SAKURA BUCHE DU PRINTEMPS

This past winter was so hard that I intend to keep celebrating the arrival of spring for as long as I can get away with it. Clearly, nothing says spring better than cherry blossoms. In this cake, my goal was to have a creamy sakura-flavored mousse involving a fruity center, as a red fruit compote. For the base of the dessert, I made a crusty layer with puffed quinoa, the new (to me) ingredient I mentioned in my last post. To finalize, a pastel-colored mirror glaze action, in pink, purple and green.  Why the French name?  Because it is irresistibly poetic, that’s why.

SAKURA BUCHE DU PRINTEMPS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by many sources)

for the biscuit layer:
125 g eggs
90 g powdered sugar (I used Bakewell cherry flavored)
90 g almond flour
30 g flour
20 g melted butter
180 g egg whites
40 g sugar (superfine if available)

for the berry compote:
300 g pure of cherries and red berries
2 whole eggs
140 g honey
140 g whipping cream
6 g gelatin in sheets
60 g butter, at room temperature

for the quinoa-crisp:
113 g white chocolate
20 g pistachio paste
20 g puffed quinoa

for the Sakura mousse:
210 g milk
1/8 tsp sakura leaf powder (optional)
1/8 tsp cherry blossom essence
100 g egg yolks
110 g sugar
8 g gelatin sheets
210 g whipping cream

for the mirror glaze:
150 g glucose
150 g granulated sugar
150 g white chocolate, cut in small pieces
75 g water
100 g condensed, sweetened milk
9 g gelatin in sheets
1/2 tsp titanium oxide (optional, but worth it)
pink, purple, and bright green gel food dye

Two days before serving, make the biscuit and the cherry compote.

For the biscuit: In the bowl of a Kitchen Aid mixer fitted with the leaf blade, beat the eggs, sugar an almond flour together for 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a mixing bowl, and after thoroughly cleaning the bowl of the Kitchen Aid, whisk the egg whites until you can see if forming a trail as the whisk goes through them. At this point, slowly rain the fine sugar to form a soft-peak meringue.  Add the meringue to the egg-sugar-almond mixture previously made. Mix gently with a spatula. Add the flour gently, sifting it over the mixture. Finally, add a bit of the mixture to the melted butter, make a smooth emulsion with it, and pour it into the batter. Mix as gently as possible.

Spread the batter on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper as a layer a little over 1/2 inch thick, and bake for 12 minutes at 380 F.  Once the biscuit is cool, cut the rectangle needed to fit the smaller buche. While the biscuit cools, make the compote.

For the compote: Soak the gelatin sheets in a bowl of cold water for at least 10 minutes. Place the eggs, honey, fruit puree and heavy cream in a bowl and whisk with an immersion blender (or use a regular blender if you prefer). Pour the mixture in a saucepan and bring the temperature to 180 F, stirring constantly and never using too high heat. Remove the pan from the stove, add the drained gelatin, and mix. Let it cool for about 10 minutes and add the softened butter, mixing again until well incorporated. Pour into the mold, then gently add the biscuit on top, pressing gently. You don’t want it to submerge, just float on the surface. Wrap the top of the mold with plastic and freeze overnight.

Make the quinoa-crisp. Bake the puffed quinoa in a 325 F oven for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, melt the white chocolate in a microwave very gently. Mix the melted chocolate with the pistachio paste.  Add the quinoa and spread  in a 4 mm (1/8 inch) thickness in between two sheets of parchment paper. It will be a little sticky, try to level it as best as you can. When it is cooled down a bit, cut the exact dimension of the bigger mold you will use for the dessert. Reserve.

Make the Sakura mousse. Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water for at least 10 minutes. Bring the milk to almost boiling and add the sakura leaf powder, mixing well to dissolve. Let it sit covered for 10 minutes.  In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar. Slowly add the hot milk infused with the sakura powder, whisking constantly. Transfer back to the pan and heat gently to 180 F. Do not let it go over or you will scramble the egg yolks. Transfer to a bowl, let it cool for a couple of minutes and add the drained gelatin and the Sakura extract. Reserve.

Whip the cold heavy cream to very soft peaks, do not over whip it. When the sakura custard is barely warm to the touch, add the whipped cream to form the final mousse, fold with a spatula until smooth. Pour the mousse into the large Buche mold up to 1/3 of its volume. Add the frozen insert made the day before, with the biscuit layer up. Complete the mold with mousse almost to the top, place the quinoa crisp on top, pressing gently. Wrap with plastic and freeze overnight.

Make the mirror glaze. Place the gelatin sheets inside a bowl with cold water for 10 minutes as you prepare the other ingredients. In a sauce pan, heat the glucose, sugar and water until boiling. Make sure the sugar is fully dissolved. Let it cool slightly, and add to a bowl with the white chocolate in small pieces. After a few minutes, use a spatula to dissolve the chocolate. Add the gelatin and the condensed milk, and mix gently, try to avoid incorporating air bubbles. Add the titanium oxide and emulsify the mixture with an immersion blender to get rid of bubbles. Divide the mixture in three bowls. Eyeballing is fine. Add the color and mix very gently with a spatula, do not use a whisk to avoid incorporating bubbles. Cover with plastic touching the surface and place in the fridge overnight.

To glaze, warm up the mixtures in the microwave for 30 to 40 seconds. Pass them each through a fine sieve to remove any residual bubbles. When the mixtures are at 98 F you can pour them in a tall pitcher, one color at a time, working fast so that the temperature does not drop too much. Glaze the frozen dessert allowing all colors to mix and mingle.  Thaw the cake in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving. Decorate the sides if you like, with tempered white chocolate or candy melts.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The dessert was assembled in a set of Silikomart molds called “Buche.” They can be used either separately, or together in a way that the smaller mold makes a component that goes inserted in the bigger one.  When planning a dessert using two molds, the first thing to consider is the volume needed, keeping in mind that a great deal of space will be occupied in the larger mold by the insert previously made. The amounts I shared work well with the Buche set. The composite photo above shows the overall preparation of the insert (compote + biscuit), that I made on a Friday evening, and left to freeze until next day. You can use any type of freezer-safe container you want, as long as it allows for easy un-molding later. The biscuit recipe makes more than needed for the base, so I cut a few rounds to freeze for a future adventure.

Saturday morning I made the crusty layer using puffed quinoa. To do so, I drew a precise template of the bigger Silikomart mold, and used a sharp paring knife to cut it. It is easier to cut  while it’s still just a tad warm. While the layer cooled completely, I prepared the Sakura mousse.

The mousse is poured inside the larger buche mold, then the frozen insert carefully placed in the center, with the biscuit layer facing up. More mousse is used to fill the mold almost to the top, then the  crusty layer is gently pressed on top. It is important to wrap the mold in plastic wrap so that when the mousse freezes it gets nicely compacted around the insert and the quinoa top (which will become the bottom in the final presentation).

