Gosh–hasn’t December gone by so fast?!? It’s already time for the third installment of The Cake Slice! This go-round, the group cooked up a very festive Chocolate Hazelnut Nutcracker Cake from the book Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alicia Huntsman and Peter Wynne.
You’ll need to fish out your nutcracker to make this one– the batter has plenty of hazelnuts, ground fine. It also contains an unusual ingredient…graham cracker crumbs. I’m wondering if these are there for subtle flavor, or if they really just act as an extender for the nut meal. The cake is filled and frosted with vanilla whipped cream (a.k.a crème chantilly, if you want to get all fancy-like).
While this cake was certainly good, R and I both though it was missing something. The flavor was predominately hazelnut, and I think, for a cake with the word “chocolate” in its name, it needed to taste of chocolate, too (just a very small piece is grated into the batter). If I get around to making it again, I think I’ll fill the layers with a dark chocolate ganache, and just leave the chantilly for the outside. The rum soaking syrup, though, is a must! Visit Gigi and Katie for the recipe (or get your hands on a copy of Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes), and cruise through the list of The Cake Slice Bakers to check out all of our nutcracker cakes!
I just realized that today’s the posting day for the second installment of The Cake Slice! This month (or yesterday, in my case) we baked up a Sweet Potato Cake from the delicious book Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alicia Huntsman and Peter Wynne.
If you are thinking that this cake sounds a little weird, the sweet potato puree makes the cake really moist (and orange-hued), but I think the flavor actually isn’t so noticeable. The cake batter has all of the nice, warm fall spices…cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves…and they are what really shine here.
The spice cake is great with the frosting…a chocolate cream cheese frosting, that is! According to the recipe, the chocolate cream cheese mix is just used to frost the outside. The cake “should” be filled with an orange cream cheese filling. I’ve said this a trillion times, but I don’t like fruit and chocolate, so I went chocolate all the way! I am missing a few kitchen essentials right now, like a scale and a sieve. I had to wing the frosting, adding powdered sugar and chocolate to taste (which for me means less sweet and more chocolate). Since I wasn’t able to sift the sugar, I had a few lumpies in there, but that’s not gonna end my world.
This is a cake I’m really glad I made– it’s moist, spicy tall and tasty! Visit Gigi and Katie for the recipe (or get your hands on a copy of Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes), and cruise through the list of The Cake Slice Bakers to check out all of our sweet potato cakes!
I’ve joined a new baking group, and I couldn’t be more excited! Gigi and Katie thought it would be fun to actually use the cookbooks they have on the shelves, and so The Cake Slice was born. The premise is easy: we bake from one book per year, making a different recipe each month. This year’s book is a great one, covering a subject dear to my heart–Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alicia Huntsman and Peter Wynne.
The first of what promises to be twelve amazing layer cakes is a Cappuccino Chiffon Cake. Chiffon cake is light as cloud, and relies on air (in the form of a meringue) to give it a sky-high rise, with a little baking powder mixed in for “insurance” purposes. Because it’s made with oil instead of butter, it’s not incredibly flavorful in and of itself, but its texture makes it a perfect vehicle for soaking up a flavored syrup.
This cake looks and tastes sophisticated, but it’s really quite basic–three layers of espresso-flavored chiffon soaked in a coffee simple syrup, finished off with heaps of whipped cream. Wanting to pack as much cappuccino flavor as I could into the cake, I skipped over to the coffee shop on the corner and bought a few shots of strong espresso to use in the cake batter and the syrup. The only change I made to the recipe was that I switched out the rum in the soaking syrup for Kahlua.
I love the lightness of whipped cream frosting, but I have to admit that I’m always a little nervous when actually icing a cake with it. It’s so fragile that messing around with it just a bit too much can overwork it in a hurry. As someone who will muck about with buttercream icing for half an hour trying to get it just so, I had to try hard to just get the whipped cream on there, throw the spatula in the sink and walk away.
