Finally back in baking action! Not that I haven't been baking, that would be madness. I have simply been more incognito about it. Basking for the sake of baking, not for the sake of blogging. I often bake the same things over and over again, which is great for the eater, not so interesting for the reader.
However, after I created this masterpiece, I felt compelled share it with all of you. After all, it is the best cake I have tasted in ages.
It all started with a visit to Pierre Hermé's new shop in Belgravia. Pierre is a chocolate genious, it is simply amazing how he combines flavours and textures. I was sampling his new range of truffles when my pallet noticed something different, yet familiar. Was there a sesame seed hidden between the layers of velvet chocolate? A seed often found in Asian dishes and in bread. What was it doing here? I mean, how come I've never tasted this heavenly combination before? The added crunch, the saltiness, the surprise burst of flavour, I felt I had stumbled upon a culinary secret.
A few weeks later my younger sister was visiting, and we decided to bake a cake. A chocolate layer cake. They are a bit tricky, I do admit. They can also be deceiving, promise more than they deliver. You know, looking all decadent, tall, glossy and inviting, and yet be dry and tasteless. It can also be a totally wrong cake/frosting combination. All the flavours fighting for attention and not at all the seamless taste experience you are hoping for.
This Sunday I decided to do something I have beenwanting to do for a long time; combine the cake from one recipe with the frosting from another. It almost felt wrong. You are not supposed to mix and match when baking, you are meant to follow recipes and directions with stoic precision.
However, I channelled my inner Pierre Hermé and went to work.
110g dark chocolate Frosting:
3tbsp water 1/2 cup whipping cream
200g butter 300g milk chocolate
200g soft brown sugar 8 tablespoon butter
1tsp vanilla extract Pinch of salt
4 eggs, separated 2 tbsp maple syrup, optional
200 g flour
1 tsp baking powder Decoration: Tata! Roasted sesame seeds and
1/4 tsp salt finely chopped pistachio nuts. My idea!
Begin with melting water and chocolate over low heat. Don't stir until it's almost melted, it makes the chocolate grainy.
Separate the eggs and whip the whites. First at slow speed, and when they start to firm up, increase the speed until you have glossy peaks. Set aside in a separate bowl.
Beat the yolks with vanilla until thick and yellow. Stir this in with the melted chocolate mixture.
The final round in the mixing bowl is for the butter and sugar. Mix until creamy.
Stir the chocolate mixture in with the creamy butter, and finally fold in the whites. Do this slowly, with a flat spatula, a little at a time.
Line the cake pan with parchment paper, but only at the bottom. If the sides are ungreased and unlined, the cake will stand taller after rising in the oven.
In any case, pour the batter into the pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. Rotate the pan after 15 minutes to ensure even baking.
After the cake is done baking, let it cool in the pan before transferring onto a wire rack.
Now, the frosting. You will notice it calls for a lot of milk chocolate. You will need all of it, because you have to have enough for both filling and frosting. The recipe is almost like ganache, but a bit softer. I like that, easier to work with.
Heat up the whipping cream over low heat, then add the chocolate and salt. Remove from the stove and let it sit for a few minutes. Then stir gently until it's all nice and blended. Then transfer it to a Quisenart and add the butter. The butter must be soft, cut into small cubes and added one at a time. Only use the pulse button, you have more control over what's going on that way. If you happen to have some maple syrup, add it at the end.
Put chocolate frosting on the bottom layer, then add the second layer. Spread frosting on that one as well. Finally put on the top layer, spread the rest of the frosting evenly on the top and around the edge of the cake. To make the side nice and smooth, run a clean knife lenghtwise around the side while you slowly turn the cake, like a Lacy Susan.
How do we then decorate this cake? With sesame seeds and pistachios.
The sesame/chocolate combination is remarkable. Salt and sweet, crunchy and soft. What can I say, they compliment each other.
Not only that. Normally I would decorate with marzipan roses, chocolate shavings, shredded coconut, powdered sugar, we have many options here. The problem with all the above is that they just add more sweetness to something that is already really sweet. They don't bring anything new to the table. Nuts and seeds on the other hand makes it both interesting and flavourful. Try it!
Thank you Pierre!