Mirror glazing is definitely the most exciting part, although still a bit nerve-wracking for me. Things can go wrong in this final step for two main reasons:  first, you can pour too fast and lose track of how much glaze is being used, how much is left to finish coating; second, the temperature might be slightly off, so either the glaze slides off the cake without sticking, or it might set too fast and compromise the beautiful, super smooth surface that is the goal. When using more than one color, it gets even trickier. All components have to be just right in consistency and temperature. The glazes are best made the day before, so I made them on Saturday, kept them all in the fridge.  A 30 to 40 seconds encounter with the microwave puts all glazes at around 110F. At that point they went inside my bread proofing box set at 98F, and the waiting game started. You must be patient, and remember that whisking a mirror glaze suspension is a capital sin in patisserie. Bubbles must be minimized at all cost. Allow the different colors to equilibrate to the same temperature, get your frozen dessert ready, and let your inner Monet fly.

So there you have it, the Sakura Buche du Printemps ready to be enjoyed!  The cherry blossom flavor is very unique, floral (obviously) but not overpowering, as long as you exercise caution when you add it. A little too much and the mousse will be ruined. I really liked the texture of the crunchy quinoa, an idea that I cannot take credit for. I found it in this blog post and simply “borrowed” it. I will be using it again and again. It is sturdy enough to support the mousse, but easy to cut without making a huge mess on the plate. The biscuit layer could conceivably be omitted to simplify preparation, but it does add a different texture in a sea of mousse and creamy fruit. I think it makes the dessert considerably more interesting.

Before you leave, grab a pin…

ONE YEAR AGO: Clay Pot Roast Chicken

TWO YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2017

THREE YEARS AGO: Secret Recipe Club: Chicken Korma and a Bonus Recipe

FOUR YEARS AGO: Josey Baker’s Olive Bread

FIVE YEARS AGO: Almonds, A Cookbook Review

SIX  YEARS AGO: Pomegranate-Molasses Glazed Carrots

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Codruta’s Rolled Oat Sourdough Bread

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Roasted Corn and Tomato Risotto

NINE YEARS AGO: Light Rye Bread

EXTREME CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES

This is chocolate going where no chocolate has gone before. Total cocoa intensity. With each bite of these babies your mind will  buzz a little. A buzz of joy, that only real chocolate lovers will understand. If you join this cake with a good cup of java the world will be yours to conquer. Or at least it will feel like it.

SUPER-MOIST CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES
(slightly modified from Sally’s Baking Addiction)

3/4 cup (95g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (42g) natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (100g) light brown sugar
1/3 cup (80ml)  canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla paste  
1/2 cup (120ml) milk soured with a squirt of lemon juice (or commercial buttermilk)
frosting (recipe follows)
sprinkles to decorate (optional)

Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. If you have a second pan, line two more muffin tins, the recipe will likely make 14 cupcakes.  

Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and vanilla paste until completely smooth. Pour half of the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Then half of the home-made buttermilk. Gently whisk for a few seconds. Repeat with the remaining wet ingredients and buttermilk. Stir until just combined; do not overmix.

Spoon the batter into the liners. Fill only halfway.  Bake for 18-21 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

BLACKOUT CHOCOLATE FROSTING
(from Kara’s Couture Cakes)

1/2 cup butter 
2/3 cup black cocoa powder 
3 cups powdered sugar
a little less than 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
black gel food color (I used Chefmaster)

Melt the butter and stir in the cocoa with the paddle attachment on a stand mixer.
Add powdered sugar and mix on low-speed. Start with 1/3 cup heavy cream and add it to the mixer. Increase the mixer speed to medium. Add 2-4 tablespoons more heavy cream till you reach the desired icing consistency.
.
Add vanilla extract and black food color and turn the mixer to medium high and beat for 90 seconds.
.
Ice the cupcakes once they are completely cold. Have fun with sprinkles!
.
ENJOY!

to print the recipes, click here

Comments: Sally’s Baking Addiction is a fantastic site for bakers. I’ve mentioned before that one of my nieces in Brazil is a great cake baker, to the extent that for a while she was doing it professionally. She baked super fancy and decorated cakes for birthday celebrations, in a special-order kind of deal. One day we were talking about blogs and cookbooks, and she mentioned Sally’s blog (not mine, mind you) as one of her favorite sources exactly for the reason that her recipes are so reliable. It was fun to learn that we subscribed and faithfully the same site for years without knowing we both did. But I digress. Sally’s chocolate cupcakes deliver exactly what she promises: moist, decadent, and perfectly shaped little concoctions. The most important instruction in her recipe is to fill the muffin tins only halfway to the top. Not a teaspoon more. It will seem inadequate, but resist the temptation to add more batter.  They will bake perfectly, without a super inflated dome that always sinks in unflattering ways as the cake cools.


The frosting. Normally, I am not wild about American buttercream, but this is not your regular kind. For starters, the black cocoa powder is so intense, that it can stand up to the extra sugar. Also, the addition of heavy cream is a game changer. If you are counting calories or saturated fat, this is not your best option for dessert. But if your life-style allows some room for indulging, this might very well be your best option for dessert.  The cake with the dark cocoa icing is a match that will rock that world you are about to conquer.

I hope this photo conveys how deliciously moist this cupcake turns out. You can pile the icing higher if you dare, but I think a bit of moderation is in order. It is very rich and satisfying. As to decoration, I pretty much opened my box of sprinkles and had a blast with them. The dark background is friendly to so many color combinations! Pure white (those tiny marshmallows looked adorable on the cake), red, pink, coral, bright mixed colors, or you can use a color scheme geared to a particular occasion. Come to think of it, St Patrick’s Day could showcase some of these with green and white sprinkles…

I close this post with a daring statement. Ready? Here we go: these are the best chocolate cupcakes I’ve ever had. There. I said it. You must bake a batch…

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Sunflower Seed Kamut Sourdough

TWO YEARS AGO: The Joys of Grating Squash

THREE YEARS AGO: Auberge Pecan-Walnut Bread

BERRY REBELLION TARTS BY KIRSTEN TIBBALLS

Fantastic, terrific, outstanding, phenomenal, impressive, superb. Those are some of the adjectives I must use to express how I feel about Savour online classes, particularly those taught by the founder of the site, Kirsten Tibballs. I found Savour by accident about 6 months ago, and decided that a monthly subscription to have access to the hundreds of patisserie videos (260 at the present time) was more than worthy it. They add new videos on a regular basis, but in my opinion, even if they did not, the material already available is mind-blowing. Yes, yet another adjective joined my party. Kirsten Tibballs’ CV is quite impressive, you can read about her in this recent interview. Plus, she is a perfect teacher, going over every detail in the recipe, making sure you know what is absolutely important to pay attention to and why. I learn a lot watching her classes. And the icing on the cake? She always has a nice smile and a calm, serene demeanor that makes even the most complex recipes seem doable. Well, except when she performs her magic tricks with tempered chocolate. The doable component goes out of the window, and it goes real fast.  Today I share a recipe she offered on her youtube channel, and show you another tart (without the recipe) that is part of the Savour school. They were both spectacular, but I am particularly thrilled by the first one: Berry Rebellion Tarts. We had them for our Valentine’s dinner dessert, and they closed the evening with a golden key. Maybe it was more a ruby-red key?

