Lunar-inspired cakes are essential to any #Wolfenoot feast! With layers of rich brownie, salted caramel filling, and a fondant icing as dark as the night sky, these delicious chocolate layer cakes are the perfect sweet treat for celebrating the Spirit of the Wolf on November 23rd!
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The Wholesome Holiday We Need
“Wolfenoot…is when the Spirit of the Wolf brings and hides small gifts around the house for everyone. People who have, have had, or are kind to dogs get better gifts than anyone else. You eat roast meat (because wolves eat meat) and cake decorated like a full moon.”– Jax Goss
I’m certain that when New Zealand-based author Jax Goss decided to share her seven-year-old son’s idea for a new holiday on social media, she had no idea what she’d gotten herself into. Wolfenoot – a holiday celebrating the “spirit of the wolf” and kindness to dogs – has taken the internet by storm. In a time with so much vitriol online, it makes sense that people would latch onto something so wholesome and lovely.
While I encourage you to check out the official Wolfenoot website for more info, here are a few essential facts you need to know about the upcoming holiday:
- Wolfenoot is pronounced “wolf-ah-newt”
- The proper greeting is “Have a howly Wolfenoot”.
- The holiday will always fall on November 23rd, even if that isn’t a full moon.
- As this holiday originates from New Zealand, the fact that it falls on Black Friday this year (an American tradition) is completely coincidence.
- Supporters of this new holiday are referred to as “The Wolfenati”
- The official slogan is “No Hate, Only Snootboops”
Not only is this just a fun idea (who doesn’t want to promote kindness to animals?), the official voices behind Wolfenoot are using its viral popularity to support all sorts of dog and wolf rescues. They’ve even begun development of a children’s book, selecting a thirteen-year-old artist from a huge pool of submissions to illustrate the story.
I don’t know about you, but I’m totally down with eating roasted meat and lunar-inspired layer cakes in the spirit of this holiday.
Dark Chocolate Layer Cakes
As soon as I read that cakes “decorated like a full moon” were an essential part of Wolfenoot, I knew exactly what I had to do. While certainly not safe for dogs, these individual Chocolate Layer Cakes are a rich and decadent way to celebrate the holiday at home with your human companions.
Creating Full Moon Decorations
What makes these little cakes special is the surprisingly simple full moon decoration on top. After a homemade navy-blue fondant is poured over the cakes and chilled, a small circular cookie cutter is used to create the outline of the moon in the center of the cake. Just press the cookie cutter into the fondant lightly to make a very shallow indentation. This will act as your guide while painting.
Next, apply a layer of white sugar glaze to the circle you just created, edging right up to the indentation. If a little icing spills over, don’t worry – you can easy wipe the excess off with a paper towel if you are gentle and work quickly.
As a note, I used vodka to make the icing instead of water because it should evaporate more quickly. I’ve read water-based edible paints can make the fondant soggy, but use your best judgement. The amount of vodka is so small it can’t be tasted, but if you have concerns, use water or milk instead.
Don’t worry if the icing is thin in spots – having the dark fondant show through the glaze adds some dimension to your finished full moon painting.
This next part is a little tricky and tedious, so trust me –you can totally skip it! If you area sucker for punishment (like me), carry on.
Remove a tablespoon of sugar glaze to a separate bowl, and mix it up with a drop of black gel food coloring until it’s a dark grey/black in color. Add a little more vodka, so that the mixture thins to the consistency of thick ink.
Now, create the shadows of the craters on your painted white moons. Using the tiniest brush you have, gently place itty bitty drops of black icing into the white glaze on each cake. This should have a watercolor effect, and can be spread around a bit to formt he dark shadows seen on the moon’s surface. It might take a few tries, but I will admit it’s a fun project either way.
For a little extra pizzazz, sprinkle some dry powdered sugar and silver shimmer dust on top of each moon, gently pressing with your finger to help flatten and adhere the powder to the icing. Brush off any stray powdered sugar from the navy-blue background.
And that’s it – Little Chocolate Layer Cakes decorated with sugary Full Moons!