I wondered how the whipped cream would hold up, but this cake lasted nicely for a couple days in the fridge. It became even tastier as syrup soaked its way through the cake layers. There’s a little cinnamon in the cake batter…I really love it in combination with the espresso. I don’t allow myself to have an afternoon coffee any more (too many sleepless nights), but I’ll make an exception anyday for a slice of cappuccino chiffon cake!
If you asked me “cake or pie?” I’d yell “cake” every time! That’s why event-mistress-extraordinaire Laurie’s newest play-along, Layers of Cake, sounded right up my alley. In a happy coincidence this month, I knew I would be making a cake for R’s birthday anyway. R picks his own cake every year, and then I whip up his request. A couple weeks ago, when he chose a Hazelnut Praline Cake from a gorgeous book called Crave: A Passion for Chocolate by Australian Maureen McKeon, I momentarily thought I’d landed in Bizarro World– hadn’t I made something sort of like this but a little different last month? No matter, it was his choice after all, and I knew it would be good.
This is not what I would think of as an “American-style” layer cake. It’s a flourless chocolate cake, with ground hazelnuts providing the structure and whipped eggs providing the lift. It has the dense but creamy texture I was expecting and hoping for. The frosting is a milk chocolate whipped ganache (oh my gosh, is it ever good!), and it’s sprinkled with as much homemade hazelnut praline as your heart desires. It’s really rich, but fantastic– definitley fit for a special occasion, and not bad with a nice (giant, as you can see above!) glass of Cookoothama Botrytis Semillon, either.
Hazelnut Praline Cake– makes 10-12 servings
adapted from Maureen McKeon’s Crave: A Passion for Chocolate
Note: I halved this recipe and baked it in two 6-inch rounds. Rather than cutting each round into layers, as the author suggests, I left mine as a two-layer cake.
-Make the hazelnut nut praline (recipe follows) and allow to cool. Then break some into shards to decorate and crush the rest.
-Bake the cake (recipe follows) and allow to cool completely.
-While the cake is baking, make the milk chocolate cream (recipe follows) and chill.
-Slice both of the 9-inch cakes horizontally into two layers, or the 10-inch cake into three layers. (If you halve the recipe, or if your baked cakes are simply thin, use your judgement here to decide if you want to slice them or not.) Put one layer on a cake board and spread with some of the whipped chocolate cream. You may need to dip the your icing spatula into hot water to aid in spreading. Sprinkle with some of the crushed praline, and top with the next cake layer. Repeat until all layers are used.
-Spread the remaining cream on the outside of the cake. Sprinkle with as much crushed praline as you’d like and decorate with the shards.
-Cover lightly and refrigerate until service.
Note: This may make more than you want to use on the cake. You can adjust the quantities accordingly, but extras save nicely for a couple weeks and can be used crushed over ice cream, etc.
235 g granulated sugar
pinch of salt
250 g skinned hazelnuts, warmed
-Line a baking tray (with sides) with a Silpat or parchment.
-Put the sugar, pinch of salt and 50 ml water into a heavy pot. Stir to combine and clean down and sugar crystals on the sides of the pot with a little water. Bring the sugar to a boil and cook until a light caramel color (do not stir).
-Add the nuts and stir over low heat with a wooden spoon. You will notice the sugar go chalky white, and as you stir it will slowly begin to re-caramelize. Increase the heat at this point and continue to cook until the mixture turns a deep honey color.
-Turn the caramel and nut mixture out onto the lined tray. Pat into a single layer with the back of your wooden spoon. Allow to cool completely, and it will harden.
-Once hard, break into shards or put in plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin.
-Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
6 large eggs, separated
115 g plus 1 T granulated sugar
pinch of salt
185 g chopped dark chocolate, melted and cooled to tepid
185 g ground hazelnuts
-Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch or one 10-inch round cake pans and line with parchment.
-Using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks and 115 g sugar on medium-high speed until thick and pale.
-Using clean beaters and bowl, beat the whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks. Add the 1 T sugar and beat until glossy.
-Mix the tepid chocolate with 3 T hot water and add to the egg yolk mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the ground hazelnuts. Then gently fold in the meringue in two stages.
-Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake in the middle of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes (maybe less if you halve the recipe), or until the top is firm to the touch.
