Hot Chocolate Cake with Homemade Marshmallows

So, my daughter’s 7th birthday is next week.  First of all, it’s really just not possible that she’s turning seven years old.  Not possible.  Second of all, this means that I have a big family party looming on the horizon.

That means my house has to be cleaned.  It also means I need to plan a menu, figure out decorations and – oh yeah – do all that cooking and baking without undoing all of the cleaning and planning.

I’m usually so much further ahead and so much more on my game when it comes to party planning.  The Princess Party we hosted for my three-year-old set the bar pretty high, and I’m just not sure I have the time to compete with it right now.

So this morning when I woke up I decided that today was the day.  I was going to make lists and plan the meal and do all of my pre-cleaning…

Instead, I made a cake.

But, it’s a really, really yummy cake.  It even has marshmallows on it.  And right now, I’d say it was totally worth the now-inevitable nutso weekend I’m going to have, but ask me in a few days how I’m feeling about my decision.

It was a cold, rainy Sunday in my part of the world today.  We had rain and sleet pounding on the windows and my girls were being cute and getting along, so after waffles and cartoons, I decided to tackle this recipe that I flagged a few years ago.

Yep, I’ve been wanting to make this cake for a few years.  I first saw it in Fine Cooking and I’ve never forgotten about it.  Since today was TOTALLY a hot-chocolate kind of day, it seemed like a no-brainer.

I’m not going to try to mislead you – this cake is a bit time consuming.  I would suggest breaking it down into three parts to make it a little bit less overwhelming…the frosting can (and should) be made the day before, the marshmallows can be made up to a week in advance, and the cakes are best made the day of.  Individually, each component of the cake is pretty straightforward, so if you’re intimidated by all of the steps, just take it a little bit at a time.

Homemade marshmallows are actually very simple if you have a candy thermometer and a stand mixer.  Just follow the directions exactly and I promise you’ll have no problems.  I used a pizza cutter and plenty of powdered sugar to cut mine, and I just think they’re adorable.

Now, if you don’t mind, I really should get busy.  It seems I have a party to plan.


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Hot Chocolate Layer Cake with Homemade Marshmallows
Yield:  16 servings

Prep Time: 3+ hours, including chilling/setting time  ♦ Bake Time:  35 minutes

Cake Ingredients:


  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 4 and 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk at room temperature
  • 2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt



Frosting Ingredients :


  • 2 and 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup (may substitute dark corn syrup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt



Marshmallow Ingredients 


  • Three 1/4-ounce envelopes unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons confectioners sugar; more as needed



Cake Directions:
Position racks in the bottom and top thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter three 9×2-inch round cake pans and line each with a parchment round. Butter the parchment, then dust with flour and knock out the excess.

In a 3-quart saucepan, combine the butter, oil, chopped chocolate, and 1 cup water. Heat over medium heat until melted.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, and cocoa powder. Pour the hot chocolate mixture into the sugar mixture and whisk until combined.  Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, then whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla, baking soda, and salt. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans.

Set two pans on the top rack and the third on the lower rack. Stagger the pans on the oven racks so that no pan is directly over another. Bake, swapping and rotating the pans’ positions after 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on racks for 10 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the racks, remove the parchment, and cool completely.

Frosting Directions:
In a 4-quart saucepan over low heat, combine the cream, butter, and vanilla bean and seeds and stir until the butter is melted. Remove the vanilla bean and whisk in the chopped chocolate until melted. Whisk in the sugar, cocoa powder, syrup, and salt until smooth—be sure the cocoa powder dissolves completely. Pour into a 9×13-inch pan and freeze until firm, about 2 hours, or refrigerate overnight.

Marshmallow Directions:
Pour 3/4 cup cold water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit it with the whisk attachment.

Clip a candy thermometer to a 3-quart saucepan; don’t let the tip of the thermometer touch the bottom of the pan. In the saucepan, boil the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 3/4 cup water over medium heat without stirring until it reaches 234°F to 235°F, about 10 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, pour the hot sugar mixture into the gelatin in a slow, thin stream.

Add the vanilla, carefully increase the speed to high, and beat until the mixture has thickened and cooled, about 5 minutes (the bottom of the bowl should be just warm to the touch). Line a 9×13-inch pan with foil, leaving an overhang on 2 sides. Sift 1 Tbs. of the confectioners’ sugar into the bottom of the pan, then pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan and sift another 1 Tbs. confectioners’ sugar on top. Let sit at room temperature until set, at least 2 hours.

Assemble the cake:
Remove the frosting from the freezer or refrigerator. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes to soften. Change to a whisk attachment and beat at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Put a cake layer on a flat serving platter or a cake stand lined with strips of waxed paper to keep it clean while icing. Top the layer with 1-1/2 cups of the frosting, spreading it evenly with an offset spatula to the cake’s edge. Repeat with another cake layer and 1-1/2 cups frosting. Top with the last cake layer.

Put 1-1/2 cups of the frosting in a small bowl. With an offset spatula, spread this frosting in a thin layer over the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate the cake until the frosting firms enough to seal in the crumbs, 20 to 30 minutes.

Spread the remaining frosting in a smooth layer over the top and sides of the cake. If necessary, you can re-whip the remaining frosting to loosen and lighten it. Remove the waxed paper strips.

Use the foil overhang to lift the marshmallow from the pan. Using a knife that has been dipped in cold water, cut along the edge of the marshmallow to release it from the foil. Transfer to a cutting board and remove the foil. Put the remaining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl. Cut the marshmallow into cubes of different sizes, from 1/4 to 3/4 inch (you will need to continue to dip the knife in cold water as you cut the marshmallows). The marshmallows will be very sticky—dip the cut edges in the confectioners’ sugar to make them easier to handle. As you work, toss a few cubes at a time in the sugar to coat, then shake in a strainer to remove the excess. Mound the marshmallows on top of the cake (you’ll need only a third to half of them). Sift some cocoa powder over the marshmallows.

Make ahead tips
You can bake, cool, wrap, and store the cake layers at room temperature for up to 1 day or freeze for up to 1 month. You can refrigerate the frosting for up to 3 days. The assembled cake can be refrigerated for up to 4 hours (return to room temperature before serving). Wrapped well, leftover marshmallows keep at room temperature for up to 1 month.

Recipe Source:  Fine Cooking

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  • Melisa Bajrami

    I’ve come to this post at least half a dozen times. I just need to make this cake already. It looks so amazing.

  • Laura@bakinginpyjamas

    Wow, this cake is amazing. I definitely plan of making this on a cold, sleety day you had. Pinned, saved recipe and subscribing to your blog!

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  • Kathryn @ HungryLittleBear

    Oh my gosh. This looks DELICIOUS. Just the frosting alone makes me want to make this cake. Incredible!

  • Avery

    Do you think it would ruin the entire cake if I used store bought marshmallows? I don’t have a stand mixer and I’m honestly not the most experienced baker. The cake I think I can do and the frosting I’m willing to try. I would LOVE to make the marshmallows, I’m just not sure I’ve got the skill set for it yet.

    • lemonsugar

      No way! Use store bought marshmallows and it will be great. Homemade marshmallows aren’t all that hard, but if you don’t have a stand mixer that would definitely make it tough. :) Let me know how it comes out, hope you love it!

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