Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Daring Bakers Hello to Hazel

This month's Daring Bakers Challenge was a Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream, a recipe from Great Cakes by Carol Walter. You can find the recipe at Mele Cotte's site. The cake itself is a Génoise cake, which is a sponge cake named after the city of Genoa and closely associated with French cuisine that does not use any chemical leavening, instead using air suspended in the batter during mixing to give volume to the cake (thanks again wikipedia). It is rather odd but I have had several Genoese food items as of late... Well to sum up, this cake was to have hazel nuts in the cake itself, the cake cut into three layers with a sugar/rum glaze on each cake layer, with praline buttercream and whipped cream in between each layer, then with apricot glaze over the entire assembled cake, then covered with a ganache glaze over everything else, then with piped on praline buttercream and topped of with more toasted hazelnuts. And if you can say all that in one breath and haven't passed out, then I will be impressed.
I must admit, they had me at filbert as I like hazel nuts but I never know what to do with them. It took me a while to find hazel nuts that were not chopped into tiny bits and pre-packaged into tiny bags. Can I just say that removing the skins off of these nuts was almost enough to make me give up on this challenge? It wasn't hard, just way too time consuming. I was to remove the skins and then toast the nuts to later be included in batter, in buttercream, and in garnish.
I really like cake batter. I know, I know, raw egg and what not. But I really liked it with the ground up toasted Hazel-meal. I ended up baking my cake in two 9" pans instead of one 10" round because that is what I had. This was to be a layer cake with praline butter-cream inbetween layers of cake and since I had four layers instead of the suggested three I had to adjust a little bit. Oh sure I could have left out a layer but why waste a perfectly good layer of cake? I was intrigued by the apricot preserve glaze that was to go around the entire cake and thought I might like a little more so I glazed one of my layers before assembly. Thanks to Neal's grandma, we had some homemade apricot jam to use and it was finger-lickin' good.
The Praline Buttercream was an interesting idea. I've made Swiss Buttercream before but never thought to add nuts and/or additional flavoring. Since we are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we don't drink alcohol so there was no sense in me going out to buy rum for this fancy cake. But by some strange twist of fate, I had purchased a bottle of imitation rum extract days before this month's challenge was announced so I substituted it in. The toasted hazelnuts were candied (I had a lot of fun with this) and pastified and then added to the prepared buttercream. I thought the buttercream was yummy, and I think I had quite a bit to taste before putting any on the cake. Problem #1: don't eat too much of the praline rum buttercream beforehand or you will be sick of it before you even get to taste the cake. Too much of a good thing...
So from my stated problem, I was kind of getting tired of the rum taste early on. I like the rum flavoring but it got to a point where that was all I was tasting. So I decided to go ahead and add the whipped cream layer in addition to the buttercream layer in between cakes as it would seem to mellow things out a bit. It did.
By the time I had to do the sugar glaze (also rum flavored) on each cake layer plus throw in the buttercream and whipped cream, I was beginning to worry that this would be a rum cake instead of a filbert cake so I did not flavor my ganache which was a smart move for me. The ganache was very yummy and easy to handle. But really, by this point, I was kind of fed up with this recipe as it was so long and there were so many parts to it. I took my frustrations out on the ganache drippings and made a skull and crossbones...
And not to scare you further but these were most of the dishes left in the wake of cake...
I know being a Daring Baker is supposed to be a challenge but I'm not so sure this one was fun for me. And I wasn't sure if any amount of amazing tastiness would make up for that. But let me tell you, if you ever get up the nerve to make this cake, my advice would be to make it a day or so ahead of the time you plan to actually eat it. It is far better a few days afterwards (moister, flavors melded together nicely, etc) and I think I appreciate it better after I've recovered from the shock of it all. I suppose you need to see the final product? Here it is in all it's glory:

Hhhmmm... all that comes to mind here is 'brain coral'

So I am the last person qualified to actually decorate a cake but I found this buttercream a little difficult to work with as it seemed to weep a bit. So I quickly squiggled some lines on and put a border around the base and gave up. I still don't have a strong filbert impression as I eat the leftovers so I don't know if that using the nuts was worth it. Neal said he thought it is a 'snob' cake and in a way I agree with him - it is way fancy for the likes of us and I'm sure it would fetch a handsome price at a fancy bakery/pastry shop but I have to tell you, I'm not sure it is my style. Aedan was excited to eat it but after one bite he left it alone. If anything was to be gained from this challenge (and I'm not referring to my overall weight/width) it was that I learned a few new tricks and I now have leftover praline paste to play with.


  1. Your cake looks great! I must admit I was sort of hoping to see the skull show up on it somehow! :-)

  2. hero!!! I could NEVER make anything even remotely like that! You are one talented gal!

  3. I love you pattern - it looks great! This is such a snob cake! Hoity Toity - but it does taste better the longer it sits

  4. I think a lot of people had a hard time with decorating! I've seen a lot of pretty scary looking ones already. I LOVE yours! Glad to hear you finished, hee hee hee. I was ready to throw out the whole thing by the end of the day!

  5. Hello that looks BEAUTIFUL! The pictures alone make me want a piece of cake...then of course I saw the sink and I decided I'll settle for some frozen blueberries. What kind of camera do you have? I love all your food pictures ;)

  6. Wow Jackie! This cake definitely crosses the line between leisure baking for fun and a cooking art. It looks like it sould go in a display case! You are inspiring.

  7. Ohhhhh You are amazing--it looks so good. I was overly impressed with the peeling of the hazelnuts!

  8. AnonymousJuly 31, 2008

    This cake looks amazing.If Annette hadn't told me what a great cook you were-I'd have sworn it was sore bought!

  9. WOW!!! Thats it! I'm looking for employment around here for Neal so I can continue schmooooozing you, Jackie, for your culinary brilliance and its biproducts. Just have Neal email me his CV and what kind of job he wants and how much he wants to make. I'll hire him myself if I have to.... it would be worth it :)

  10. I admire your baking skills. I'm not much of a baker but would like to be better at it! You've inspired me!

    Oh, and I was checking out some freebies today and found this:
    Not sure if you're interested in doing that kind of theme or not, but I thought it was cute!

  11. Your cake looks amazing & I love your "brain coil" piping. I agree that the cake tastes better after it has set a couple of days.


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