VALENTINE’S BERRY REBELLION TARTS
(slightly modified from Kirsten Tibballs youtube channel)

For the pastry shells:
225g all-purpose flour
125g unsalted butter
75g superfine granulated sugar
1 egg (about 60g)
2 teaspoons of water

Heat the oven to 350F. Combine the sifted flour and butter to form a crumb; you can do this either in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, food processor or rub the butter into the flour by hand. It is important that you do not over mix at this stage and ensure that all the butter is combined without forming a paste.

Combine the sugar, water and egg in a bowl, stop the mixer and add this to the crumb mixture. Mix until it just comes together as a dough. Press the dough into a flat square, cover in plastic wrap and rest in the fridge for 1 hour. Once the dough is firm, remove from the fridge and cut in half. Roll the pastry out to 3mm thick on a surface lightly dusted with flour. Cut out discs slightly larger than the tart rings (mine are 8cm in diameter). Place the rings on a lined baking tray and line them with the pastry. Place the tarts in the fridge and repeat the process with the remaining dough.

When the pastry has firmed up, trim the edges with a small sharp knife. Cover the tarts with plastic wrap, fill the tarts with uncooked beans or rice, pressing them into the base firmly to make sure it is filling all the corners. Bake for approximately 10 minutes, remove the rice and plastic lining and bake for a further 4-6 minutes or until a light golden brown colour. Remove the rings while the tarts are warm and allow to cool.

For the crunchy layer:
20g freeze-dried strawberries
13g puffed rice cereal
62g  white chocolate
20g grapeseed oil

Melt the white chocolate in a plastic bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time on high until it is half melted. Stir vigorously to melt all the chocolate and add in the oil. Mix to combine then add the strawberries and rice bubbles and stir. Spoon a thin layer onto the tart shells, followed by a thin layer of compote, made as described below.

For the strawberry compote:
200g strawberries, hulled and cut in pieces
50 g granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
120 mL water (about 1/2 cup)
pinch of salt

Place strawberries in a saucepan with sugar,  lemon juice, and salt. Divide the water into two – pour half with the fruit and combine the other half into the cornstarch.

Heat the fruit on low to medium until sugar is dissolved shaking the pan to cook evenly. Add the well-mixed cornstarch mixture into the bubbling fruit. Continue to cook on low – the mixture will thicken and looks glossy. When thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon or spatula it’s ready. Let cool completely. It can be prepared a couple of days in advance.

For the Chantilly topping:
150 ml fresh cream 35% fat (A)
15g liquid glucose
1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
105g good quality white chocolate
220 ml fresh cream 35% fat (B)

Boil the cream (A), glucose and vanilla in a saucepan. Pour the boiling mixture over the white chocolate in a bowl and whisk together by hand. Add in the cream (B) and whisk again. Place in the fridge for 6 hours prior to whipping. To whip, whisk it in a stand mixer or by hand to a piping consistency.

Place a generous spoonful of the white chocolate Chantilly cream on top and smooth into a dome shape with a knife. Freeze for 1 hour minimum.  Proceed to make the chocolate coating.

For the chocolate coating:
500g white chocolate
50g grapeseed oil
10g red oil soluble colour (I used only 4g)

Temper the white chocolate by melting it in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time until half melted. Add in the grapeseed oil and combine. Portion out one-third of the chocolate and sieve in the red colour. Stir to combine then fill a paper piping bag halfway with the chocolate. Place the white chocolate in a smaller bowl and pipe the red chocolate in a grid pattern on top. Holding the tart shell, dip the cream coating into the chocolate and twist the tart as you remove it. Let it drip for a few seconds before turning it upwards and leave at room temperature to set. Pipe red chocolate over the grid pattern each time you dip a new tart, until you coat the six of them.

Allow them to fully set, place in the fridge to defrost for at least one hour before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: When I coated the tarts and placed them on the rack to set,  I said to myself “did I make these? did I really make these?”  Nothing beats the thrill of pulling a recipe that seems a bit too complex and that takes me out of my comfort zone. More often than not, I have small issues with it, but not this time. They turned out better than I expected. I spread the preparation over three days, because with Valentine’s falling on a Thursday I had no choice. The tartlets were made on Tuesday evening, the compote on Wednesday evening.

I urge you to watch Kirsten video on youtube. Her method to shape the dough in the tart rings is wonderful and if you follow it closely you’ll have tartlets with a perfect sharp angle at the bottom, instead of a rounded-up edge that makes spreading the filling a bit tricky. Small details matter. The addition of a tiny amount of water in the dough makes it easier to roll out. A pleasure to work with. I used regular saran wrap to cover the tarts before filling with beans (or rice, if you prefer that). Just make sure to crumble the plastic on top,  so that it dos not touch the ring during baking.  Once the tarts are cool, you are ready to move on to the two-component filling…

Mis-en-place is everything, and BogeyQT™ definitely approved the way I handled that step. A crusty base with puffed rice cereal, freeze-dried strawberries and white chocolate gives these babies intense flavor and a perfect contrast to the creamy topping that is added later. I changed the recipe for the strawberry compote, because I felt that just simmering the fruit in water and sugar resulted in a very loose mixture. I was afraid it would leak all over the place when I cut the tart. So I used a strawberry compote slightly thickened with cornstarch.  It maybe depends on the fruit available to you, Kirsten made them in Australia at the peak of the summer. Lucky lucky woman, I am in the desolate tundra of Kansas freezing my tropical bones. Once the compote is added, all you have to do is crown it with some seriously awesome white chocolate Chantilly cream.

Not to repeat myself, but still doing it, you MUST watch her youtube video for this step (around minute 18). I was a bit worried about sculpting the top in a nice mountain-shape, Chantilly is not the most forgiving substance in patisserie world. But Kirsten, knowing that this step has the potential to induce hyperventilation, holds her spatula and with a very sweet smile says, eyes straight to the camera: I know you can do it!  I got faith on you….  Well, let’s say I would not allow cameras to show my performance, but somehow I managed to do it, a few blobs of cream finding the counter top, but not really that bad. And that final step? Swirling the top of the frozen tartlets in the white chocolate pool? That is THE coolest thing ever! Dip it right to the level of the tart shell, and then control your nerves and lift it as you turn. Don’t over-think it. Go for it. I tell you, it was almost as much of a thrill as crossing the finish line of a marathon back in 1986. Yeah, that’s about right.

The tart is simply amazing. The white chocolate-Chantilly cream is quite likely one of the most luscious toppings I’ve ever made, and all the components work together well: the extra crunchy layer with the freeze-dried strawberries is full of flavor, the compote sweet-and-tart, and then the creamy top. OMG-type of dessert. Trust me. You could change the color of the swirl component, maybe even add two different colors for a cool effect, adapting it to Easter, Christmas, Mardi Gras… One of the tastiest things I’ve made in a long time.

