a.k.a., my first ever Daring Bakers challenge!
My completed gateau. Isn’t it a work of art? Snort. I’ll explain the problems in a sec.
My flimsy attempt to show what the cake looked like after cutting out a wedge. It’s a little out of focus, and I’m too tired and too annoyed to mess with things anymore.
I’ll put the recipe below the break, in case anyone wants to attempt it. As I mentioned above, this is my first Daring Bakers challenge. I’ve never made a genoise before, never made pralined pecans before, never made buttercream icing before, and never made a ganache before. I honestly feel pretty confident with my abilities in those fields now. I actually made two genoises; when I attempted to remove the first one from the baking pan, a goodly portion remained in the pan. So I made a second one. With the second, I knew what I was doing, so my batter didn’t deflate when I was folding in the nut meal. The pralined pecans were wonderful. The buttercream was a little difficult to work with in this heat (around 100 degrees today), but it tasted fantastic. And the ganache-oh my gosh!–this is some seriously good tasting stuff.
What went wrong? Well, the first genoise didn’t want to come out of the pan. I used parchment paper on the bottom of the pan for the second genoise, and it came out just fine but my edges were messed up. If I were to make this again, I’d probably try it in a springform pan. When I sliced my layers, they were very uneven, and the top and middle layer were so thin they pretty much fell apart. Because of that, it didn’t matter how creamy and glossy my ganache was, it wasn’t going to be a pretty cake. I couldn’t trim any off the top or edges because there wouldn’t have been any cake left. And the praline paste clogged up my decorating tips, so in the end I had to just pipe the icing through a bag without using a tip.
How does it taste? It’s amazing. Fantastic. Rich. I could only eat a few bites, although I will confess that I sampled the icing and the whipped cream and the ganache, so that might have something to do with my inability to eat more. Joe cleaned out the rest of the bowl that had the icing in it, and he ate the ganache drippings, and he ate the remainder of the slice I cut. I’ll take the rest of the cake to work tomorrow–they won’t care how ugly it is, and it tastes just incredible.
Pecan Gateau with Praline Buttercream
- 1 pecan genoise, based in a 10-inch round layer pan
- 1 recipe Sugar Syrup
- 1 recipe Praline Buttercream
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peak stage
- 1 recipe Cherry Glaze, warmed
- 1 recipe Ganache Glaze, prepared just before using
- 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped pralined pecans, for garnish
- 1 1/2 cups toasted pecans
- 2/3 cup unsifted cake flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 7 large egg yolks
- 1 cup sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
- 5 large egg whites
- 1/4 cup warm clarified butter
- Position rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 10″ x 2″ round cake pan and dust with all-purpose flour.
- Place the nuts, cake flour, and cornstarch in the container of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 30 seconds, then pulse 10 times, until very fine and powdery. The nuts are ready when they begin to cake or clump around the sides of the bowl. If any large pieces remain, pulse further but watch carefully to avoid over processing. Set aside.
- Put the yolks in the small bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the beaters or whip attachment. Beat on medium-high speed 3-4 minutes or until thick and light in colour. Add 3/4 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, taking about 3-4 minutes. Mixture should be ribbony. Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind, remove from mixer, and set aside.
- Place the egg yolks in the large bowl of an electric mixer and whip on medium speed until they form soft peaks. Increase speed to medium-high and add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar over about 15 seconds. Whip 30 seconds longer.
- Add the yolk mixture and whip 1 minute longer. Remove the bowl from the mixture. Pour the warm butter into a measuring cup for liquids or any other container with a spout. Put the nut meal in a coarse-mesh strainer and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time, folding with a rubber spatula. It will take 40 turns. Be sure to reach deep into the bottom of the bowl as you fold and work quickly, as too much handling will deflate the batter.
- When 2 tablespoons of nut meal remain, quickly pour the warm butter in a steady stream over the batter. Quickly fold in the remaining nut meal, taking 10-15 turns. discard any large pieces of nuts from the strainers.
- Immediately push batter, using the rubber spatula, into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon. If any butter has collected in the bottom of the bowl, DO NOT add it to the batter in the bowl, or it will retard the rising of the cake.
- Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and place the cake in the preheated oven and bake 30-35 minutes. The cake is done when it is springy to the touch and completely leaves sides of pan.
- Remove the cake from the oven and let stand 5 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick spray, remove the pan, and let the cake cool completely.
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup sugar
Place the water and sugar in a small heavy saucepan. Bring to a slow boil and simmer 5 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before applying to the cake. This may be made in advance. Rewarm before using.
- 1/3 cup praline paste
- 1 recipe Swiss Buttercream
Blend /2 cup of the buttercream into the praline paste, then add to the remaining buttercream. Whip briefly on medium-low speed to combine.
- 1 cup pecans
- 2/3 cup sugar
- Toast the pecans in a 300 degree oven for 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven.
- Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper and lightly butter the parchment.
- Put the sugar in a heavy 10″ skillet. Heat on a low flame for about 10-20 minutes, or until the sugar begins to melt around the edges. Sugar heated in a thin metal skillet will melt faster, but slower cooking in a heavy pan will prevent scorching and ensure better flavour. DO NOT STIR THE SUGAR. Swirl the pan as necessary to keep the melted sugar from burning. Brush te sides of the pan with water to remove any sugar crystals. If the sugar at the center of teh skillet does not dissolve, stir briefly.
