The contestants on Nailed It! are given recipes, but they still have trouble recreating some spectacular works of baking art. That’s what makes the Magical Elves-produced show so delightful: It’s “a celebration of trying and failing,” as I wrote in my review. And now we can try those recipes, too.
The official companion cookbook, Nailed It!: Baking Challenges for the Rest of Us, will be published next week, on Oct. 5, and brings those recipes into your kitchen. What you do with them is up to you.
I’m also giving away two copies! (Enter the contest below, underneath the recipe.)
If you can’t wait until next week, one of its recipes is below for you to try: It’s a very detailed, multi-step process to recreate a spectacular cake that Jacques Torres created for the third episode of season six, which is currently streaming on Netflix.
If you think you can’t make something that amazing, in the introduction to the book, Nailed It head judge Jacques writes about why that doesn’t matter:
My favorite part of Nailed It! and this book is that they show us things don’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. Too often, the stress of modern life causes us to want everything to be a certain way. You might end up with a cake that’s a little bit crooked or doesn’t look exactly right, but you will still have a cake! A delicious one, as long as you promise to read the recipe and not swap the sugar for salt or something (my mouth still tingles at the memory of that Humpty Dumpty cupcake from Season 2). No matter how your recipes turn out, you should be proud of yourself too. Proud that you tried something so outrageous (like an erupting volcano cake!), that you opened yourself up to a new experience, and that you learned along the way.
A recipe from the Nailed It! cookbook
- FOR THE CAKE
- 8 cups (1 kg) all-purpose flour
- 2 cups (190 g) unsweetened cocoa
- 8 teaspoons baking powder
- 4 teaspoons baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 16 large eggs
- 8 cups (1.6 kg) sugar
- 2⅔ cups (500 g) unsalted butter
- 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 cups (960 ml) whole milk
- 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- FOR THE BUTTERCREAM
- 2 cups (4 sticks/450 g) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into chunks
- 8 cups (1 kg) powdered sugar
- 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup (60 ml) whole milk
- 6 ounces (170 g) white chocolate, melted
- 6 ounces (170 g) dark chocolate, melted
- ½ cup (50 g) unsweetened cocoa
- FOR THE RICE CEREAL CLOUDS
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 ¼ cups (113 g) mini marshmallows
- 3 cups (45 g) crispy rice cereal
- FOR THE DECORATIONS
- 8 ounces (225 g) white fondant
- 6 pounds (2.7 kg) white modeling chocolate
- 24 ounces (680 g) brown modeling chocolate
- Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, gray, and skin-colored food coloring
- SPECIAL EQUIPMENT
- 9 by 13-inch (23 by 33-cm) baking pan
- Two 8-inch (20-cm) round cake pans
- Three 6-inch (15-cm) round cake pans
- One 8-inch (20-cm) round cake board
- One 6-inch (15-cm) round cake board
- ¾ -inch (2-cm) diameter PVC pipe rated for drinking water, 12 inches (30.5 cm) long
- One ¾ by ½ -inch (20 by 12-mm) PVC slip-reducing bushing
- Spade drill bit, ¾ inch (2 cm) diameter
- 13 by 17-inch (33 by 43-cm) MDF wooden board
- Foil or food-safe paper
- Hot glue gun and glue
- One 9-inch (23-cm) piece of 18-gauge food-safe floral or cake wire
- Food-safe paintbrush
Build The Cake Armature
- To keep jungle Jacques and this rainbow-topped, chocolate adventure from crashing over, we’ll need to build some quick cake armature out of PVC pipe. Make sure to get PVC pipe that’s rated for drinking water, as it’s considered food safe and doesn’t need to be wrapped in foil (give it a good scrub before using it though!).
- Cut off the smaller end of PVC bushing so that it will slide completely onto the PVC pipe. (You can cut it with a PVC cutter, or a hacksaw, or ask an employee at the hardware store where you buy it to cut it for you.) Set aside. When we push the bushing onto the pipe later, it should be an extremely snug fit.
- Draw a line lengthwise down the center of the MDF board. About three-quarters of the way down that line, drill a ¾ -inch (2-cm) hole into, but not all the way through, the board. Cover the cake base with foil or food-safe paper, leaving the hole open, to make the cake base. Line the inside of the hole with hot glue. Insert the PVC pipe. Allow to set.
- Cut a ¾ -inch (2-cm) hole through the center of the cake boards. Set aside.