Now, time for a teaser recipe, which you can find at Savour.com.  Kirsten’s Crown of Savour is a single tart with some similarities to the Berry Rebellion. A tart base (slightly different recipe), a crusty layer made with pistachios, slivered almonds, puffed rice and white chocolate. Fresh raspberries spread on top, all covered with a superb vanilla cream perfumed with rose-water. To crown it, a disc of tempered chocolate showered with a dust of freeze-dried raspberries. It was a labor of love, but worth the effort.


I think the trickiest component of this tart was the tempered chocolate disc. Kirsten is undoubtedly the Queen of Chocolate. She is able to spread the tempered suspension super thin, so the result is a much more delicate topping. The decoration she chose for the tart is also totally different, she baked little sticks with meringue and stuck them in a nice pattern all around. You can marvel at it here.  I could not bring myself to go for those, as all my energy had been depleted in a certain chocolate tempering adventure. I decorated the edges with pieces of tempered chocolate I had played with. Kirsten’s Crown of Savour is a real masterpiece of patisserie.

The flavors of this tart were also quite amazing, Kirsten is big on contrasting textures. In the video, she points out that you can potentially simplify things by omitting the crunchy layer on top of the crust, but I do think it adds a lot to the dessert. If you spread preparation over a couple of days, it’s all pretty doable. Of course, the chocolate component a bit of a challenge. Savour has a few tutorials on tempering chocolate using different methods like tabling and microwave, so it’s actually all there for you to learn.  I need a lot more practice, my chocolate decorations are always a bit “heavy”, not enough finesse, because evidently I don’t have the “chocolate skill.” Not yet, that is…

As I mentioned, Savour right now has 260 videos. Most are 20 to 40 minutes long, some are shorter, some slightly longer. They show every single step to make the desserts, no matter how complex. You have access to the full recipe, as well as links to special items used (baking pans, silicone molds, piping gadgets). Finally, you also have access to a forum to ask questions to moderators and other bakers. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I only recommend things I love, and never accept any requests to review books or products. I am absolutely in love with Savour and feel that anyone with a passion for patisserie will profit from their online classes.


Chef Kirsten, thank you so much for making classes available to home bakers like me, who live so far away from Australia and can only dream of taking a hands-on class from you.


 

ONE YEAR AGO: Emilie Raffa’s High Hydration Sourdough

TWO YEARS AGO: Short-Ribs with Chickpeas and Chard

THREE YEARS AGO: Asian-Style Short Ribs 

FOUR YEARS AGO: Herbed Goat Cheese Souffles

FIVE YEARS AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

SIX YEARS AGO: Jammin’ Blueberry Sour Milk Pancakes

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Scallops with Black Pasta in Orange Cream Sauce

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn

NNE YEARS AGO: Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedo

DOMINIQUE ANSEL’S CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKE


Chef Dominique Ansel’s shout to fame materialized in 2013 when he created the cronut, a cross between a croissant and a doughnut. On the first day he started selling cronuts, a blogger from New York’s The Grub stopped by, had one, and raved about it in the popular blog. Poor Mr. Ansel had no idea that next morning a line of more than 100 customers would be screaming for a cronut.  You can read the whole story here. I have Ansel’s book “The Secret Recipes” which includes the method for his cronuts (they take three days to prepare).  I am not too fond of fried pastries – just don’t care for dealing with all that oil at home, and would prefer to stop by his bakery in New York and enjoy one “sur place.”  But I adore his cookbook. In the opening chapter he talks about one unusual “ingredient”: time. How important it is to consider time in a recipe and respect it. He illustrates the point with madeleines, that must be enjoyed within 3 to 5 minutes of baking. Being a timing fanatic, I was immediately captivated by his opening chapter. Today I share with you his chocolate mousse cake, with a modern look given by his unusual decoration: mini-meringues that he calls “mini-me’s.” I changed the look a bit, making the “mini-me’s” slightly bigger, and adding just a layer at the bottom of the cake, to allow the mirror glaze to shine. Sprinkled golden stars because… sometimes you need stars in your life.

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKE
(from Dominique Ansel’s Masterclass online video)

I don’t have permission to publish the recipe,
so I will share a very simplified overview.

Chocolate cake component:  he uses a flourless chocolate base, starting with 11 eggs, separated in yolks and whites. The yolks are beaten with sugar until tripled in volume, then a French meringue is added to the yolks. Finally, some cocoa powder is gently mixed and the batter is distributed in two half-sheets for baking. You can use any chocolate concoction you like, a genoise like this one, or a Joconde like this one, as long as you have 2 circles of cake of similar thickness, 8 inches in diameter.

Chocolate Mousse: I started the mousse preparation by blooming 2 tsp gelatin in 30mL very cold water for 10 minutes. Then 310g of whole milk was brought to a boil and poured over 310g dark chocolate (70% cocoa). The ganache was emulsified well, then the bloomed gelatin added and gently but thoroughly mixed. Heavy cream (450g) was whipped to the consistency of melted ice cream, and gently folded in the chocolate ganache/gelatin. Mousse is ready to use to assemble the cake.

Chocolate Mirror Glaze: This is not the traditional mirror glaze with condensed milk and glucose, but a much simpler variation, similar to a pouring ganache used in Opera Cakes, for instance. It starts with blooming 12g of gelatin in 60g of water for at least 10 minutes. Then, 200g sugar is mixed with 140g heavy cream and heated until the sugar is fully dissolved. Water (150g) is mixed with 70g cocoa powder in a bowl to form a paste.  The bloomed gelatin is added to the hot heavy cream (make sure it is not hotter than 80 C), mixed well to dissolve. That is added to the cocoa powder paste and emulsified well. Ideally, the glaze should be stored in the fridge overnight and used next day to cover the cake.

Assembling the cake: I like to wrap the base of a tall 8-inch ring cake with plastic wrap, bringing it up along the sides (it is easier to do if you add a few drops of water to the outside of the ring). Add a piece of acetate inside the ring to facilitate un-molding later. Place the first cake layer at the bottom, cut to fit exactly inside the ring. Add mousse, the second cake layer, and mousse to cover. Freeze overnight.

Next day, bring the mirror glaze to room temperature, warm gently in the microwave until it reaches 90 to 95 degrees F. You must minimize bubbles in the glaze, either by using an immersion blender, or passing the mixture through a fine sieve. I actually do both things to make sure it is very smooth. Remove the cake from the freezer, un-mold, place over a rack on a baking sheet. Cover by pouring the glaze at the center in a circular motion.

Decoration: make small meringues using any Swiss meringue recipe you like. I used this one. I baked mine at 175 F for 40 minutes only, then let them in the oven turned off for 30 minutes with the door slightly ajar. Add the meringues to the sides of the cake or in any pattern you like. Sprinkle with stars or other sprinkles.  Leave in the fridge to de-frost for a couple of hours before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe overview, click here

Comments: Just to make sure I made it clear, this recipe is NOT part of his cookbook. It is demonstrated online in his Masterclass video. Which, by the way, is excellent! He is very personable, and his attention to detail, even if not unexpected, is a joy to see in action. In the video he teaches how to make perfect madeleines, a fantastic apple tart, croissants, and this delicious cake. 

