RASPBERRY ANGEL FOOD CAKE

I admit I am passionate about many things. If that’s a crime, I plead guilty without thinking twice. Currently, my list of passions include all things designed by the brilliant patissière Ekaterina (aka Miúda) from the blog verdadedesabor. I have attempted one of her recipes in the past, and dream over every single of her creations. Every time I get an email notification of a new post in her blog, I cannot wait to see what it is all about. It still amazes me that she keeps her site all the way from Russia in two languages, one of them being Portuguese. Too cool! Recently she shared two desserts using Angel Food Cake as a starting point. One of them seemed way too complex for my level, but the second one I thought that maybe I could do without losing whatever is left of my mental sanity. I had a few issues here and there, cannot say I hit it perfectly, but I am happy with the way it turned out. A nice mixture of flavors and textures, this might be a perfect cake to celebrate Valentine’s Day…

RASPBERRY ANGEL FOOD CAKE
(slightly modified from Verdadedesabor)

for the cake:
125 g cake flour
75 g powdered sugar
240 g egg whites
a pinch of salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
135 g superfine sugar
15 g vanilla sugar (I used this one)

for the raspberry confit:
150 g raspberry puree (seeds sieved out)
90 g of sugar (or to taste)
3 g pectin NH

for the raspberry mousseline:
125 g milk
125 g raspberry puree (seeds sieved out)
90 g of sugar
3 g vanilla sugar
6 g cornstarch
8 g flour
1 egg
130 g softened butter

for the mini-meringues:
35 g egg white
35 g of superfine sugar
35 g powdered sugar
a pinch of cream of tartar
pink food coloring

Make the cake: heat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Place a 8 in x 8 in square frame on top.  Sift flour and powdered sugar together. Reserve.

In the large bowl of the mixer, using the wire whisk, beat the egg whites until they begin to froth. Add the cream of tartar and a pinch of salt. Gradually add sugar and vanilla sugar. Continue to beat until firm peaks form. Turn off the mixer. Sieve the flour with the powdered sugar again on top of the beaten egg whites. With the help of a silicone spatula, gently mix the batter.

Transfer the batter to the prepared ring, smooth the surface. Bake for about 35-40 minutes until the cake is lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the ring. Remove the ring, and if you like, shave the sides to show the white crumb.

Make the raspberry confit: In a pan, heat the puree with half the sugar until it reaches 104 F (about 40 C). Add the rest of the sugar mixed with the pectin. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, transfer to another container, cover with plastic film touching the surface, let it cool to room temperature then place in the fridge.

Make the mousseline: In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, vanilla sugar, cornstarch and flour. Stir well with a wire whisk. Add the milk and the raspberry puree stirring constantly. Add the egg and incorporate well. Heat the mixture for about 5 minutes, until the cream thickens, and the temperature reaches about 180 F. Remove from heat, transfer to another container and cover with plastic film touching the surface. Allow to cool to room temperature, place in the fridge.

Thirty minutes before making the mousseline, remove the cream from the fridge. Beat the butter until creamy. Gradually add the cream (it is important that the cream and butter have the same temperature), continuing to beat until you get a fluffy cream. Transfer the cream to a confectioner’s bag with a 1M tip or another tip of your choice.

Make the mini-meringues: Heat the oven to 185 F. Line a tray with parchment paper or silicone mat. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until firm, but do not let them dry. Slowly, add the sugar and beat at the top speed until it has dissolved. Reduce the speed to the minimum and gradually add the powdered sugar and the pink food dye.

With a piping bag fitted with a round tip, pipe very small meringues in the prepared tray, and bake for about 2 hours  or until they are dry and crunchy. Turn off the oven and let the meringues cool inside.

Assemble the cake: Apply a thin layer of confit to the top of the cake. Then, with the help of the pastry bag, spread the mousseline cream on top. Decorate with the mini-meringues, and sprinkles of your choice. Cut in squares and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This was my first time making Angel Food Cake, one of Phil’s favorite cakes. Ever since I met him he talks about his Grandma’s Angel Food Cake with a particular type of frosting that as far as I can tell might be a boiled frosting known as Ermine. Obviously, I have a mental block about baking that cake, how could I compete with sweet childhood memories? But perhaps this little adventure into angelic territory will give me a bit more confidence.