Make The Cake
- Since most kitchen mixers can’t accommodate the batter for a cake this large, we’re going to quarter the recipe and make it four times.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease all of the baking pans. Cut out pieces of parchment paper for each pan and place in the bottoms.
- In a large bowl, sift together 2 cups (250 g) of the flour, ½ cup (50 g) of the cocoa, 2 teaspoons of the baking powder, 1 teaspoon of the baking soda, and ⅛ teaspoon of the salt.
- In another large bowl, using an electric mixer, combine 4 of the eggs, 2 cups (400 g) of the sugar, ⅔ cup (150 g) of the butter, 1 teaspoon of the vanilla, 1 cup (240 ml) of the milk, and ½ teaspoon of the cayenne. Add the dry mixture a large spoonful at a time and mix until just combined. Do not overmix. Use a spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to incorporate the last bits of dry ingredients.
- Divide the batter among the pans, filling halfway. Repeat steps 1 through 4 three more times to make a total of one 9 by 13-inch (23 by 33-cm) cake, two 8-inch (20-cm) cakes, and three 6-inch (15-cm) cakes.
- Bake for 24 to 28 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool.
Make The Buttercream
- We need a lot of buttercream for this recipe, and most mixers can’t handle this much powdered sugar at one time, so we’ll make it in two batches.
- In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat 1 cup (2 sticks/225 g) of the butter until creamy, about 1 minute.
- Add 4 cups (500 g) of the powdered sugar 1 cup (125 g) at a time, mixing until well combined.
- Add 2 teaspoons of the vanilla, ⅛ teaspoon of the salt, and 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of the milk and mix on high until thick and creamy. If the buttercream is too thin, add more powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. If the buttercream is too thick, add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Repeat with the remaining buttercream ingredients to make a second batch.
- Gently stir the melted white chocolate into one batch. Gently stir the melted dark chocolate and cocoa into the other batch.
Make The Crispy Rice Cereal Clouds
- In a large nonstick pot over medium-low, melt the butter.
- Add the marshmallows and immediately take the pot off the heat. Stir continuously until the marshmallows melt. Stir in the rice cereal and mix until coated. Pour the mixture onto a piece of parchment or foil on a flat surface and allow to cool.
- When cool enough to handle, but not yet cold or too hard, scoop up the mixture and form it into a cloud bank about 4 inches (10 cm) wide.
- Lightly dust a flat surface with cornstarch. Roll out the white fondant to about . inch (6 mm) thick. Wrap it around the rice cereal clouds, smoothing with your fingers. Set aside.
Stack The Cakes
- Remove the 9 by 13-inch (23 by 33-cm) cake from its pan and remove the parchment paper. Cut the cake in half crosswise. Cut a ¾ -inch (2-cm) hole in the center of one half. Carefully slide the cake over the PVC pipe armature to rest on the cake base. Set the other half of the cake in front of it on the cake base. Cover the entire layer in chocolate buttercream.
- Run a butter knife around the edge of one of the 8-inch (20-cm) cake pans. Place a plate over the pan and flip. Tap the bottom until the cake slips out. Remove the parchment paper. If the cake has a domed top, flip it over and cut it off with a large, serrated knife so the top is level. Set the cake on the 8-inch (20-cm) cake board. Cut out a ¾ -inch (2-cm) hole in the center. With a spatula (an offset spatula works great if you have one), spread a layer of white buttercream over the top. Repeat with the second 8-inch (20-cm) cake, then set it on top of the other cake. Set aside.
- Run a butter knife around the edge of one of the 6-inch (15-cm) cake pans. Place a plate over the pan and flip. Tap the bottom until the cake slips out. Remove the parchment paper. If the cake has a domed top, flip it over and cut it off with a large, serrated knife so the top is level. Set it on the 6-inch (15-cm) cake board. Cut out a ¾ -inch (2-cm) hole in the center. Spread a layer of white buttercream over the top. Repeat with the other two 6-inch (15-cm) cakes, setting the cakes atop one another.
- Carefully stack the 6-inch (15-cm) tier on top of the 8-inch (20-cm) tier. Using a serrated knife, carve the cake into a mountain shape. Remove the 6-inch (15-cm) tier. Carefully slide the 8-inch tier over the PVC pipe onto the rectangular bottom cake. Slide the 6-inch (15-cm) tier over the PVC pipe to rest on the 8-inch (20-cm) tier. Cover both tiers in chocolate buttercream. Cover the remaining exposed PVC pipe in chocolate buttercream.