I had no issues to make the cake or assemble it. My favorite step – I am sure you won’t be surprised – is the final glazing. The cake was waiting in the freezer for 5 days, actually. We had a trip planned and the day after we arrived back we were supposed to attend a potluck dessert party, tradition of our department for the past few years. This was our contribution.

So, if you want to have a very easy time on the day you need to serve a special cake, consider this one. Everything can be made in advance (way in advance!), on party day you just need to make the glaze and the meringues. Which, by the way, are obviously not mandatory. The mirror glaze is so beautiful, you can add some sprinkles, or a drizzle of white chocolate and still have something super special to serve to your guests.

And… speaking of mirrors…

The day Sally photobombed her own shot!

The cake was very well-received at the party. I think it had the right level of sweetness and chocolate intensity, a very smooth and luscious mousse, with the tender cake to tease the palate. And the meringues!  Honestly, I think under-baking them a tad is the right way to go. As they sat on the side of the cake, they got a bit more creamy instead of crumbly and dry. I had quite a bit of meringues leftover.

Bogey Quit That ™ practices his paranormal telekinesis. 

😉

I close this post with a quote from Chef Ansel’s book…

We live in a world where every creation strives to be both instantaneous and eternal. To respect time as the supreme ingredient is a battle of breaking habits and changing perceptions. Nobody likes to wait; nobody likes to rush. But when you treat time as an ingredient, it changes everything.

ONE YEAR AGO: Slow-Roasted Eye of the Round Beef

TWO YEARS AGO: Steam-Roasted Indian-Spiced Cauliflower

THREE YEARS AGO: Creamy Zucchini-Mushroom Soup

FOUR YEARS AGO: Ken Forkish’s Pain au Bacon

FIVE YEARS AGO: Carrot and Cumin Hamburger Buns

SIX YEARS AGO: Potato Galettes a l’Alsacienne & Book Review

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Caramelized Carrot Soup

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Miso-Grilled Shrimp

NINE YEARS AGO: Pain Poilane

 

 

APPLE & SOBACHA-CARAMEL DOME CAKE


I absolutely adore individual dome cakes. They are small, cute, and if you gild the lily with a mirror-glaze, they have the potential to seriously awe your guests. For this version, I paired two classic flavors, apple and caramel, but the caramel was perfumed with sobacha tea. As I mentioned not too long ago, I am (still) in a Japanese-ingredient obsessive mode, which explains why sobacha made its way into our kitchen. I have to share another little obsession with you: online classes from Savour.com, an Australian website that is simply amazing. My favorite instructor is Kirsten Tibballs, but they have classes by other chefs, all worth every minute of your spare time. The sobacha caramel was an idea from Chef Jerome Landrieu, another instructor from Savour. I paired that with an apple compote, and a white chocolate mousse. All sitting together over a hazelnut sable cookie.

The fun can be spread over three days. On the first day, make the cookies and the apple-yuzu insert. On the second day, make the sobacha-caramel, the white chocolate mousse, assemble the cakes and freeze them. On the third day, make the mirror glaze and coat the cakes. Keep them in the fridge for at least one hour before serving.

APPLE & SOBACHA-CARAMEL DOME CAKES
(inspired by Savour.com and other sources)

makes six to eight individual portions

You will need: half-sphere silicone pans, large and small (I used this and this)
round cookie cutter for sable base

for the sable cookie:
50g hazelnut flour
160g unsalted butter, cold
250g all-purpose flour
50g powdered sugar
50g granulated sugar
40g whole eggs

for the apple-yuzu insert:
300g granny smith apples
30g yuzu juice (or substitute lemon juice)
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
35g granulated sugar
4g NH pectin

for the sobacha-caramel:
120g heavy whipping cream
10g sobacha tea
cream to bring up to volume after infusing
150 g maple syrup
110 g brown sugar
75g sweetened condensed milk (about 1/4 cup)
85 g corn syrup (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter 

for the white chocolate mousse:
6 g gelatin (200 bloom)
30 g cold water
175 + 200 g heavy cream (divided)
190 g white chocolate, finely diced
1 T fresh lemon juice

for the mirror glaze:
2½ sheets (4g) of Platinum grade sheet gelatine
120ml water
150 g liquid glucose
150 g granulated or caster sugar
100 g condensed milk
150 g white chocolate, chopped fairly small
1/2 tsp titanium oxide
yellow and green gel food coloring (about 3 to 1)
caramel gel food coloring
golden sprinkles and milk covered hazelnuts for decoration

Make the sable cookies. Add the butter and the hazelnut flour into a food processor. Process a few times until the  mixture looks like sand. Add the rest of the dry ingredients, pulse a few times. Do not over-process to the point it will come together as a dough. Now add the egg (beat one egg and add the exact weight called for in the recipe). Pulse the processor two or three times, stop immediately and finish the dough by hand. You want to bring the dough together without over-working because now that liquid was added (through the egg), working the dough too much will develop gluten.

Roll the dough quickly on a lightly floured surface to cover more or less the extension of a quarter-sheet baking pan, the thickness should be around 3mm. Place the rolled dough in the fridge for about one hour, then cut circles of the exact diameter of the dome pan you will use for the cakes. This dough won’t spread or shrink, so you can exercise precision.  Place the cookies on a baking sheet (perforated, if available), and bake at 350 F for about 12 minutes. They do not need to develop color, just fully bake.  Reserve.

Make the apple-yuzu insert. Peel and dice the apples into 5 mm cubes. Combine the sugar and pectin in a small bowl and transfer to a saucepan. Add the yuzu or lemon juice to the saucepan and mix everything together. Turn the heat on to medium, add the apples and the vanilla. Cook very very gently with the lid on for 10 to 15 minutes or until the apples get translucent and start to melt down a bit. You will need to stir it often, so that the fruit does not burn at the bottom. Make sure the flame is really low for the whole cooking time. Place portions in a small mold that will work as an insert for the dome cake. You can alternatively spread the compote as a thick layer and cut small rounds to use as insert after it is frozen.  Freeze the molds containing the apple mixture for a few hours or overnight.

Make the sobacha-caramel.  Infuse the heavy cream with sobacha tea by bringing the heavy cream to almost a full boil and adding the tea. Turn the heat off, cover the pan and let it sit for 10 minutes. Drain the tea away, weigh the heavy cream and complete with fresh cream to restore the full 120g (some of it will be lost when the tea is sieved).

Combine the maple syrup, sugar, sobacha-cream, milk, corn syrup, and salt in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the mixture reaches 240 F (115 C). Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Let it cool until it has spreadable consistency. You can place it in a piping bag (no piping tip needed) or use a small spatula to spread a very thin layer over the sable cookies that will be the base of the dome cake. Reserve in the fridge until ready to assemble the dessert.