-Allow to cool completely in the cake pans before turning out.
Milk Chocolate Cream
375 ml cream (35% fat)
pinch of salt
300 g chopped milk chocolate
60 g unsalted butter
-Bring the cream and pinch of salt to a boil in the saucepan and remove from the heat. Add the chocolate to the hot cream and allow it to stand for a minute or two. Stir until smooth; then stir in the butter. Cover and chill for two hours.
-Use a wooden spoon to beat the chilled ganache mixture until thickened and spreadable.
When I saw that Chris of Mele Cotte would be taking charge of this month’s Daring Bakers challenge, I had my fingers crossed that she’d chose something sweet with an Italian twist to it. As if reading my mind, she chose Filbert Gâteau with Praline Buttercream–a cake featuring the quintessentially Italian combo of hazelnuts and chocolate (and two funny words, “filbert” and “gâteau”). Mmmm…wonderful.
I made a half recipe, fitting the cake batter into a six-inch pan with high sides. There’s a little bit of citrus in this recipe, but I decided to leave out the lemon zest in the cake batter and replace the Grand Marnier in the soaking syrup and buttercream with Kahlua, which suits my tastes better. As you can see, I kind of copped out and only cut the cake into two layers instead of three.
While I did not to make the praline to add to the buttercream frosting, I did make caramelized whole hazelnuts to use as decoration. I flavored my Swiss meringue buttercream instead with an unsweetened hazelnut butter that I had bought at the health food store awhile back. Buttercream is plenty sweet already, so this gave it a nice balance and a good hazelnut flavor. I realized that I’d have a few more of those caramelized nuts than I’d need to decorate the top of the cake, so I chopped up the extras roughly and sprinkled them over the buttercream before placing on the top layer of cake. That was a nice crunchy touch!
I am wondering if my glaze was a little on the thin side. The top was nice and smooth, but as it dripped down the side of cake, it seemed to get hung up on the little specks of hazelnut in the buttercream crumb coat (which I chose to use instead of apricot glaze). No matter…it was on to the decorating! Chris wanted us to use some of the buttercream in our decoration. Small cakes can easily look look overwhelmed by garnish, so I didn’t want to use too much. Little shells on the bottom border, a few rosettes on top, and that was enough for me. I finished it off with a little gold dust and the candied nuts.
After reading through all that, maybe you wonder what it tasted like. This cake was seriously delicious! We had it for three nights, and I savored every bite. There were a lot of steps to this cake, but the end result was totally worth it. I can hardly believe that I joined the Daring Bakers last July (I can also hardly believe that the group was still in the double digits back then)! I considered this to be my DB one-year anniversary cake!
P.S.: I’m still out of town, but back next week!
This May, the Daring Bakers’ challenge had a quartet of hostesses– a four-part harmony, featuring founders Ivonne and Lis and newer members Fran of Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie and Shea of Whiskful. In voices heard across the world, they sang out this month’s challenge: an opéra cake.
A traditional opéra cake is a thing of delicious beauty, carefully orchestrated with alternating layers of sponge cake, coffee buttercream and ganache, topped off with a dark chocolate glaze. As part of the challenge this month, our hostesses tasked us with rewriting the opéra for spring– the same basic components, but lightened up in flavor and color. For me, part of this challenge lay in that we are fast approaching winter here in Australia. While you can see from the flowers I pinched from a neighbor’s lawn, that I am by no means in a bare, frozen tundra, a lot of the things I may have chosen to flavor this cake are kinda off limits right now.
I’m no stranger to making opéra cake. At the first restaurant I worked for, we used little tiny pieces of the traditional version as a petit four. At least every other day for a few months, I’d make and assemble an opéra (and the scraps are dangerous– I would devour them as I portioned the cake into pieces!). Despite this, I did hem and haw my way through the month, wondering what to do flavor-wise. This past week, though, it was time to get down to business. Looking through my pantry, I realized I could easily make something that would pair perfectly with the Middle Eastern dinner I mentioned I would be making. My opéra would be composed of almond joconde moistened with lemon syrup, pistachio buttercream, lemon-rosewater mousse and white chocolate glaze.
