Monday, 30 August 2010

Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ganache

I have finally worked out why the we HCB'ers are meant to post on a Monday.  Just like all diets must start on a Monday, so too must the errant blogger re enter the fold on a Monday.  That Marie is one smart baker/blogger/re-commencer of stuff.

There has been a fair amount of baking going on, just not a lot of anything else.  Well, actually, loads of everything else except just no blogging.  Or even commenting.  Anyway, excuses are boring, unless they involve a car chase, police and a juicy piece of gossip about someone you don't actually know.  Needless to say, my excuses are very boring.

I guess I should talk about this cake.  It was quick.  I really do like the way that Rose's recipes are laid out.  The ingredients are ordered the same way as they are used in the recipe.  It has been so long since I have baked anything other than a Rose recipe that I can't actually remember if all cook books are like that?  I think not?  Anyway, this cake mixes up super quick with the ol' two step method.  I don't think I need to describe that do I?  It is my first week back after such a long time...

Rose is a big one for having her chocolate cakes based on cocoa dissolved in boiling water and then cooled.  But cocoa cake doesn't have quite the same ring to it as chocolate cake.  And really, the cocoa method does make for a very chocolaty chocolate cake.

This baked really quickly for me - it was done in 25 minutes, compared to the 30 - 40minutes.  I pulled it from the oven before the sides had shrunk in, and it looked good.  A little domed, but good, none the less.  And Rose's domes usually drop away anyway.  Right?  Technically, the dome did drop away.  It dropped away into seismic cracks.  The like I have never ever had happen ever before.  (Unless I have repressed that memory  - you know how psychiatrists say that the brain has a canny knack for protecting itself.)

That's why you should always blog your cakes - no hiding the terrible truth.  I wasn't holding out great hope for the cake at this point.  I was thinking dry.  As dry as an Australian lake.  Except without the feet.  (Not my feet, by the way.  Mine aren't nearly that tanned.)

Photo via aloshbennett
I contemplated making trifle.  The chocolate raspberry number.  But then I read that the creme anglaise would consume twelve egg yolks.  And I really really really hate throwing good eggs after bad.  Plus I thought that trifling it would be departing from the recipe a tad too much.  The final clincher was when Raymond and Mendy posted how amazing the ganache was.  A trifle with ganache and chocolate cake?  Isn't that just a messed up chocolate cake?  It was starting to do my head in, so I just went the cake route.  Figuring that if the cake looked too bad, I could just mix in some whipped cream and call it chocolate caramel mess.

Onto the caramel then.  Actually, a bit beyond caramel.  More into the "meet your local fire brigade" territory.  So, yes, maybe I did get a bit distracted - but it was a funny bit of Wallace and Grommit.  He did have a bomb in his pants.

I did wonder if I could get away with this as being deep amber.  I think it was the smoke that made me decide otherwise.  In an attempt to see if it could work, I mixed in a bit of butter, to convert it into burnt caramel.  I have eaten burnt caramel ice cream, which is amazing.  Burnt caramel with a bit of butter mixed in, is not.  It is inedible.  Fit only for the bin.

So back to the pan.  See how determined I can be?  Peer group pressure is an amazing thing.  Otherwise I would have a bowl of trifle on my bench instead of cake.  I was much more diligent with the next lot of caramel and took it to the amber stage, mixed in the cream and ended up with this.

Not sure it looks much better than the burnt stuff, but I can tell you it tasted exponentially better.  This was sugar and water mixed into scalded cream. Or in my case, scaled cream with a dash of creme fraiche (because I didn't have quite enough cream and dairy products are dairy products, right?).  It seemed to come together okay.  But I did need the Nigella whisk to get it there.  I find that scaled creme fraiche turns a bit clumpy and needs to be broken up.  I didn't bother with the food processor.  After all caramel at 188 degrees Celsius with scalded cream on top of 85% Lindt chocolate isn't going to need a whole lot of mixing before it looks like this...

It hung out in the bowl (can I say, that if you are looking for mixing bowls these are the business - indestructible) for a few hours whilst we went to the London Wetlands to interact with the bird life.

I think these ducks were from China - an amazing migratory path, all the more so given they don't have wings.

Once we got home, I composed the cake.  Far out.  Half way through the massacre, I was wondering if perhaps I should invest in a Fat Daddio.  Before I realised what was going on, I had about six pieces of cake instead of two.  Somehow I managed to cut through the cake in a weird wave like manner.  It did make for easy reassembly as there was only one way those parts could go back together.  I failed to take a shot of that.  But you know what?  That ganache is incredible.  If they made face cream like that, plastic surgeons would be out of business. 

The ganache is the business.  It is so glossy and easy to apply.  It probably helps that London has thrown itself wholeheartedly into Autumn.  62 Fahrenheit here today (17 Celsius) - clearly they weren't outside catching the "breeze".  As many of my HCB'ers have informed, this ganache doesn't hold together so well as it approaches 100 Fahrenheit (38 Celsius).  That said, I don't hold together that well at 38 celsius, so I think it is expecting a bit much for chocolate, cream and caramel to do much better.