Keeping Things Simple
Simplifying the painting of full moons as described above is one way to dial back this recipe if it seems a bit intimidating. Here are a few more short cuts to help you get a handle on things:
Single vs. Double Layer Cakes
I love the idea of a layer cake, but if you want smaller cakes or simply don’t want to bother with creating a caramel sauce, you can always make twice as many single layer brownie cakes. Follow the instructions up to the point of matching up the circles, and then just pour the fondant over the “upside down” brownie circles for individual cakes. Decorate as normal.
Homemade vs. Store-Bought Brownies
To paraphrase a master chef, if you don’t have time for baking brownies from scratch, store-bought is fine! Feel free to use your favorite fudgy boxed brownie mix in place the homemade version I provide.
Breaking Down the Steps
While this recipe has many steps, it can easily be broken up over several days. Natural stopping points occur at almost every step, as it’s good to let the different elements chill for at least an hour (if not overnight) before moving to the next pieces of assembly:
- The pan of brownies can be made ahead, and will keep 2-3 days in the fridge (or you can cut them out into circles and freeze them for up to 2 months).
- The caramel will last a few weeks in the fridge once made and kept in a sealed jar.
- You can chill the chocolate layer cakes both before pouring on the fondant and after, for one hour up to overnight.
- Last, the moon designs can be painted on a day ahead, or even earlier if you plan to freeze the cakes.
I hope you’ll join the Wolfenati in celebrating this fun, whimsical holiday next week! As noted, roasted meats are also an essential part of the meal, so I plan to make up a big batch of oven-roasted ribs to share alongside these Chocolate Layer Cakes next week.
Still considering your Wolfenoot menu? I’ve got you covered. Stay tuned for a round-up of Wolfenoot-appropriate recipes over on Buzzfeed soon!
Wolfenoot Chocolate Layer Cakes with Full Moons & Caramel Filling
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 3 sticks unsalted butter
- 6 ounce bar of dark chocolate (72% cocoa), chopped small
- 2 ¼ cup white granulated sugar
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 6 eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder
Caramel Sauce Filling
- 4 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup white granulated sugar
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons corn syrup
- 1/3 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup heavy cream, divided
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- ½ cup warm water
- 2 tablespoons corn syrup
- 1 cup white chocolate melting wafers
- Gel-based food coloring, black & blue
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 2-3 tablespoons vodka
- Gel-based food coloring, black
- Decorative shimmer powder (optional)
Make the Cake:
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×13 inch pan with foil so that the bottom is fully covered and foil overlaps over the long sides (these will be used as handles to lift out the finished brownies). Spray the foil with non-stock cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour and cocoa. Set aside.
- In a 2-quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium low heat until the bubbling slows and almost subsides. Be careful not to burn the butter. Remove the pot from heat and stir in the chopped dark chocolate. Allow to cool.
- In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, combine the two types of sugar, salt, eggs, vanilla extract, and espresso powder. Whip on medium-high speed until lightly fluff, about 8-10 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and incorporate the chocolate-butter mixture. Add the flour mix one cup at a time and mix until incorporated.
- Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and fold the ingredients together with a rubber spatula to be sure it is well mixed. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish, smoothing the top with the spatula. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center can be removed clean. Let cool to room temperature.
Create the Caramel Sauce:
- In a heavy bottom sauce pot, combine the butter, sugars, corn syrup, and half of the cream and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Whisking often, boil the mixture until it becomes like a paste (about 15 minutes). Remove the mixture from heat and stir in the remaining cream.
- Return the sauce pot to the burner over low heat and bring to a low boil. Whisk until smooth.
- Transfer the caramel sauce to a heat-safe bowl and allow to cool fully. You will have more caramel sauce than you need for this recipe, but the extra will keep in a sealed jar for a month in the fridge. It’s delicious on any dessert!
Assemble the Mini Cakes:
- Once the brownies and caramel have cooled, you can cut and assemble the mini cakes. Lift the sheet of brownies out of the pan, using the overlapping foil as handles, and place on a cutting board. Using a 3-inch circular cookie cutter, cut out circles and set them aside. The brownies may stick – be careful to clean any dough from cookie cutter between each cut. You should end up with 10-12 circles.
