, once cooled, before frosting. You don’t need to do the freezing step, but it does make them easier to frost.
To make the frosting: Beat butter in the bowl of a stand mixer at medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Turn the speed to low and slowly add the confectioners’ sugar, beating until well-mixed. Add the fluff, bourbon, and salt and beat until fluffy and smooth.
Stack the cake layers on top of each other, alternating with generous layers of frosting, then frost the top and sides. Carefully pile the mini marshmallows on top of the cake and using a pastry brush, brush the marshmallows with the bourbon and sprinkle with the raw sugar. Using a creme brûlée torch, carefully torch the marshmallows until browned.