As a member of the Daring Bakers, this time of the month comes around all too fast. There are some members who, consummate professional bakers to the last, spend the month perfecting the allocated recipe. The finished article looks (and no doubt tastes) stunning.
I am not like this. I started my cake on Thursday Night and, not realising that I would spend most of Saturday incapacitated by a mini-migraine, am now left with a partially finished cake in the refrigerator.
Not to worry. Brilynn of Jumbo Empanadas, who chose this month’s recipe (a Martha Stewart recipe no less), was canny and selected a cake that can be made over several days. And thank goodness for this.
Darkest Chocolate Crepe Cake is not a cake to be taken lightly. I have wanted to make a crepe cake since I read about one in an old issue of Saveur magazine. I lusted after the wafer thin layers, sandwiched together with a delicate cream. Brilynns recipe takes that delicate cake to the next plateau. Imagine this: over 30 pancakes made with melted chocolate, heightened with a Nutella cream that contains no less than one and a half UK size packs of butter. And if that wasn’t overindulgence enough, the whole cake is then drenched in a dark chocolate glaze to give it Maybelline Lipgloss mirror shine. Finally, we are expected to exert our sugar art skills by decorating this black beauty with hazelnuts dipped in molten sugar, a 3 inch fragile spear of bronzed caramel extended upwards from the nut.
As I said, Brilynn is not one to do things by half.
Actually, the cake is fairly simple if you follow it step by step and over the course of several days as I have:
Thursday Morning: Make Pancake Batter. Leave to chill until the evening.
Thursday Night: Get Paul to make pancakes. Don’t get me wrong. I tried, I really did. My pancakes just ended up looking like something Ed Gein might have made a lampshade with instead of a delicate, lacy pancake. Not appetising. Paul is a champion pancake maker, even though he is more used to making thick, fluffy buttermilk ones. Fortunately for him, when he moved to the UK, I rapidly introduced him to the frail English pancake (or crepe as it is known everywhere else) so he is well skilled in both types. Can you imagine making about 35 pancakes? It’s really boring. At this point you hope that it’s all worth it.
Friday Night: Make internal icing and layer up cake. The icing is really good although I added extra Nutella (Nutella is now officially a cool and bona fide ingredient and not just something to spread on bread. I have seen it utilised in so many delicious recipes on food blogs in the last few months that it’s just a matter of time before restaurants start serving it too). Realise that a) you forgot to stir the whipped cream into the icing and it still sits in the fridge, looking palely up at you and b) that you don’t have enough cream left to make the external icing. Several expletives escape.
Saturday Morning: Am prepared to glaze the cake at my mums as it is her birthday and this was to be her birthday cake. We go out to eat (see tomorrows post), buy some double cream for the icing on the way. Get back to my mums and realise we have forgotten cake. Also realise that I have the start of a severe migraine probably brought on by the rapeseed pollen and/or heatstroke. I am a delicate flower and wilt with great rapidity in the sun. I also wilt in the cold. I have a strange internal thermostat.
Saturday Afternoon: Get home and go straight to bed. Awaken at 8pm to watch Grease is the Word. Headache gets much worse. Go straight back to sleep. Not even David Gest’s charming eyebrow gesticulations can help me tonight.
Sunday Morning: Awaken to happily find the headache is much better. I am particularly cross when I get a bad headache that is not alcohol induced, if for no other reason than suffering for one’s own gluttony makes it seem that much more debauched.
Fuzzy head aside, I am now prepared to make the glaze for the cake. I am currently typing this in bed, listening to the Arctic Monkeys (literally the only band of today’s current flock of new-new-new wavers that I will give a moment to), waiting for Paul to finish preparing the dogs food. We feed them turkey legs and it smells absolutely repugnant as it is boiled up. Like a pathologist, I have spread a highly perfumed cream under and around my nostrils to get rid of the stench.
Whilst I await the kitchen, let me just make mention of the other girls who have probably been far more organised than I and where you can see how they got on with the same recipe (and also a formal welcome to all the new members, all who have been given a real baptism of fire with this introductory cake!), in blog alphabetical order:
Jenny, Mary, Dolores, Becke, Ivonne, Peabody, Mercedes, Anita, Laura, Pat, Morven, Claudia, Hester, Gilly, Sara, Brilynn, Lisa, Ilva, Tanna, Marce, Devra, Helene, Patricia, Jen, Mary 2, Valentina, Veron, Sher and last but by certainly no means least, Meeta!So, several hours later, the boiled turkey smell has left the building, the cake is iced and, most miraculous of all, I have even made the candied hazelnuts which look completely beautiful.
This cake is not easy to ice despite using a large circular cutter to get the pancakes all the same size. During the setting process, the pancakes refuse to lie flat and it ends up as sort of 'S' shape, as Paul put it. I actually did a layer of icing, patching in some of the gaps, chilled it and then did a final coat using a wet palate knife to smooth it all of (a trick I learnt from Ina Garten). Still, the icing does cover a multitude of sins and we were thrilled at the final result. The multi-strata of dark chocolate pancakes and pale nutella cream are stunning. Of course, I have a feeling that the caramelised hazelnuts can really make a silk purse out of a sows ear.
But how does it taste, you ask? Well, it's kind of OK. It reminded me very much of a Sara Lee Gateaux which is to say, kids and men will probably love it. But it didn't have the rich, sophisticated taste I was dreaming of. I suppose you could call this the Hollywood Heiress Cake - looks good but has very little substance.
To conclude, I think that Brilynn chose a great cake for all of us. I think that all of us Daring Bakers were tested in one way or another and some of us might have learned some new skills. I would love to experiment with the cake, using a lighter, lemon or raspberry custard/mousse filling. I felt quite proud of the hazelnuts and will no doubt knock up a batch of them, if only to decorate a tub of Ben and Jerrys...