The griddle-y goodness of the world’s most mouthwatering comfort food deserves a cake on a pedestal. And that’s exactly the idea of the grilled cheese birthday cake, a creation included in “Grilled Cheese Kitchen” by Heidi Gibson with Nate Pollack (Chronicle Books, $19.95).
Released last month, the cookbook includes 39 grilled cheese recipes, along with soups, side dishes, mac & cheese, pickles and spreads. The authors, a husband-and-wife duo, know that of which they write: they own American Grilled Cheese Kitchen, based in San Francisco. Many of the cookbook recipes are on their menu.
There’s The Piglet (a take on ham and cheese), the St. Patrick’s Day grilled cheese (with braised cabbage, Guinness, mashed potatoes and Irish soda bread) and one of their most popular, The Mousetrap (a cheddar, Havarti and Monterey Jack mashup.)
And then there’s this ginormous birthday cake.
Gibson writes, “I call this savory assembly a ‘birthday cake,’ but I’ve served it at weddings, too, and I’ve never seen an actual cake disappear so fast. Kids especially love being able to reach in and pull a piece of sandwich out of the tantalizing tower.”
It’s a bit of a commitment to make — but sooooo worth it.
“Time is of the essence; it’s best when the sandwiches are still hot,” she writes. “There are a lot of moving parts that make it tricky for one person to get the timing right; enlisting two or even three people will make the process smooth like butter.”
Fire up the oven and start the presses — it’s time to get griddling!
GRILLED CHEESE BIRTHDAY CAKE
Serves 15 to 20
You will need three nested springform pans, approximately 6 inches, 8 inches and 10 inches; three large baking sheets; and an electric griddle or stove-top griddle pan. If you can find bread you like made in the round loaves called boules, they are easier to work with for this recipe — the curves of the bread fit better into the springform pans than rectangular loaves.
1 cup salted butter, at room temperature
42 slices rustic artisan bread such as sourdough or levain, preferably cut from 5 to 6 boules
21 slices mild, medium, or sharp Cheddar cheese
21 slices Monterey Jack cheese
14 strips thick-sliced bacon, cooked until crisp and drained
2 jalapeño chiles, cut into crosswise slices about 1/4 inch thick
1 can processed cheese spread with a decorative nozzle, any flavor (optional, but hilarious)
1. Spread some of the butter, dividing it evenly, on one side of each bread slice, dividing it evenly. Place 10 slices, buttered-side down, on a clean cutting board or counter top. Place one slice of Cheddar, one slice of Jack, and another slice of bread, buttered-side up, on top of each. Move the 10 plain cheese sandwiches onto one of the baking sheets (it’s OK to crowd them).
2. Next, place seven pieces of bread, buttered-side down, on the cutting board. Place one slice of Cheddar, two strips of bacon, one slice of Jack, and another slice of bread, buttered-side up, on top of each. Move the seven bacon-cheese sandwiches onto the second baking sheet.
3. Next, place four pieces of bread, buttered-side down, on the cutting board. Place one slice of Cheddar, three or four rounds of jalapeño, one slice of Jack and another slice of bread, buttered-side up, on top of each. Move the jalapeño-cheese sandwiches onto the third baking sheet. (At this point, you can wrap the baking sheets tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 1 day.)
4. Heat oven to 350 degrees and heat a griddle to medium-high. While the oven is heating, get your workspace ready for assembly. Have a spatula, clean cutting board, and bread knife close by. Remove the bottoms from all of the springform pans. Place a serving platter at least 12 inches in diameter nearby and place the large springform ring, snapped closed, on top of the serving platter. (Or just assemble on your serving surface.)
5. Place the baking sheet with the plain cheese sandwiches in the oven and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the cheese is beginning to melt. (If the sandwiches came straight from the refrigerator, it may take another minute or two.) The bread will not be very brown, but don’t worry; this step is to get the cheese melting. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, set aside, and put the bacon sandwiches in the oven for 2 to 3 minutes. Meanwhile, move the plain sandwiches to the hot griddle. Watch the sandwiches on the griddle carefully; they will toast quickly, 30 to 60 seconds on the first side. Turn and brown on the second side, then transfer to a cutting board. The bacon sandwiches should be coming out of the oven right about the time the plain sandwiches are coming off the griddle. When there is space on the griddle, add the bacon sandwiches, and place the jalapeño sandwiches in the oven for 2 to 3 minutes. Continue in this manner until all of the sandwiches have been baked and grilled.
6. Working quickly, fit about four whole hot plain grilled cheeses into the largest springform ring, directly on the serving platter. Cut pieces out of a fifth grilled cheese to fill in any sizeable gaps in the first layer. (If you have helpers, one can tackle this step while someone else toasts the sandwiches on the griddle.) Repeat to make a second layer in the large springform ring with the remaining plain sandwiches. Arrange the second layer so that the seams between individual sandwiches and pieces are offset. This should use up most or all of the 10 plain grilled cheeses.
7. Place the medium springform ring, snapped closed, directly on top of the assembled bottom layer, and then repeat this process to fill with the bacon sandwiches. Then place the smallest springform ring directly on top of the medium layer and repeat with the jalapeño sandwiches.
8. Unlatch the smallest springform ring to widen it and carefully lift it off the top layer. Then unlatch and remove the middle ring, and finally remove the bottom ring. Tuck in any sandwich pieces that become dislodged. If desired, decorate the cake with the processed cheese spread (florets on each layer are easiest).
9. Serve immediately, but don’t cut the cake — tell your guests to pull out the piece they want.
Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 15: 699 calories, 47 g fat, 39 g carbohydrates, 31 g protein, 127 mg cholesterol, 1,395 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 60 percent of calories from fat.
“Grilled Cheese Kitchen” by Heidi Gibson with Nate Pollack (Chronicle Books, $19.95)
©2016 Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Visit the Fort Worth Star-Telegram at www.star-telegram.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.