My in laws were over for dinner this evening, so this cake got sampled and reviewed.  I served it with clotted cream ice cream and cream.  Because, as we have already established, dairy products are interchangeable (except for skim milk and low fat yoghurt - but I don't technically classify those as dairy products).  I was really surprised that the cake wasn't dry.  Not sure if that was because the ganache to cake ratio was just shy of 1:1.  And I was surprised that I didn't want to throw up after a slice.  Not sure if that was because the cake to cream/ice cream ratio was also just shy of 1:1.   Marie wrote an amazing paragraph on the taste of this ganache : "Nicely integrated aroma of vanilla and dark chocolate. Flavors develop nicely and finish with lingering tastes of caramel and creme brulee. Rich mouth feel.".  Clearly she had quite a few glasses of wine with hers.  I still can't taste the caramel.  Nor can any of the tasting panel.  All agreed that the cake was definitely not dry.  All thought it was superb.  Or they were all being polite.  And none threw up.  Or went hypoglycemic.  Something about that caramel nicely balances the chocolate and makes the ganache a whole lot less dense than traditional ganache. 

I will definitely make the ganache again.  The cake I am not so sure about.  Yes, it was fine.  Seismic cracks and shoddy cake splitting not withstanding.  I definitely would hold to the ratio as per Rose's recipe.  The cake/ganache was perfect.  More cake and I think it would have been a bit dry in the mouth. 

Right, that is me back in the ring.  You never, know, some Monday soon, I may actually tidy up this blog, and post some of my backlog.  (I am beginning to think that blog is short for backlog).   Now given that I have posted, perhaps I should also start a diet?

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Not Lemon Meringue Cake

This is the reason why there is no Lemon Meringue Cake sitting at the top of your page.  I am all caked out.  Bloody hell.  Wedding cakes are hard work.  Thankfully I now have this blog which will remind me of that fact next time someone is getting married and I think "I should make their wedding cake!".

I made the three layers, plus an extra kitchen cake, last weekend and stuck them in the freezer.  That just left the icing(s) and fillings for Friday and then assembly at the venue on Friday.  Easy.

What I didn't plan for was this man; my grandfather - Dad Maxwell, here surrounded by some of his grandchildren and all of his great grandchildren, passing away on Tuesday this week.  To say it was a shock, was an understatement.  He and my Mum were due to be visiting here in England in just over two weeks.  He was, as the saying goes, fit as a fiddle.  Except for his heart.  Which apparently wasn't playing that same tune, unbeknown to us all.  That photo hanging on the wall, in the top left hand corner, is of my grandfather in Paris.  Three years ago, when he traveled to Europe for the World Cup.  

Sadly, events conspired to prevent me from making the journey back to Invercargill for his funeral.  Instead, I penned some words and my sister read them at his funeral.  I am awed that over 800 people attended his funeral.  Now I will have to relive my memories of an amazing man, rather than creating new ones with him. 

So, it was with a heavy heart that I finished and delivered this wedding cake.  I was up until 2.00am on Saturday morning finishing the icing and attaching the chocolate pencils.  Although I have to say that chocolate pencils are a lot more forgiving than buttercream, or fondant or anything really.

I really should have looked at these photos as I went, because clearly, they have a bit of a lean on.  I like to think that it adds to the rustic finish.

The cake went thus - 12 inch carrot cake (HCB) with dreamy creamy white chocolate icing, 9 inch Mrs Whatsits' whitechocolate with strawberry mousseline (HCB) , 6 inch german chocolate cake with choc almond ganache and the kitchen cake was the 12 inch version of the same (Deep Chocolate Passion Wedding Cake - and filling from the dreaded Holiday Pinecone).  The icing encasing all three layers was the white chocolate vanilla buttercream.  Then around it all, white chocolate pencils.

None of it was particularly complex, just time consuming.

The wedding cake toppers were a kangaroo (the Australian groom) and a peacock (the English bride).  Strawberries and cream reflecting their attachment to Wimbledon.

I was putting the final touches on the cake as the guests ate canapes outside on the lawn.  So, yes, cutting it fine.  However, I wasn't the only one cutting it fine - the caterers were still preparing the hall.

This was the first time I had ever had a glimpse of an Indian wedding.  Amazing.  The food looked sensational, and the "Bollywood style" DJ sounded incredible as he completed the sound check.  Certainly more fun than a four piece string ensemble!  And so many of the guests were decked out in gorgeous saris.  Simply stunning.

It was strange making a cake and not sampling it - hopefully it was well received.

I have read Raymond's post on the Lemon Meringue and I have to say, as caked out as I am, this looks so tempting.  It may yet be part of my week.