- When the sugar is compeltelymelted and caramel in colour, remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble. Take care when working with the syrup at this point, as it is dangerously hot.
- Turn the mixture onto the parchment-lined jelly roll pan, spreading evenly as best as you can. As it cools, it will harden into a brittle.
- Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the container of a food processor. Pulse to a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder. If you wish to make a nut paste, process for several minutes.
- STORAGE: Store in an air-tight container in a cool dry place competely freeof humidity. Do not refrigerate.
- 4 large egg whites
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Place the egg whites in the lare bowl of an electric mixer. Using a wire whisk, beat until the eggs are very foamy and begin to thicken, just before the soft peak stage.
- Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Whisk in the sugar, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, taking about 30-45 seconds. Continue beating 2-3 minutes, or until the whites are warm and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture will be thick and resemble whipped marshmallow.
- Remove the bowl from the pan. in an electric mixer fitted with the beaters or whip attachment, beat the whites and sugar on medium-high speed for 5-7 minutes, or until the mixture forms a very thick meringue and is cool. Do not overbeat. Set aside.
- Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl. Using hte beaters or paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed for 45 to 60 seconds, just until it is smooth and creamy. Do not overbeat or the butter will become too soft. Set aside.
- On medium low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, 1 to 2 tablespoons a a time over about 1 minute. Add the vanilla and beat 30-45 seconds longer until thick and creamy. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes before using.
- STORAGE: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
- 2/3 cup thick cherry preserves
- 1 tablespoon water
- Place the preserves and watter in a small heavy saucepan. Stir and bring to a slow boil, then simmer 2 to 3 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of hte pan, add more water as needed.
- Remove from the heat and push through a fine mesh strainer. Discard the residue from the strainer. Using a fine pastry brush, apply the glaze to the cake while it is still warm. If the glaze becomes too thick, thin it down with a few drops of water.
- 6 ounces imported semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
- 6 ounces (3/4 cup) heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon hot water, if needed
- Break the chocolate into 1″ pieces and place in the basket of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until the chocolate is finely chopped. Empty the chocolate into a medium-sized bowl and set aside.
- In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream and corn syrup over low heat until it comes to a gentle boil. Immediately pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate. Let it stand for about 1 minute, then stir the chocolate and cream together, slowly mixing until all the chocolate is melted.
- Blend in the vanilla. If the surface is oily, stir in 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of hot water. The glaze should thicken as it stands, but remain pourable.
TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE:
- Cut a cardboard disk slightly smaller than the cake. Divide the cake into 3 layers. Place the firs layer top side down on the disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3 to 4 tablespoons of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1 to 1 1/2 cup of the praline buttercream and set aside.
- Spread the bottom layer with a 1/4 inch thickness of the remaining butterream. Cover with 1/2 of the whipped cream, leaving a 1/4″ border around the edge of the cake. Place the middle layer over the first, brushing with the sugar syrup and spreading with praline buttercream. Cover with the remaining whipped cream.
- Moisten the cut side of the third layer with additional sugar syrup and place cut side down on the cake. Press the sides of the cake gently to align the layers. Put in the refrigerator to chill and set for 1/2 hour.
- Lift the cake by sliding your open palm under the cardboard disk. Holding a serrated or very sharp knife with an 8-inch blade held parallel to the sides of the cake, trim the sides until they are perfectly straight. Cut a slight bevel at the top to help the glaze drip over the edge. Brush the top and sides of the cake with warm cherry glaze, sealing the cut ares thoroughly. Chill while you prepare the ganache glaze.
- Place a rack over a large shallow pan or skillet to catch the drippings. Remove the gateau from the refrigerator and set it on the rack. Have ready a metal spatula with a blade at least 8 to 10 inches long. Hold the saucepan containing the ganache glaze 10 inches above the cake and immediately pour the glaze onto the center. To achieve a smooth, mirrorlike finish, quickly pass the spatula four times over the top of the cake. The glaze should cover the top and run down the sides. Then lift one side of the rack and bring it down with a hard bang. This helps to spread the glaze more evenly. Work quickly before the glaze sets. Patch the bare spots on the sides with a smaller metal spatula, but do not touch the top again, as the glaze firms immediately. Let the cake stand 15 minutes to set after glazing.
- To garnish the cake, fit a 12- or 14-inch pastry bag with a 114 large leaf tip. Fill with the reserved praline buttercream. Garnish with chopped pecans.
- Refrigerate uncovered for 3-4 hours to allow the cake to set. Remove the cake from therefrigerator up to 3 hours befor serving.
- Refrigerate leftover cake, lightly covered with a foil tent, for up to 5 days.
NOTES: The recipe I worked from called for hazelnuts, but (a) I couldn’t find them and (b) I’m from Texas, so I used pecans. Also, the original recipe called for apricot preserves, but I thought cherry would work nicely with the pecans.
Recipe by Carole Walter, Great Cakes.