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Piling on the peanut butter buttercream (and chocolate ganache and peanuts and more) at Woody’s Restaurant in the Omni Homestead.

Chefs turn to cakes with many layers

There’s a lot going on with these updated versions of the classic

Restaurants are making room on their menus for layer cakes. The impressive looking, time-consuming desserts can have many paper-thin layers or a few thick ones and can sandwich any kind of jam, frosting or other filling, allowing for chefs to explore a wide variety of flavor combinations.

“Baking layer cakes is a true labor of love,” said Heather Terhune, executive chef at Tre Rivali in Milwaukee, Wis.  “No matter what layer cake you decide to make, it always has multiple steps to it.”

Take, for example, Terhune’s Strawberry Lemonade Cake with vanilla chiffon cake, strawberry mousse, strawberry compote, lemon curd, lemon whipped cream and micro mint. Inspired by an icebox cake she would make during summers growing up in Vermont, Terhune’s new version requires baking a vanilla sponge cake as well as making lemon curd, strawberry mousse and strawberry jam. Then, all those elements are layered in a ring mold and chilled. Once unmolded, the cake is topped with lemon whipped cream, macerated diced strawberries and micro mint.

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Banana Split Ice Cream Cake at Hudson Grille locations.

“Our guests really appreciate this composed dessert that is complicated to make that they may not make at home,” Terhune said.

Starting next week, Hudson Grille, with seven locations in Atlanta, will be serving a Banana Split Ice Cream Cake, an ice-cold layer cake made by local sweet shop Metrotainment Bakery. The towering treat has equal parts strawberry, vanilla and chocolate ice cream and cake, along with banana cream, chopped strawberries and bananas and a yellow cake crust.

Later this month Prairie, Anthony Strong’s modern steakhouse in San Francisco, will launch a Salted Maple Birthday Cake, featuring salted maple buttercream between layers of buttermilk cake. 

Alison Sullivan, who develops and advises on pastries for Prairie, first made the four-layered cake for Strong’s birthday last month. Knowing how much he loves Prairie’s salted maple butter, which is served on rice flour waffles at brunch, and how he'd often eat the syrup atop Japanese milk bread for a midday snack, Sullivan decided to turn it into a cake. 

When the Salted Maple Birthday Cake launches at the restaurant later this month, it will be displayed on a stand, then sliced and served, unadorned, to order. 

To create the many-layered Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake on the menu at Woody’s Restaurant in the Omni Homestead hotel in Hot Springs, Va., executive pastry chef Leen Kim drew inspiration from the old Reese's Peanut Butter Cup’s "Two great tastes that taste great together” ad campaign from the 1970s and 1980s.  

Kim’s layer cake starts with chocolate sponge cake followed by chocolate ganache, more chocolate sponge cake, peanut butter buttercream, chopped peanuts and, finally, another layer of chocolate sponge cake. It’s then frosted with peanut butter buttercream, coated on one side with cacao crumbles and garnished with whole shelled peanuts and a mini pretzel.

“Layer cakes gives the baker another opportunity to add another flavor combination to the dessert,” said Rebecca Moesinger, chef and owner of 45 Surfside Bakery and Café on the Massachusetts island of Nantucket.

Moesinger takes advantage of that opportunity with her layer cake that starts with pink guava spice cake that is layered with meringue, lemon buttercream, rum syrup and a fruit glaçage with guava purée. It’s garnished with raspberries, strawberries, kumquats and pomegranate seeds.

“There’s something magical when you bite into a dessert and it’s not the expected sugary sweet but rather the opposite,” Moesinger said.  “Whether it’s fresh fruit, citrus elements or a contrasting flavor combination, it is important to do more than what’s expected.”

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