Make the white chocolate mousse. Mix the gelatin with water and allow it to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Heat 175 g of heavy cream in a saucepan until bubbles appear around the edges.  Pour over the white chocolate, add the bloomed gelatin, stir gently until chocolate is dissolved. Add the lemon juice and reserve. Whip the remaining 200 g of heavy cream (very cold from the fridge) until it reaches the consistency of melted ice cream. Fold gently into the reserved white chocolate mixture.

Assemble the dessert. Add a bit of mousse to the bottom of the large half-sphere mold. Place a frozen apple-yuzu insert on top, don’t press too hard, so that it won’t show on the surface. Fill almost to the top with mousse, then place the caramel-coated sable floating on top, with the caramel side down. Flatten everything well, if needed add additional mousse on the edges. Freeze overnight.

Make the mirror glaze. Put the water, sugar and liquid glucose in a small pan and bring to simmering point, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let it stand for about 5 minutes. This is the base syrup for the glaze. Meanwhile, soak the gelatin in some cold water for about 15 minutes. Squeeze out the excess water and stir into the hot water, sugar and liquid glucose mixture to dissolve. Stir in the condensed milk.

Put the chocolate in a medium bowl and pour this hot mixture slowly over the chocolate, stirring gently to melt it, avoid making bubbles. A stick immersion blender works great, but you must keep the blades fully submerged at all times. If bubbles are present, pass the mixture through a fine sieve. Add 1/2 tsp titanium oxide to the mixture, divide in two portions, one very large, one about 1/3 cup. Color the large amount light green, trying to mimic the color of a Granny Smith apple. Start with 3:1 yellow to green and adjust as you mix. Color the smaller amount with a caramel tone, and place in a squirt bottle.  Reserve both until they reach pourable temperature. The ideal temperature to pour the glaze is 92 to 94 F.  Once they reach that temperature, remove the cakes from the freezer, un-mold them and set them over a rack placed on top of a baking sheet. Glaze them with the light green mirror glaze, then make a drizzle with the caramel color.

If you want, add sprinkles and a chocolate-covered hazelnut on top. Keep in the fridge for at least one hour up to overnight before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


Comments: I guess this is the longest recipe I’ve ever published, I am a bit tired just from reading it… The secret of this type of dessert that sounds like a culinary marathon, is dividing the work in several days. Once you do that, you wont’ feel overwhelmed at all. The toughest part of this recipe was dicing the apple, but it becomes a bit of a Zen thing. And when you look at the pieces later, it looks incredibly cool.

Yuzu juice. Tough to find, this time I had to resort to amazon, but if you live in a place with a well-stocked Japanese section, you might be able to get some. If you don’t have it, second best option would be Meyer lemon, or go for a mixture of lemon and lime juice (1:1) and call it a day. The yuzu adds a very intriguing citric flavor, so I advise you to try it at least once. As you can see from the first composite picture, I had two different sizes of molds for the inserts. The white one is a Silikomart “Stone”, and it ended up too big for the spheres I chose. Looking at the final dessert, I think that I could have made the insert even smaller, so that it would have more mousse. It’s a tough call. Phil liked it just the way it was.

Sobacha tea. It is a buckwheat product also not very easy to find (in other words, must amazon-it). I made some as a regular tea to try, it has a pretty unique flavor, a bit smoky, maybe. It was spectacular in the caramel, added a lot to it. If you don’t find it, just make a regular caramel without it. Now did you notice the bottom right picture? It is my new toy, a batter dispenser… I am so in love with it! It makes a very messy job a lot less messy, although to take a picture of the action I got in considerable amount of trouble. My beloved was not around and I had to use all my coordination to get that shot. Things were not always smooth. I will spare you of all sordid details, but it’s amazing what a little mousse can do on black boots. You can see my stylish dispenser better in this shot:


Isn’t it a thing of pure beauty and functionality? It has three different sizes of opening at the bottom, I used the largest one for this job. They can be twisted on and off, and stored on the handle. I will showcase it better in my next In My Kitchen post. Stay tuned.

Mirror glaze: The dome cakes un-molded perfectly and had a very smooth surface. The most important thing is to coat them right away, to prevent condensation to form  as they sit at room temperature. Pour from the top in a circular movement, and make sure you do a 360 degrees check, because sometimes small bits at the bottom might not get covered. There is some room for tweaking and the amount of glaze I shared is more than enough to cover six to eight cakes.


So here it is, my baby-dome cake sliced in half so you can see inside. I have a hard time deciding if the size of the insert is good as it is, or smaller would be better. The caramel layer is very sweet so a thin layer is all that you’ll need. The apple-yuzu compote stole the show… As you can see from the first composite picture, it made quite a few. In fact, I halved the recipe to share in this post, because it made so much. I have some ideas to use it in the future, will de-frost them and freeze again in a different size and shape for a future entremet type cake. For the time being, they are hibernating in the freezer, together with leftover mirror glaze. Best friends forever.

I hope you enjoyed this long post, and perhaps consider venturing in the world of mousse cakes. It is a lot of fun, the thrill of coating a cake with mirror glaze never seems to get old. I think it’s as addictive as baking macarons!

ONE YEAR AGO: Cocktail Spiced Nuts

TWO YEARS AGO: How the Mighty Have Fallen

THREE YEARS AGO: Festive Night at Central

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Perfect Boiled Egg

FIVE YEARS AGO: Light Rye Sourdough with Cumin and Orange

SIX YEARS AGO: Homemade Calziones

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Plum-Glazed Duck Breasts

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Holiday Double-Decker

NINE YEARS AGO: New York Deli Rye

WHITE CHOCOLATE AND RASPBERRY MOUSSE CAKE

If you are obsessed with mirror glazed cakes, perhaps you’ve heard of the absolute goddess of the mirror universe, Ksenia Penkina.  The stuff she does is purely mind-blowing. Ksenia offers classes online and for a long time I dreamed about taking one.  I finally caved and got her introductory class, in which she explained how to make this adorable mousse cake. Having changed quite a few things in the recipe, (cake base, insert and glaze), I feel it’s ok to share. Plus, it would be impossible to offer in a blog post everything you get from watching her. Running no risk of infringing any copyright issues, I show you two versions of the same mousse cake, a larger one in a traditional format, and a small cake that would be perfect for a Valentine’s Day dessert. They were both made to celebrate Aritri’s PhD defense in November, a wonderful accomplishment by our most amazing graduate student. Congratulations, Dr. Majumdar!