I made the cake and the mini-meringues on a Saturday, and also prepared the raspberry puree (sieving that stuff is not something I look forward to), reserving everything in the fridge. Sunday was dedicated to making the confit and raspberry mousseline (mousseline-virgin here).  There were moments of drama, as so often happens when Sally bakes cake. Mousseline: I was very careful monitoring the temperature of butter and raspberry custard component, I swear they were similar but still the whole mass turned grainy right in front of my eyes. I checked what time it was in Moscow – middle of the night. What would be the chances that Miúda suffers from chronic insomnia and checks her blog at 1:55am? Not very high, I’d say less than 5%. So, I took matters in my own desperate hands, and grabbed my personal life-saving device, the hair-dryer. Warmed up the side of the bowl, continued beating and sweating (from nerves, not the hair-dryer thing), and then, all of a sudden, I had the most beautiful mousseline ever seen in Manhattan, KS. My sense of relief was palpable.

I really loved how all the components worked together in this dessert. The angel food is a kind of a humble cake, with unique smooth texture but not much in the flavor department. The raspberry confit is quite the opposite, it’s all about flavor, hitting you intensely with the tart-sweetness of the fruit. Then it all gets mellowed down by the mousseline cream. The mini-meringues surprised me because at first I thought about skipping them, but they give this dessert an additional crunchy texture that is pure joy. If you make this cake, bake a batch of meringues, you will be glad you did.

Notes to self:
add a little pink food dye to the mousseline…
spread the confit layer a little bit thinner…
pipe meringues with slightly more pointy tops…

Thank you, Miúda, for your patience with my questions and your words of encouragement…  Looking forward to your upcoming baking adventures at verdadedesabor

ONE YEAR AGO: Caramel Chocolate Tartlets

TWO YEARS AGO: Chicken Korma-ish

THREE YEARS AGO: Sunday Gravy with Braciole

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, February 2015

FIVE YEARS AGO: Avocado and Orange Salad with Charred Jalapeno Dressing

SIX YEARS AGO: Green Olive, Walnuts and Pomegranate Salad

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Romanian Flatbreads

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Ziti with Artichokes and Meyer Lemon Sauce

NINE YEARS AGO: Blasted Broccoli, Stove-top version

A VALENTINE’S DAY OPERA

Not everyone is fond of opera. I go as far as saying that it is an acquired taste. But if you switch from music to cake, the polls are reversed: most people will go weak in the knees anticipating a slice. Opera Cake is often described as a dessert in six acts. Layers of thin cake, moist with a delicate coffee syrup, separated by luscious coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache. A real French classic. A real beauty. A perfect way to say I love you on February 14th. Or any other day of the year. Because this is a cake that creates its own moment. And thanks to Colette Christian and  Craftsy lessons online, Sally, the cake-o-phobe produced a version that made her very happy…

 

OPERA CAKE – RECIPE OVERVIEW

(based on Colette Christian’s Miniature French Desserts at Craftsy.com)

 

It all starts with the mis-en-place for a Joconde sponge cake. With a name like that, you know it’s going to be special. Joconde is a cake leavened exclusively by beaten eggs, with a nice proportion of ground almonds (or almond meal) in the batter. Colette gives very nice tips to make it homogeneous in thickness, because the Opera Cake is all about precision. Any small mistake in a step, and the outcome might suffer.

You can use any formula you like for the cake, I will give you one example from BBC food, very similar to the one I used from Colette.

JOCONDE SPONGE CAKE

3 whole eggs
15g sugar
100g almond flour
100g icing sugar
3 egg whites
20g granulated sugar
30g cake flour
30g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Almonds and icing sugar are sifted into a large bowl, eggs added and whisked to combine.

A meringue is made with the egg whites, raining the granulated sugar slowly, until soft peaks form. Increase the speed to medium-high, and mix until the whites are at a firm peak. Add 1/3 of the meringue to the almond mixture. Add half the cake flour and half the melted butter.  Add another 1/3 of meringue, the rest of the flour and butter. Finally fold in the remaining third of the meringue.

