Once again, the time has come to unveil the latest project from the Daring Bakers. The July challenge, Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream, was chosen by Chris of Mele Cotte, and it was definitely a challenge for many bakers. In reality, though, it was just a cake – a cake with many parts to it – but nonetheless a cake. Don’t get me wrong now. I love cakes and I love baking cakes, and I really enjoyed this one – both the challenge of baking it and the deliciousness of eating it. It is a cake worth baking again.
When the recipe was first announced, I immediately checked with my local library to see if they had a copy of the cookbook, Great Cakes by Carole Walter. Within the hour I had the book in my possession, where I could peruse it at leisure and really study the recipe and the required steps.
Then, I went in search of the key ingredient – filberts, aka hazelnuts. When I lived in Oregon, I had an endless supply of them, which pretty much spoiled me. But I knew exactly where to go here in my area: the Somis Nut House. I bought everything I needed, nutwise, and more. (Isn’t that always the case?)
So, first I made the nut brittle for the praline. Watching the sugar carefully is the key here, for it caramelizes quickly and could burn in an instant.
The only issue I had with the whole challenge was making the praline paste. I processed it seemingly forever, but it just wouldn’t turn into a paste. Maybe I should have let it go a little longer. I don’t know. It looked fine and tasted fine, but did cause problems in the decorating stage.
The rum syrup was quickly made and set aside.
Next, it was time for the cake. Since I decided to make half a recipe, I needed a 6-inch cake pan. The one I bought was only 2 inches high, so I poured the small bit of excess batter into a greased ramekin. I ended up with a 6” cake and a small cake, but that was kind of fun, since I could take a test run on the small cake.
I have to say that the cake turned out perfectly. It was beautiful. The nuts were evenly distributed, it didn’t sink in the middle, and it didn’t stick to the pan. It was just the right thickness to be divided into three layers.
After the cake came the buttercream. This was straightforward. I’ve never had a buttercream fail, and this was no exception.
By this time the cakes were cool, so I split both of them into three layers each and began assembly.
The cakes were first soaked with the rum syrup, then I put a thin skim coat of buttercream over the top, followed by the ¼ -inch-worth of buttercream filling. Then the cake went into the fridge to chill.
While chilling, I made the apricot glaze.
Next came the glazing operation. The cake was trimmed around the sides and the warm glaze was applied, before returning the cakes to the fridge.
During the last chilling session, I made the chocolate ganache glaze, finely chopping bittersweet chocolate and whisking it until melted and velvety smooth. The ganache was then poured over each cake, resulting in a smooth, shiny coating of chocolate.
The final step was decorating the cake with some reserved buttercream. The praline bits kept clogging the piping tip, which was very frustrating, so the decorating part is not lovely to behold.
We tested the small cake first, and pronounced it delicious.
I never did get a piece of the large cake. My daughter took it with her to work at the yarn shop, so she could share it with all her knit-sisters. They made her call me so they could all yell over the phone how good it was. Sounds like it was a hit!
I would certainly make this cake again for a special occasion. The first time using a recipe is always the most time-consuming, because it’s unfamiliar territory. The succeeding times usually go much more quickly, especially since the parts can be prepared over a several day period.
For a copy of the recipe, go to Chris’s blog, or find a copy of Walter’s book, which has many more delicious cake recipes in it. You can also take a look at nearly 1000 variations at the Daring Bakers site.
(Note: not wanting to waste the leftover tiny bits of nuts that were strained out, I used them in a cookie recipe that called for finely chopped nuts.)