- Once you have made as many brownie circles as possible, chop up the remaining brownie “leavings” and put in a container to freeze, for use in other recipes.
- Match up the circles, flipping over at least one in each pair so that the very smooth bottom is on the top of the stack. Determine which circles are the bottom halves of your cakes, and which are the tops.
- Now, make a small, shallow cavity into the center of each bottom half. You can do this freehand with a knife, or use a 1-inch circular cookie cutter pressed lightly into the center to act as a guide. Remove a small amount of brownie, no more than an inch in diameter and a quarter-inch deep.
- Using a clean spoon, fill each cavity with about a teaspoon of caramel. Place the top layers over each bottom, and gently press the two halves together.
Pouring the Fondant:
- Set a cooling rack into a clean baking sheet (you can line the bottom of the pan with foil if you like). Arrange the assembled brownie cakes on the rack and chill if you have room in your fridge. Otherwise, just keep away from the oven so that they keep cool.
- In the upper pot of a double boiler (or in a heat proof bowl set over an inch of boiling water for the same effect), combine 4 cups of the powdered sugar, corn syrup, and warm water. Whisk together over low heat, and then add the white chocolate wafers. Stir often, until the mixture is smooth and thick (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and add 2 drops of black gel food coloring and 1 drop of blue to make a dark navy-blue fondant icing. Stir until the color is consistent throughout.
- Now pour the fondant over the prepared cakes. Gently spoon the fondant icing over the center of each cake stack, allowing the fondant to drip thickly over and down the sides. Work quickly, so that the fondant doesn’t cool and harden as you work on each cake. You can either completely cover the cakes with fondant, or leave some with a “dripping” look. Once all the cakes are covered, allow the icing to harden at room temperature. Transfer to the fridge to chill from one hour to overnight.
Decorate the Cakes:
- Now, the fun part – painting! First, set up a work station. I like to work on a large cutting board for easier clean-up later. Set out your brushes, the small 1-inch cookie cutter, and 2 small and 1 slightly larger bowl.
- In the large bowl, mix together the powdered sugar and vodka, using only one tablespoon vodka at a time until you reach a thick but smooth consistently. Transfer a third of the sugar glaze to one of the other two bowls, and stir in 1 drop of black gel food coloring until the icing is dark grey or black. Thin out the paste with another ¼ teaspoon vodka.
- Working with one layer cake at a time, paint on the full moons as pictured. First, create a guide line by gently pressing the small cookie cutter into the top of each cake, leaving a circular imprint that is just barely there. Fill in this inner circle by painting on the white sugar glaze with the medium brush.
- To add shadows of craters, dip your tiniest brush into the thinned black icing and gently place drops of dye into the white moon. It should spill out slightly, with an effect similar to water colors.
- Once you have a few craters, sprinkle just the moon with plain powdered sugar and a dusting of silver shimmer dust, if using. Lightly press the powdered aspects so that it adheres and flattens against the white sugar glaze. You can remove any stray powder from the dark area surrounding the cakes, or add a light dusting to simulate a starry night.
- Set aside, being careful to let each dry thoroughly before transferring to a container. Cakes will keep 2-3 days in the fridge, or can be frozen in a single layer for up to 2 months.
- Store-bought Brownie Mix: If making brownies from scratch isn’t on the agenda, use your favorite box brand – no one will judge. I particularly like Foodstirs Organic Brownie Mix.
- Single Layer Cakes: Overwhelmed (or over-sweetened) by the sound of homemade caramel? Skip the filling. Cut out the brownie circles as usual, but pour the fondant over the single layer brownies and continue as noted above.
- Moon Madness: Paint your moons as you see fit. Make them all white, skipping the black gel crater details. Use smoother edible paint rather than sugar glaze. Use a circular stencil and dust them with powdered sugar. They are your cakes – design as you will! Don’t be hard on yourself if it takes a few times to find your rhythm either. Mine might look pretty, but have faith that I only showed my favorites, and even those have their flaws!