- Carve a ¾ -inch (2-cm) hole 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep into the bottom of the fondant-covered clouds. Secure onto the top of the PVC pipe.
Make The Chocolate Ropes
- Knead the brown modeling chocolate until soft. Roll one rope, about ¼ inch (6 mm) thick and 7 inches (17 cm) long, for Jacques to hold. Set aside.
- Roll a dozen thicker ropes, about ½ inch (12 mm) thick and 7 to 12 inches (43 to 30.5 cm) long. Attach down the top of the buttercream-covered PVC pipe as if they were raining down from the clouds. Make more ropes to trail down the side of the mountain like a chocolate waterfall.
Make The Chocolate Jungle
- Knead the white modeling chocolate until soft. Color 8 ounces (225 g) of it gray. Roll it into 20 boulders of different sizes. Attach them all around the cake and at the bottom of the chocolate waterfall.
- Color 2 pounds (910 g) of the white modeling chocolate green. Roll one rope about ¼ inch (6 mm) thick and 6 inches (15 cm) long and set it aside for the rainbow. Roll out the rest into a flat sheet. Tear off pieces and press them into the cake for greenery. Cut out enough palm leaves to cover front and sides of the bottom rectangular cake, then attach them to the cake.
- Color a pinch of white modeling chocolate blue. Roll one rope about ¼ inch (6 mm) thick and 6 inches (15 cm) long and set it aside for the rainbow. Repeat for a purple rope.
- Color 16 ounces (455 g) of the white modeling chocolate red. Roll one rope about ¼ inch (6 mm) thick and 6 inches (15 cm) long and set it aside for the rainbow. Make 10 small and 10 medium flower shapes. Attach them all over the mountain. Make 25 cacao pod shapes. Attach them all over the green leaves on the bottom of the cake.
- Color 16 ounces (455 g) of the white modeling chocolate orange. Roll one rope about ¼ inch (6 mm) thick and 6 inches (15 cm) long and set it aside for the rainbow. Make 10 small and 10 medium flowers. Attach them all over the mountain. Make 25 cacao pod shapes. Attach them all over the green jungle leaves on the bottom of the cake.
- Color 12 ounces (340 g) of the white modeling chocolate yellow. Roll one rope about ¼ inch (6 mm) thick and 6 inches (15 cm) long and set it aside for the rainbow. Make 25 cacao pod shapes. Attach them all over the green jungle leaves on the bottom of the cake.
- Combine golf ball–sized chunks of white and brown modeling chocolate to make a light brown. Roll 8 thick ropes about ½ inch (12 mm) thick and add to the center of the waterfall.
- Fill a piping bag with white buttercream and pipe the waterfall and spray around the rocks, using the photo as a reference.
- Color a golf ball–size chunk of white modeling chocolate skin-colored. Lighten a walnut-size chunk of green modeling chocolate by mixing it with some white to make light green.
- Shape floral wire into a skeleton of Jacques climbing. Crumple foil to make the head and bulk up his body.
- Use light green modeling chocolate to make Jacques’ shirt by pressing it directly onto the foil and shaping it as necessary. Use brown modeling chocolate to make his shorts.
- Use skin-colored chocolate to make Jacques’ head, arms, and legs. Use brown modeling chocolate to make his hat and boots. Use white modeling chocolate to add socks and eyes. Use brown modeling chocolate to add pupils to his eyes. Use red modeling chocolate to add a safety harness around his waist.
- Use a toothpick to etch details into Jacques. Use toothpicks to secure Jacques’ feet into the side of the mountain. Place the 7-inch (17-cm) chocolate rope in his hand and wrap it around his waist. Attach the top of the rope to the top of the mountain.
The Rainbow Finish
- Bend the 9-inch (23-cm) piece of cake wire into a rainbow curve.
- Line the rainbow ropes up in order: red on top, followed by orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Gently press together and press into the rainbow-shaped wire. Trim 1 inch (2.5 cm) off each end so that the wire is exposed. Carefully press the ends of the wire into the top of the clouds.
3, 2, 1 . . . Ya’ done!
Recipe courtesy of Jacques Torres, and reprinted from Nailed It!: Baking Challenges for the Rest of Us by the Creators of Nailed It! with Heather Maclean. Published by Abrams Image
Enter to win a Nailed It! cookbook
The cookbook giveaway, courtesy of Magical Elves and Abrams, has now ended. Congratulations to the winners, Alison C. and Jenna R.!