I will make the same confession that I do with every DB challenge– I drastically scaled back the recipe. I made just one pan of joconde (the recipe halves perfectly), and only used half of that to assemble the cake. The rest I froze to use for other things, like the base for a meyer lemon bombe. My one-quarter sized opéra was small, but big enough to give the two of us dessert for three nights, and that’s about my maximum tolerance for any one particular thing.
We were allowed to use any buttercream recipe we liked…I used a whole-egg buttercream that I’ve made before, so as not to be suck with any bothersome extra whites or yolks. To turn it into a pistachio buttercream, I first eyeballed an amount of pistachios and blanched them so I could slip off their brown skins and expose their bright green insides. Then I roasted them in the oven just enough to dry them out, but not to color them, before grinding them in my mini food processor with a little bit of almond meal and drizzle of plain simple syrup. This formed a rough, homemade paste that incorporated easily into the buttercream and gave it pretty green flecks throughout.
I flavored the simple syrup used to moisten the cake layers with a few drops of lemon extract. I also used the lemon extract and rosewater to flavor the white chocolate mousse, which was the cake’s top layer, just beneath the glaze. I did this to taste–enough to make the flavor pronounced, without tasting like I swallowed a jar of perfume. (A chef that I used to work for once said that rosewater reminded him of “grandma’s panty drawer”–what?? And how the hell did he know what that smells like anyway??)
I must say that I was really pleased with how this cake came out. The joconde baked up to be my idea of the perfect height. Too thin and the joconde can be rubbery…too thick and you wind up with an opéra that’s crazy tall. I am quite particular and like all of the layers to be the same height, without feeling like there is too much of one component, and I was able to achieve that here. And the flavors were delicate, but wonderful. I was a little worried that the whole thing would be a bit too girlie for R’s tastes, but he loved it!
I tried sooo hard to get a photo of the whole cake, but it just wasn’t working for me. I couldn’t squeeze the whole thing into the frame without going on a weird angle that made it looked lopsided. That was a bummer, especially since I had bought a new platter to display it on. But it sliced really nicely, so at least I was able to get some good shots of individual pieces.
Last, but certainly not least, the Daring Bakers have dedicated this month’s challenge to Barbara of winosandfoodies.com. Even if you don’t know Barbara, it’s evident through her words that she lives everyday to the fullest and she lives strong. I think we can all sing to that.
If you haven’t had your fill of opera-related metaphors after that post, check out the DB blogroll! And visit Ivonne’s post for the recipe (which was adapted from two sources, Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle’s and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion).
Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting…I probably don’t need to say much more than that.
But of course I will. Carrot cake is a favorite here, but not made nearly enough, so I was glad when Amanda of slow like honey gave me the excuse I needed to get grating, by choosing Bill’s Big Carrot Cake as this week’s TWD recipe. This one is *big* and loaded with carrots (of course), coconut, walnuts and dried cherries.
As per usual, I set out to do a half recipe of this cake, only to realize that I don’t have three 6-inch cake pans. Crud. I thought about making two larger layers and possibly splitting them into four, or using my 6-inch springform as the third pan, but I decided that this amount would probably fit perfectly into my quarter-sized sheet pan (my favorite and most useful sheet pan). So instead of a round cake, I baked a sheet cake that I cut into three strips (the baking time was reduced, of course). Once layered up with icing, it made a rectangular cake that I could cut into thin slices or chubby squares.
Armed with some tips from a great post by Joy, I made a gorgeous cream cheese frosting. I flavored mine with vanilla bean paste and orange zest, rather than the lemon juice that Dorie uses. This cake is tall, and moist and delicious…a winner of a carrot cake. And since I just did a half recipe, I made the whole thing, cake and frosting, easily by hand.
If you´ve looked at this blog lately, you´ll notice that the sweets in most of my recent posts stem from the same source– Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan is turning into one of my most used cookbooks on the shelf! This recipe also comes from that book, but this time my post is not a result of Tuesdays with Dorie, but of the Daring Bakers. Morven from Food Art and Random Thoughts chose Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake as the March DB challenge.