WHITE CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY MOUSSE CAKE
(adapted from Ksenia Penkina)

for the hazelnut dacquoise:
120 g ground hazelnuts (peeled and lightly roasted)
135 g powdered sugar
40 g all-purpose flour
200 g egg whites, at room temperature
pinch of cream of tartar
70 g granulated sugar

for the raspberry insert:
7.5 g gelatin (around 200 bloom)
40 g cold water
280 g raspberry puree, sieved to remove seeds
12 g cornstarch
80 g sugar

for the white chocolate mousse:
11 g gelatin (200 bloom)
60 g cold water
350 + 400 g heavy cream (divided)
370 g white chocolate, finely diced
30 g fresh lemon juice

for the mirror glaze (adapted from Phil’s Home Kitchen):
2½ sheets (4g) of Platinum grade sheet gelatine
120ml water
150 g liquid glucose
150 g granulated or caster sugar
100 g condensed milk
150 g white chocolate, chopped fairly small
1/2 tsp titanium oxide
red, black, pink and white gel food colouring
tempered white chocolate for decoration (optional)
sprinkles for decoration (optional)

Prepare a 7 inch cake ring by wrapping it in plastic from the bottom to the sides, so you can use it to pour the fruit insert and freeze it later. Make sure it is sitting on a flat baking sheet that will fit in your freezer.

Heat the oven to 350 F.

Make the dacquoise base: in a bowl, mix together the flour, powdered sugar, and ground hazelnuts. Reserve. Make a meringue by whisking the egg whites with the cream of tartar until very foamy. Add the sugar slowly, whisking in high-speed until soft peaks form. Delicately fold the dry ingredients into the meringue. Spread as homogeneously as possible in a baking sheet to have a thickness of about 0.4 inch (1 cm). Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Cool it completely and store in the fridge until ready to assemble the cake.

Make the raspberry insert: In a small bowl, add the cold water, then pour the gelatin powder on the surface, gently mixing to hydrate the powder. Let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Sift the sugar with the cornstarch and add to the puree of raspberries in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Turn the heat off, allow the mixture to cool to around 175 F (80 C), and add the bloomed gelatin, whisking well to fully incorporate it into the hot liquid. Pour some of it in the prepared cake ring to a depth of 1/2 to 3/4 inch. If using the heart-shaped mold, pour an amount to give similar thickness into that pan too. You will use the full amount made to divide in the two pans. Freeze for several hours, or preferably overnight.

Make the white chocolate mousse: mix the gelatin with water as described for raspberry insert. Reserve. Heat 350 g of heavy cream in a saucepan until bubbles appear around the edges.  Pour over the white chocolate, add the bloomed gelatin, stir gently until chocolate is dissolved. Warm the lemon juice briefly in the microwave, and pour over the white chocolate cream.  Reserve.

Whip the remaining 400 g of heavy cream until it reaches the consistency of melted ice cream. Fold gently into the reserved white chocolate mixture. Your mousse is done.

Assemble the cake: remove the pans with the frozen inserts from the freezer and remove them from the molds. Prepare a slightly larger cake ring (8 inch) with plastic wrap in the bottom to assemble the larger cake. Add to the bottom of each pan (cake ring and heart-shaped mold) a layer of white chocolate mousse. Carefully place each insert floating on top, trying to center them as well as possible. Cover the mold almost to the top with mousse, then add the reserved dacquoise on top. Fill and gaps on the sides with mousse to make a smooth top (which will be the bottom of your un-molded dessert). Freeze overnight. Really important that the cake is absolutely frozen before proceeding with the glaze.

Make the mirror glaze. Put the water, sugar and liquid glucose in a small pan and bring to simmering point, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let it stand for about 5 minutes. This is the base syrup for the glaze.  Meanwhile, soak the gelatin in some cold water for about 5 minutes. Squeeze out the excess water and stir into the hot water, sugar and liquid glucose mixture to dissolve. Stir in the condensed milk.

Put the chocolate in a medium bowl and pour this hot mixture slowly over the chocolate, stirring gently to melt it, avoid making bubbles. A stick immersion blender works great, but you must keep the blades fully submerged at all times. If bubbles are present, pass the mixture through a fine sieve. Add 1/2 tsp titanium oxide to the mixture, divide in two portions. You are aiming for two different tones of red. I used red and a tiny amount of black dye for the darker color, red, pink and white to the second portion.

Leave the glaze uncovered for an hour at room temperature for the glaze to cooled and be slightly thickened: if it is too runny you will get too thin a layer on top, colors will not blend well and less glaze will cling to the sides of the cake. The ideal temperature to pour the glaze is 92 to 94 F. Once it is slightly above that (around 97 F), pour both colors in the same container, barely mix them, and pour over the frozen, un-molded cakes sitting over a rack with a baking sheet underneath.

Tap the rack gently to settle the glaze, and very gently and quickly run an off-set spatula on top of the cake to force excess glaze to run down the sides. Do that just once, or you will ruin the marble effect. Drips under the cake can be cleaned with a spatula or sharp knife. Let the glaze set at room temperature for 15 minutes, add the decorations of choice, then place the cakes in the fridge for 2 to 3 hours. Use a hot knife to cut slices without compromising the glaze.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The recipe will make two cakes, you can definitely cut it in half and bake a single large cake or a couple of small ones. I used a Silikomart mold called Amore for the small cake, and a cake ring, 8 inch diameter for the large one. The original cake base was a coconut dacquoise, but Aritri is not too wild about coconut in desserts, so I used a hazelnut version instead. Ksenia has access to a different type of gelatin, hard to find in the US, so I decided to stick to the mirror glaze formula from Philip’s blog, as I’ve been doing lately.

The larger cake was glazed a few hours before the heart cake, so I could only do the two-color effect on the big one. The leftover glaze was saved and applied to the small cake, but then the colors were obviously mixed. To add a bit more of a festive look, I used decorations from Fancy Sprinkles, a company I advise you to visit with restraint. Dangerous, very dangerous site. You’ve been warned.

To decorate the larger cake, I sat in front of a candle in a comfortable Full Lotus posture (yeah, right), went through 113 cycles of deep breathing, and… tried my hands at tempering some white chocolate. Against all odds, it was successful. Once I was done with my extended version of the Ecstatic Dance, I piped random crisscrossed lines on acetate film, let them set, broke them into small pieces and attached them to the base of the cake. In retrospect, I should have planned the decorations more carefully to come up with something a little more elegant. But truth be told, tempering chocolate is so tricky for me, I never expect it to work. When I realized it was all good, I had no specific plan on how to use it. Oh, well. Next time I’ll be ready. And then we all know what might happen: both chocolate and me will lose temper. Story of my life.

The cake tasted pretty amazing. I do think the combination of raspberries with white chocolate is hard to beat. Raspberries shine in desserts because they have such tangy flavor, cutting through excessive sweetness. The hazelnut dacquoise retained its nice texture during the freezing-thawing process, it did not turn mushy at all. I need to fine tune the amount of gelatin in the glaze, though. It seems a tad too runny.


One of the tricky parts of this type of dessert is baking a very uniform layer of cake or biscuit base. For cookie type bases (sable for instance), you can roll the dough using plastic guides with specific dimension. For cakes like dacquoise or genoise, I think baking frames could be the best option. Must investigate. Could be a fun gadget to showcase in a future “In My Kitchen.” The sacrifices one makes in the name of blogging!

