Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I'll let everyone else eat cake

*sigh* I'm not much of a cake fan so I'm a bit disappointed in the (now majority) of my Daring Bakers challenges. 2 of the 3 challenges since I joined have been cakes - and not the light, moist, fluffy cakes we Americans love and therefore, I'm willing to tolerate; but the dense, crumbly cakes that seem more popular in Europe. I truly hope we don't see another cake/buttercream in Daring Bakers for many months. There are so many fantastic items out there worth baking that I hate wasting time/energy/money making cakes which are not really enjoyed. Okay but let's move away from my being a Debbie Downer...

(unrelated to this month's challenge, but very cool all the same!)

My version: Pistachio Gateau with Raspberry Glaze and Praline Buttercream

It was fun to make this month's Daring Bakers challenge: Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream from Carole Walter's Great Cakes book. I most definitely thank our host this month, Chris for choosing a fun recipe that was not nearly as time consuming as last month's Danish Pastry Braid. With the new puppy and various other projects this month, I was thankful for a "less involved" challenge that only took 1 day instead of 2.

The Rules:
The recipe called for hazelnuts (Filberts) but we were free to use an alternate nut as long as we carried it through the entire cake. The recipe also called for an apricot glaze underneath the chocolate ganache but we were free to pick a different flavor. We had to keep the cakes round and while we could make minis, we couldn't make cupcakes. We couldn't use fresh fruit IN the cake, but could to decorate. And we had to decorate the cake with the praline buttercream. This gave everyone a chance to practice their piping skills!

Not horrendous for someone who don't know jack about piping!

My Spin:
Instead of spending my mortgage on hazelnuts (filberts), I chose to use pistachios. I decided to invite a handful of family over for a Sunday dinner to meet Lucca and (yes, truly) primarily to have folks around to whom I could feed my July Daring Bakers Challenge!! I knew the hazelnuts wouldn't have been as enjoyed as pistachios, so I didn't bother taking out the loan for them nor trekking all over town to find them. I had enough pistachios in the fridge. I also chose raspberry instead of apricot which just sounded better with the nuts. I chose Grand Marnier for all the places the recipe asked for alcohol. And then proceeded to do everything else as the recipe called for.
I've come to really fancy that hint of Grand Marnier in pastries

I started this on a Saturday afternoon and intended to serve it on Sunday evening.

First things first was the pistachio praline: You melt dry sugar over the stove - that's right, no added water; then add the pistachios once the sugar begins browning. That's all it takes to make, essentially, pistachio brittle!

Pistachios waiting for the sugar ---- Pistachio Brittle ---- Holding the piece with 1 hand!

After making the pistachio brittle, I ground it up in the food processor until it was almost a powder. But I intentially left it a little "bit-like" so that one would crunch on a bit of the brittle/praline as they sampled the buttercream.

Pistachio Praline going in ---- Pistachio Praline coming out

Really this cake is VERY MUCH like a sponge cake. I felt awful that I made it sit on the counter right-side-up after removing it from the oven instead of like this (from this blog entry). Of COURSE it dropped in the center!

Pistachios & dry ingreds ground together -- I hand beat the yolks -- Adding the lemon zest

Cake Assemblage Preparation

I went out and bought a 10" cake pan (as called for) and assembled as instructed:
~Take cake Layer 1
~Brush with Grand Marnier syrup
~Spread layer of Pistachio Praline Buttercream
~Top with a thin layer of unsweetened whipped cream
~Repeat with Layer 2
~Brush bottom of Layer 3 with Grand Marnier syrup
~Invert on top

I had a bit of a problem using my new cake leveler. I think the cake was too dense for the wire to slice neatly through it. So I found myself pulling it and (of course) didn't end up cutting straight. I basically cut a thin wedge off the top of my cake - brilliant! Good thing this cake will be even though it looked awful during assembly, it was ALL hidden upon serving.

Layer 1 with buttercream ---- and whipped cream ---- the UGLY top layer

After trimming the edges, you smother the entire cake with heated jam. I used raspberry after straining out all the seeds. This is supposed to "seal" the cake. I should have done a thin coat of buttercream after this to set up a nice base for the ganache - but I lost patience and didn't get to it; and therefore sacrificed the look a bit. The extra layer of buttercream would have smoothed out my sides instead of the "stepped" look it had. But it didn't affect the flavor, of course.

Finally it was time for the ganache coating. For this I used Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet chocolate.

Trimming edges --- Coating with raspberry jam --- Chopping bittersweet chocolate

The "funnest" part: pouring the heated Vanilla, Grand Marnier, Chocolate Ganache over the finished cake. It worked perfectly as per the directions, as long as one has patience and allows it to cool and thicken just a bit. 90° is the suggested temperature. Not too thick; not too thin.

Pour, Baby, Pour!!

I decorated the top with my play on the original design but since I didn't have the #114 leaf tip, I winged it with my little #18 star tip.

This is the original - from the cookbook

Oh? You wanted to see the insides??

It almost looks like the pistachio rose to the top - the layers almost appear different colors

Oh yes, and let's not forget to inform everyone how crazy I am. I actually made another cake to serve for dessert this particular night because I was concerned about how much people would like the challenge cake. I'm glad I did, because (not surprisingly) I get my palate from my family - and we're not fans of this type of cake. 9 out of 10 family members liked the Banana Cake better than the Pistachio Gateau. However, upon taking it to the office the next day (1/2 of the banana and 1/2 of the pistachio) the overwhelming winner was the pistachio. Goes to show you how much "Different Strokes for Different Folks" really is true.

Two layer cakes, One day

You can find the recipe written out on many other Daring Bakers' blogs - just something I never have the patience for since I write such prolific blog entries!


  1. Oh my goodness, two cakes in a day!! You are officially a domestic goddess, girl. I share yiour sentiment about cake challenges...I've had enough cake from the Daring Bakers to last me years, especially buttercream cakes!! Your cake looks really good, by the way, both of them! =D

  2. WOW....2 layer cakes in 1 day! And both look great too. I have to admit I'd probably like your banana one too!

  3. you overacheiver you :D! two cakes! And very lovely cakes they are too.

  4. You did a great job - congrats!

    Have a delicious day :)

  5. you continue to impress me lise :) i still have yet to bake something from the tartine cookbook i've had all these years!

  6. 2 cakes in 1 day?! You're a trooper! Since I'm not a banana person, I'll go for the pistachios gateau too =)

  7. Lisa, your cakes look lovely! Too bad you didn't like the taste... May be next month will bring some luck:)
    It's summer here, I also don't want to make another rich winter-time gateau...

  8. i love your variations and te step by step demo of how to build the cake, 2 cakes is double the fun and haha also double the dishes ...but i'm sure its all worth it !!!

  9. Ooo, your cake looks amazing! And 2 cakes in one day... Thats a lot! Good job!

  10. So glad you enjoyed the interview! The cakes look so beautiful!