And now for something completely different...
Yes, there are a *lot* more photos from Vanuatu to share, but I thought I'd change it up a little. Remember my blog's 5th birthday? I wanted to make a a very funky cake to celebrate, and having just received my copy of Warren Brown's Cake Love to review for The Gastronomer's Bookshelf, I decided to try a recipe from there.
One of the first blog posts I ever wrote, back in 2004 (can you believe it?!) was about the Cake Love bakery in Washington DC. I saw the bakery featured on Tyler's Ultimate, and was inspired by the story of its owner, Warren Brown, the one-time lawyer-turned cake baker. What an inspiration!
My review of Cake Love has been published at The Gastronomer's Bookshelf, so I will just talk about the cake! After much reading and indecision, I chose to make a Yellow Buttercake, filled with Hazelnut Crunch Buttercream.
Let's start with the buttercream. I realised it's a German-buttercream, which means it is a crème pâtissière, with cubes of butter whipped through. Intense stuff.
To get the hazelnut flavour, you heat hazelnuts in hot milk, and let it steep for 10 minutes. The drained, hazelnutty milk is then used to make the crème pâtissière, as below.
Once it's thick enough, you turn it into a mixer, add some other flavourings and whisk until room temperature.
Then you add cubes of room-temperature butter, one by one, whisking all the while. Then something quite magic happens...
WOW. Check out that cream! I have no idea how adding butter to custard results in something that looks and feels like a cloud, but there you go.
The recipe calls for you to crush the hazelnuts and fold them back through the buttercream, (hence hazelnut-CRUNCH buttercream), but a very vocal contingent in my house wanted smooth filling, so I saved the hazelnuts and toasted them in sugar to decorate the top.
Now, the cake. I'm not sure if it was the American measurements that I'm not used to, or Brown's super-wordy, highly detailed recipe, but something went wrong. Look below:
Argh! What the hell is that?! Check out all the creepy vertical air hole tunnels! It was so dense and heavy, and it took forever to cook through (about twice the time stated in the recipe). I think it could have hurt someone if I threw it at them. Very disappointing, but I couldn't bear to let all that buttercream go to waste. Instead, I whipped up a Victoria sponge in 2 sandwich tins.
Humped, but reliably delicious.
I flipped the cakes so the flat sides were outermost, and filled them with the buttercream...
...topped it with ganache....
... and spread it out smoothly with an offset spatula.
A crown of sugared hazelnuts (with a few judiciously taste-tested first!), a little candle, and my birthday-blog cake was done!
I was very pleased with this cake, and we ate it happily over the next few days. The hazelnut flavour was very delicate, and went well with the buttery Vic sponge. The ganache was made with dark chocolate, and a little too intense for the cake, actually. I thought choc and hazelnut would go well together, but I didn't realise how delicate the hazelnut flavour would be.
If I were to make this cake again (any takers?), I'd pare it down a little, and just layer up the cake with thick swathes of hazelnut buttercream. Heaven on a plate!