Morven gave us basically free reign to flavor and fill our cakes however we liked, but I wanted to basically stick with Dorie’s version (which she actually accredits to Nick Malgieri), just to give the recipe a fair shot. I used the cake and buttercream recipes as they were written. Instead of using raspberry jam though, I filled my cake with blueberry preserves.
If I had one “issue” with this cake, it would be that I didn’t have enough buttercream for a good coat of frosting on the outside. I must have gone too crazy between the layers– oops!– and what I wound up with was more like a crumb coat. What to do?? I wasn’t about to make more buttercream, so I decided to toast my coconut flakes. Of course I didn’t get a pristine snow white cake like Dorie’s, but it desperately needed a little camouflage.
I know I must have said this a million times before, but OMG I love cake, and wow, was this good! The buttercream was outstanding, and the cake was really moist (and the jam helps keep it that way). I liked the instructions in the cake recipe to rub together the lemon zest and sugar. This is something we always do with citrus in the restaurant where I work and it really helps bring out the flavor in the zest.
Like probably a lot of you, I have a bookshelf dedicated to my cookbooks. I read them, I admire them, I love and cherish them…but apart from a couple of standards, I don’t really use them that often. Over the holidays, I finally got Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours. I felt like the last person on Earth to get it…I wondered if anyone noticed the big “L” stamped on my forehead for the past year! From what I’ve heard, it’s a fabulous book, so I would also be a total loser if I didn’t put it to use. But I need a little peer pressure sometimes, so help cattle prod me, I just joined a really great group called Tuesdays with Dorie! The brainchild of Laurie from quirky cupcake, TWD makes one recipe a week out of Baking from My Home to Yours. It’ll take awhile, but we hope to get through the whole thing! This means that at some point I will also need to get around to baking the first five recipes that I missed out on. I’m hoping none of this is too ambitious on my part…
For my first TWD, the group is making Dorie’s Black-and-White-Chocolate Cake, a recipe chosen by April of Abbey Sweets. It’s a vanilla buttermilk cake, layered with dark chocolate pastry cream and white chocolate whipped cream. Then the whole thing gets frosted with more white chocolate whipped cream. I love me some cake, so I was pretty psyched to get this one going.
OK, if you have the book and look on page 260, you’ll probably notice that my cake doesn’t look a whole lot like Dorie’s from the outside. In fact, it looks like crap. I had some big-time filling and frosting issues…it was highly upsetting, and I almost didn’t want to post a photo. I found the white chocolate whipped cream too soft to spread on the side of the cake (I couldn’t whip it anymore, because it was beginning to look separated, and I actually had to make it twice because the first time it really did curdle and wouldn’t come back together no matter how I tried to save it). It just slid right off and mucked up the cake plate…in hindsight, I should have realized that would happen and just iced the top, leaving the side exposed for an old-fashioned look. Since the dark chocolate pastry cream was oozing out between the layers anyway, I put some that I had leftover into the freezer for half and hour and tried to use it to frost the side instead. Because of it’s consistency, I couldn’t get a nice frost with that either (that’s why no one frosts with pastry cream!), but had to settle for more of a thin smear…grrrrr. I had made some tempered chocolate curls before beginning this whole process, so I hoped they would distract the eye from my frosting failures.
Thank goodness that the inside of my cake looks more or less normal. Oh, by the way, I halved the recipe in the book so I’d just have a six-inch cake. I have have to say, the dark chocolate cream was damn good…a perfect chocolate pastry cream. The cake itself was a little dense, I thought, but this could very well be due to differences in flour (I have had a couple of baked goods come out funky using my US books and Aussie flour).
Because of the problems I had, I’m really interested to see how my fellow TWD members did with this recipe. I’m going over to the Tuesdays with Dorie blog that Laurie set up to see the list of TWD bakers and visit their sites. So should you! And if you want to try your hand at the cake, take a look here on Abbey Sweets for the recipe.
…so much that I decorated it with hearts!