This months Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Chris from Mele Cotte, and boy was there some controversy! There was plenty of backlash and discussion on the Daring Bakers private forums about how this challenge was too similar to other challenges or too restricting. It astounded me that some people were so against this challenge, for me being a Daring Baker is about being surprised each month with a recipe to make that I didn’t choose myself. Sometimes it is something that I have wanted to make myself for a while, sometimes they are recipes I wouldn’t have chosen in a million years – but even those that I wouldn’t have chosen still challenge me in some way.
I am in no way against people voicing their opinions, there is just a fine line to walk between doing that and complaining for the sake of being negative. When it comes down to it, we joined this group and we must follow its rules. I think some of the people who were complaining have lost sight of the purpose of the Daring Bakers – to BAKE & have FUN while doing so. If you don’t like a recipe, sit out from that challenge, there is no point making a big fuss about it.
Anyway, onto my challenge experience! Last July I made the Strawberry Mirror Cake challenge for my best friend Leanne’s birthday. Well, this July I had a bit of a predicament. I now have a boyfriend who also celebrates his birthday in July – in fact they both have the same birthday! However, I wasn’t seeing them both on the same day and I didn’t want to make the challenge twice. So I ended up finding a way to make the 2 cakes without doubling the recipe. The original cake was 3 layers, so I just cut 4 layers out of the same cake and made two cakes with 2 layers in each. They worked out really well and were enjoyed by both Aaron’s family and by ‘the girls’ at Leanne’s place (oh, and her boyfriend Leigh). If there weren’t so many steps involved I would definitely make this cake again, as it stands I may have to leave sufficient time for my brain to forget the effort involved before I attempt to make it again!
Hazelnut Gateau w/ Praline Buttercream Makes 2 Cakes
Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10” X 2” inch round cake pan.
Using a food processor, process 1 1/2C toasted/skinned hazelnuts, 2/3C cake flour & 2Tbsp cornflour for about 30 seconds. Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture. You’ll know the nuts are ready when they begin to gather together around the sides of the bowl. While you want to make sure there aren’t any large pieces, don’t over-process. Set aside.
Put 7 large egg yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add 3/4C sugar. It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step. When finished, the mixture should be ribbony. Blend in 1tsp vanilla essence & 1/2tsp grated lemon rind. Remove and set aside.
Place 5 large egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add 1/4C sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so. Continue to beat for another ½ minute. Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk for 1 minute.
Pour 1/4C warm, clarified butter in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). * It must be a deep bottom bowl and work must be fast.* Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time – folding it carefully for about 40 folds. Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter. Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate, about 13 or so folds.
With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon. **If collected butter remains at the bottom of the bowl, do not add it to the batter! It will impede the cake rising while baking.
Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan. Cook the cake completely.
*If not using the cake right away, wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap, then in a plastic bag, then in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If freezing, wrap in foil, then the bag and use within 2-3 months.
In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring 1C water & 1/4C sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add 2Tbsp rum. Cool slightly before using on the cake. *Can be made in advance.
Put 2/3C sugar in a heavy 10-inch skillet. Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals. If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly. When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in 1C toasted/skinless hazelnuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble. Then onto a parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle. Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor. Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder. Process for several minutes to make a paste.
Place 4 large egg whites in a large bowl of a electric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in 3/4C sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over about a minute. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.
Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. *Do not overbeat*. Set aside.
Place 1 1/2C butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute. Add 3Tbsp rum & 1tsp vanilla essence and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy. Refrigerate 10-15 minutes.
Blend 1/2C of the buttercream into the praline paste, then add to the remaining buttercream. Whip briefly on medium-low speed to combine. Refrigerate until needed.
In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring 1Tbsp water & 2/3C thick raspberry preserves to a slow boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add water as needed.
Remove from heat and, using a strainer, press the mixture through the mesh and discard any remnants. If the glaze is too thick, thin to a preferred consistency with drops of water.
Ganache Glaze (enough for the 2 cakes)
Blend 1 1/2tsp vanilla essence & 2Tbsp rum together and set aside.
Break 340g dark chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside.
Heat 1 1/2C heavy cream & 2Tbsp glucose syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reaches a gentle boil. Immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla mixture. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!
Whip 3/4C heavy cream to soft peak stage and set aside. Cut 2 cardboard disks slightly smaller than the cake.
Divide the cake into 4 layers (Mark layers with toothpicks in the side of the cake and use dental floss to cut even layers). Place one layer top-side down on each disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten these layers with 3-4Tbsp of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1C praline buttercream and set aside.
Divide the remaining buttercream into 2 equal portions and spread evenly over each cake base. Divide the whipped cream evenly between the two cakes, leaving ¼-inch border around the edge of the cakes. Moisten the cut side of the top layers with additional sugar syrup and place cut side down on the cake. Gently, press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate to chill for at least 30 minutes.
Lift the first cake by sliding your palm under the cardboard. Holding a serrated or very sharp knife with an 8-inch blade held parallel to the sides of the cake, trim the sides so that they are perfectly straight. Cut a slight bevel at the top to help the glaze drip over the edge. Brush the top and sides of the cake with warm raspberry glaze, sealing the cut areas completely. Repeat with second cake. Chill while you prepare the ganache.
Place a rack over a large shallow pan to catch the ganache drippings. Remove the first cake from the refrigerator and put it the rack. With a metal spatula in hand, and holding the saucepan about 10 inches above the cake, pour the ganache onto the cake’s center. Move the spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance. The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. When the ganache has been poured and is coating the cake, lift one side of the rack and bang it once on the counter to help spread the ganache evenly and break any air bubbles. (Work fast before setting starts.) Patch any bare spots on the sides with a smaller spatula, but do not touch the top after the “bang”. Repeat with second cake. Let the cakes stand at least 15 minutes to set.
Pipe reserved praline buttercream to garnish the top of the cakes and sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts. Leftover cake can be covered with foil and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
I finally caved in and bought a cake carrier during this challenge as I had to transport both of these cakes in my car and didn’t like the idea of all my hard work ending up in a smashed up mess all over my car floor. I figure it will come in handy for future challenges anyway, and really I don’t need much of an excuse to buy kitchen gadgets anyway. Originally there were piped rosettes around the base of this cake as well, but unfortunately I didn’t stick the cake down well enough in the carrier and when I picked it up to take it inside the cake slid and the rosettes got squished against the side of the carrier. Just my luck!
This one (pictured above) was Leanne’s cake which got a little bit softened up as it sat in the fridge for a few days before I got to see her. I forgot to get pictures of Aaron’s – which didn’t get its rosettes squished, but was decorated exactly the same. After all that hard work I went lazy on the decorations – although I have had very limited experience with piping decorations before this.
I can’t wait for the next challenge, which I will be making for my own birthday. Woot!