Spread the batter as homogeneously as possible on a half-sheet pan. Try not to deflate it and bake it right away for about 15 minutes at 375 F. The cake should not get any color, but it should spring back lightly when touched at the center.

 

After baking, the cake is cut in three rectangles. Try to be precise, but don’t worry too much, as the cake will be trimmed at the very end. One layer is painted with melted chocolate and allowed to set. That layer of chocolate will be the very base of the final cake, preventing any soaking syrup from forming a puddle in the bottom.

You will also need to make a coffee buttercream, more specifically a French buttercream, in which a mixture of sugar and water is cooked to 236 to 240 F (soft-ball stage).  You can use this recipe, which is again very similar to the one I got from Craftsy. Just include 1 tablespoon of coffee extract together with 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. You need coffee extract to make sure the flavor will come through without diluting the buttercream too much and affecting texture.

Apart from the buttercream, you’ll need chocolate ganache for one of the cake layers.  A regular kind, equal weights of chocolate and heavy cream, allowed to cool to room temperature and placed in a piping bag.  The buttercream also goes in a piping bag, the easiest and less messy way to assemble the cake. No need to use a piping tip, just cut the bag to form a 1/2 inch opening.

To assemble, first start with the cake painted with melted chocolate at the base. A nice soaking of coffee syrup (water, strong coffee extract and sugar, cooked until the sugar fully dissolves). A layer of buttercream. A second layer of cake. More soaking. Ganache lavishly spread on top. Final layer of syrup-soaked cake, final top layer of buttercream. Now, the assembled cake rests in the fridge for a couple of hours, waiting for the final step. Don’t worry about the way the sides look now. It will all be fine in the end…

The pouring ganache, perhaps better described as a chocolate glaze. A good formula would be 227g chocolate (at least 60% cocoa), 170g heavy cream, and 28g light corn syrup. The glaze cannot be too hot, and cannot be too cold. A little colder than body temperature will be perfect. Colette shows a nice technique to pour the glaze, so that it sits as a very smooth layer on top. Once all that is done, the cake is refrigerated for several hours so that all layers are nicely set. Do not dare cutting it before it sets, you will not have defined layers unless you exercise patience. That gave me a bit of a chuckle. Me, advising patience, the virtue I lack the most…

Then what? Then the final fun begins… I decided to cut the cake in 2 inch squares, and for that I used a very cool gadget. I tell you, just getting that tool ready made me feel like some heavy hitter baker… I know, I’m easily amused. But, seriously, just look at how cool that is:

I also used this tool to cut the laminated dough for croissants and pain au chocolat, but failed to get a picture at the time.  All you need to do is measure the precise dimension of what you want to cut (or score the surface, as in the case of the Opera Cake), and lock the rolling blades in place.  Gently roll them over the surface of the fully set cake, and you will have perfect squares, ready to be sliced with a serrated knife. The edges are trimmed off to reveal clean layers on all sides of the cut pieces. The secret is to place the knife in very hot tap water, and clean the blade after every cut you make. If you’d like to order one, here is a link to amazon.com (I do not make any profit from your purchase, by the way).

A little buttercream goes in a small piping bag couple with a star tip. And you are ready to decorate the top. Or, you can do the more authentic decoration, writing Opera on each slice. Since I opted to cut the cake small, I went with the buttercream instead. What do you think?

This cake was so much fun to make!  I started early on a Sunday morning, and tried to work as relaxed as possible. It is cake, after all, and they make me a little nervous. But, less now than in the past.

For those who celebrate…

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!


I know I’ll be repeating myself, but I must give high praise to the online baking classes from Craftsy, particularly those taught by Colette Christian.  Without her guidance, making the Opera Cake would have been a tragedy in six acts… 


ONE YEAR AGO: Incredibly Simple Times Four

TWO YEARS AGO: Raspberry Chocolate Truffles

THREE YEARS AGO: Red Velvet Cupcakes

FOUR YEARS AGO: Valentine’s Day: The Finale

FIVE YEARS AGO: Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

SIX YEARS AGO: Dan Dan Noodles

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Sophie Grigson’s Parmesan Cake

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Antibiotics and Food

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