Okay, I'm enjoying my cooking and blogging so much I decided to take on a new challenge-Daring Bakers. This is another baking group on the web where a recipe is chosen monthly, then we blog about the results. This is a more challenging group of recipes. In past months, they've made Opera Cake, Danish Braid, and other difficult recipes. They have very strict rules-the person who choses the recipe tells you what substitutions/changes are allowed, you make it anytime during the month, but are not allowed to post about it until the chosen date towards the end of the month. You're not even allowed to discuss what the month's challenge is.
This month's challenge was Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream. You were allowed to use a different nut, and a different buttercream. But the buttercream had to be praline. You could also use any kind of fruit glaze, and decorate it however you wanted, as long as the buttercream was used in the decoration. It could be made smaller, but had to be round and couldn't be cupcakes. Since I knew the cake would already be a lot of work, I didn't want to use hazelnuts (filberts) because I didn't want to go to the trouble of skinning them. So I decided to make my variety using almonds, with a raspberry glaze. The liquors in my cake would be Amaretto and Chambord.
I decided to make this on July 4th, because I was home by myself and it was supposed to be cool. It didn't end up being cool, and my house got up to 76 degrees inside. Maybe that was why I had trouble with my buttercream. I know it's a lot colder here in Alaska than other places, and it probably didn't even top 70 degrees, but when you have lots of south facing windows in your house and no air conditioner, it can get quite warm inside. Enough about the weather, and back to the cake. I started the morning by making as many of the components ahead as I could. I made the cake layer (which is later split into 3 layers), which didn't cause me any trouble. You do have to have all of your ingredients ready to go though, and work quickly. This was a very sturdy cake to work with. I made the sugar syrup, the raspberry glaze, and the praline paste. No problems with any of these, except the praline took a LOT longer than the recipe said it would. I then decided I would make the entire cake that day. I was planning on making the components the first day and assembling it the next, but things were going well and I decided I should go ahead and complete it. Next came the buttercream. Another poster on the Daring Bakers website said this was a pretty easy buttercream to make. They said it did kind of curdle when you added the liquor, but then it came back together. I've made true Swiss Buttercream twice before, and it is not my favorite thing to make. Today just added to my dislike. I did have trouble with it. I think it got too hot, and it was curdled looking and wouldn't come together. I put it in the fridge for a while and rebeat it, and finally got it to come together. The praline paste and Amaretto were then added to it. The instructions said to set aside 1 cup for decorating the top of the cake, which I discovered later was not near enough.
Here's the process I went through:
The baked genoise:
The buttercream in its "curdled state" as I'm trying to get it to cooperate:
The split cake layers as the praline buttercream is being spread in between:
The filled cake layers awaiting their raspberry glaze:
After the cake was glazed with the raspberry jam and chilled, the Ganache Glaze was poured over. That process was fine. Then the problems began-the decorating. First of all, my reserved 1 cup of praline buttercream wasn't enough. I discovered that when I was halfway through piping rosettes on top. No scraping those off a ganache glaze and redoing. Then my buttercream began breaking down and running (yes, running!) down the sides of my cake. I wasn't serving this cake at a special occasion or anything, but darn it, I wanted it to turn out perfect. So into the fridge to harden up, as I'm trying to soak up the runs with the edge of a paper towel. After a while in the fridge, I quickly finished piping the rosettes, then came up with an idea to help cover the problem-I used toasted slice almonds to edge the rosettes. Helped cover up some of the mess. That, and turning the cake away from the camera the best I could to hide those few runs.
I had to try a slice the evening I made it. It was good, with the interesting texture a gateau cake has. And the praline buttercream did taste very good. I froze the cake, and liked it even better a few weeks later. Buttercream was even more flavorful. But after a full day of working on the cake, with the problems I encountered, I was thinking that sometimes the best cake is that easy, old fashioned cake with a fluffy easy icing swirled into a nice homemade-looking design.
I've decided not to type the recipe. It's just too long. Recipe for the Genoise, recipe for the sugar syrup flavored with liquor, recipe for the Praline Paste, recipe for the Swiss Buttercream, recipe for the Praline Buttercream, recipe for the Fruit Glaze, recipe for the Ganache Glaze, then the instructions for assembling it all. I think you might be agreeing with me that that Old-fashioned chocolate cake, or Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese icing is sounding pretty good...But, it is called Daring Bakers, and I'm glad I completed the challenge!