As far as mousse cakes are concerned, this is a reasonably simple one, because it involves a single mousse, a single insert, and a single layer of cake/biscuit. If you are worried about making a mirror glaze, the cake could be served “naked” with some simple decorations on top. A drizzle of milk and white chocolate, a drizzle of white chocolate with some red dye dissolved in it, sprinkles, shaving of tempered chocolate, so many things you can do. But between you and me, the mirror glaze just makes a simple cake super special. Perfect to celebrate a terrific PhD defense!

ONE YEAR AGO: Panettone Time!

TWO YEARS AGO: Pistachio Creme Brulee

THREE YEARS AGO: Fast and Furious Bison Chili

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, December 2014

FIVE YEARS AGO: Braised Fennel with Saffron and Tomato

SIX YEARS AGO: Revenge of the Two Derelicts

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Grilling Ribbons

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Peppery Cashew Crunch

NINE YEARS AGO: Baked Shrimp and Feta Pasta

BANANA LAYER CAKE WITH MERINGUE ICING

If you need a festive cake that is not that hard to make (trust me, as a former cake-o-phobe, I know what I’m talking about), look no further. Inspiration came from several sources: cake from one cookbook, icing from another, filling from my own imagination, based on my Mom’s “doce de banana”. It was one of the very few sweets she made regularly, as both my Dad and I were crazy about it. I had to control myself not to say we went bananas for it. There, I just said it. Good memories.

BANANA LAYER CAKE WITH MERINGUE ICING
(adapted from Sprinklebakes)

for the cake:
113 g butter, softened (1 stick)
350 g sugar
3 eggs at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla paste
270 g all-purpose flour
3 + 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 + 1/4 cup milk, at room temperature (about 290 g)
for the frosting:
150 g sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup milk (230 g)
1 tsp vanilla paste
1/4 pound butter (1 stick), softened
2 Tablespoons icing sugar
for the filling:
4 medium bananas, cut into slices
2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup whipping cream
pinch of salt
2 bananas, sliced, sprinkled with lemon juice
for the frosting:
3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup egg whites

Make the cake. Heat oven to 350 F. Grease the center and perimeter of three 8 inch round cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease the center of the paper.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla paste, beat until combined.

In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the mixer in three additions, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat on high-speed for 3 minutes, cleaning the bowl midway through.  Divide the batter in the three pans, bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the cake. After the cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes, invert them on a rack and allow them to completely cool.

Make the custard frosting. Mix the sugar and flour inside a saucepan. Add the egg and egg yolk, whisk vigorously. Add the  milk and vanilla and mix very well. Heat gently over medium-low heat until the mixture boils and thickens. The goal is to have the consistency of pudding. Let it cool completely.

Beat the butter and icing sugar in an electric mixer using a wire whisk. When they are very well combined and creamy, add the cooled custard prepared before. Beat on high-speed for 7 minutes, until it thickens.

Make the filling. Melt the butter in a large non-stick skillet, add the brown sugar and cook until it starts to dissolve. Add the slices of banana, the heavy cream, and cook everything together until the bananas start to get golden brown and the cream thickens slightly.  Cool and reserve.

Assemble the cake.  Toss the fresh slices of banana with lemon juice and reserve in a small bowl. Place one cake layer over a cake stand, and spread with a very thin layer of custard frosting. Add half the caramelized bananas, and half the fresh banana slices. Set the second cake layer on top. Add a thing layer of custard, and the remaining of bananas, caramelized and fresh. Top with the final cake layer, bottom side up.

Coat the whole cake with frosting, make it a thin layer, no need to worry about covering the surface, because the meringue icing will take care of that.  Keep in the fridge until frosting, for at least a couple of hours.

Make the meringue icing. In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the egg whites with the sugar and place over a pan with simmering water. Heat until the sugar is fully dissolved and the mixture feels warm to the touch. Immediately hook the bowl to the mixer and beat in high-speed until stiff peak forms.  Remove the cake from the fridge and add a thick coating of the meringue frosting. You can then add all sorts of swirls and spikes to the surface, using either your bare fingers (a bit messy), or the back of a spoon. Have fun with it.  Torch the surface to give a nice effect all over. Don’t burn  it to the point it gets black, because then the sugar will taste bitter.

Slice and serve!

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I have four tips for you when it comes to cake baking.

Tip #1: Get that mis-en-place going. When you measure all the ingredients and lay them up spatially in the order they will be used, your life will be a lot easier. And the probability that you will forget the melted butter in the final stage of genoise preparation will be considerably reduced.

Tip #2: Have all ingredients at room temperature, eggs, milk, oils, butter. They incorporate better that way, and you will have a smoother batter. You can soak eggs in warm water for 5 minutes in case you forgot to remove them from the fridge.

Tip #3: Sift the leavening agent with other dry ingredients. This will disperse the powder (baking soda, baking powder) uniformly, ensuring that your cake will rise evenly.

Tip #4: For cake layers that are perfectly leveled, spray or coat just the center of the pan with your greasing agent of choice (Pam, butter), and a light coat on the sides. Amazing how well that works. If you look at the composite picture, I included a shot of one of the cakes when I just inverted it out of the baking pan. No trimming was needed in any of the three cake layers. I cannot take credit for this baking tip, it’s something I saw over at Pastries Like a Pro and have been using for a long time now. Always works. Thank you, Helen!

Some bakers recommend those Wilton bands that go around the cake pan to ensure even baking. I’ve tried them, and found that the cake ended up with a sort of “steamed” quality I did not care for. Maybe that could be fixed with a slightly longer bake, but to me nothing beats the trick of greasing just the center of the pan. It’s so much easier than messing with those bands soaked in water.

This is a big, hearty cake, a small slice will be enough, but you will be tempted to go back for another little sliver. The contrast of caramelized bananas with a few bites of fresh fruit made the cake even more flavorful and cut through the sweetness of the filling.  For the future, I would reduce the amount of icing (maybe start with 3/4 cup of egg whites and decrease the sugar proportionally), as it made way too much.  It was a recipe from Fine Cooking and they said it would be enough to cover one 9-inch round cake. In my opinion, that amount would be enough to cover two of those with some to spare and flick at drooling dogs standing nearby.

I made the cake on Sunday but added the frosting Monday morning just before taking it to the department. I don’t think meringue icing holds up very well and was afraid it would be compromised after a night in the fridge.  It was a ton of fun to torch it, maybe next time we should try to make a video.  Everybody loved this cake, even though it was massive, it was gone before 11am. I call that a successful Mondays with Sweetness deal!

ONE YEAR AGO: Mini-Frittatas with Broccoli and Cheese

TWO YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting

THREE YEARS AGO: Anne Burrell’s Focaccia

FOUR YEARS AGO: Double Chocolate and Mint Cookies

FIVE YEARS AGO: Cappuccino Panna Cotta

SIX YEARS AGO: Chicken Parmigiana, the Thriller

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Wild Mushroom Risotto

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Tartine Bread:  Basic Country Loaf 

NINE YEARS AGO:  Pugliese Bread