Wednesday, July 12, 2006
I Did It!
We had a major celebration yesterday, the return of Ulysses, three days after his birthday. So I went all out on the cake (actually forgetting to plan dinner itself). I decided to make Alice Medrich's Chocolate Raspberry Ruffle Cake as per the PBS video website I keep referring to.
I've made a variation on this cake before. But this time I wanted to do try to make her chocolate decorations as well.
Making the ruffles
(Update January 2007: I've posted a short film of how to make these ruffles here.)
I melted chocolate, and spread it in a thin layer on a warmed cookie sheet. Put it in the fridge, waited not long enough, even though the chocolate seemed cool, and tried making ruffles. The first were a disaster, but I kept at it and managed to salvage a few. They're surprisingly forgiving, once you stick them in the top of your cake. The second sheet I made I let it cool longer in the fridge, and with a few back and forths in and out of the fridge -- you have to get the temperature just right -- I managed to create a few ruffles. Not the beautiful fans of A. Medrich but good enough. It's surprisingly satisfying to make these. I put them back in the fridge in one layer on parchment paper to harden, then stored them in a big tupperware box. They're fragile but once they're cold it's OK to stack them.
Wrapping the cake in chocolate
Then came the wrapping of the cake in chocolate. The cake had been cooling in its springform pan: a chocolate syrup-moistened genoise with chocolate ganache cream with raspberries in the middle (once again, I only made two cake layers, not three as the original recipe recommends). The cake had cooled an hour or two in the fridge. I melted the chocolate and spread it on a sheet of plastic (length = circumference of cake, height is a bit higher than cake).
The plastic I used (rhodoïd I think it's called in French) was limper than the one used by A. Medrich so it was wobbly and hard to wrap around the cake. Also perhaps I should have waited for the chocolate to harden at least partially as a lot of it trickled off the plastic and pooled on the plate (effectively anchoring the cake to the plate). You can see in this picture how messy the process is (the peach has no business there but I was too frazzled to take a careful photo). I then chilled the cake a few hours. Pulling off the plastic I trembled a little but the result was OK. Not perfect: the seam was jagged, and in spots the chocolate was too thin, but overall quite acceptable.
Decorating with the ruffles
I then spread a layer of whipped cream on top of the cake and inserted the fans. Normally a single raspberry in the center would be sufficient further decoration, but I was low on fans and used raspberries to patch up the holes. A sprinkling of confectioner's sugar highlighted the ruffles. I also used the leftover raspberries to try to hide the chocolate spills on the plate. Next time I'll have to remember to put 4 pieces of wax paper under the edges of the cake so I can just pull them out after the decorations are finished.
I was pleased with the result and personally thought the cake was yummy. As for Ulysses... he was suitably impressed, telling me it looked like a Lenôtre cake, but he only ate a few mouthfuls. I had forgotten, he prefers simple desserts to rich layered confections. Darn, and here I am beginning to build up my show-off baking skills (nothing like a blog to encourage you to try new things).
I guess I have to keep looking for the perfect recipe: grandiose to look at, as well as addictively good to eat (January 2007: I'm getting closer!). But for the meantime, though there's lots to improve on, I feel I've added a good celebration cake to my repertoire. "Looking at this, you wouldn't think a normal human being could do this," says Julia Child on the video. Well, I did!
No tempering necessary?
One question on my mind is why is it not necessary to temper the chocolate for the fans and the wrapping of the cake? The fans had slight traces of discoloration around their stems, where my warm fingers pinched them together and melted the chocolate some. But other than that, I saw none of the usual gray streaking you get when you try to work with untempered chocolate. I know Ms. Medrich is supposed to be a rebel in the world of chocolatiers, in that she doesn't often resort to tempering. I'd like to understand the theory behind this.