Monday, January 22, 2007
Celebration Cakes and Another Video
Update August 2009: I posted the recipe and process photos for the meringue d'automne here.
Eureka! After various attempts, I've found a recipe for a fancy chocolate cake that is both beautiful to look at and very good to eat. And Sugar High Friday offers me a good occasion to post about it.
I used a recipe from Pierre Hermé (Meringue d'Automne) and instead of his icing, used an Alice Medrich technique for wrapping the cake in chocolate and decorating it with chocolate ruffles.
A word about the chocolate
Given the cake is wrapped in pure chocolate, quality is essential. I used Valrohna Manjari, 64% cocoa. Though initially quite passionate about very dark chocolate, I've lately been finding 70% is a bit much in anything but small quantities or unmixed with other flavors. Manjari is fruitier and no matter how many ruffles you eat with your cake, you do not feel overly saturated with cocoa. At least not if you like dark chocolate. And I certainly don't want to feel saturated, as the last time I was in Paris I bought a 3 kg bag of it at G. Detou...
More videos and recipes to come
I had great ambitions of giving the detailed recipe(s), detailed videos etc. But given the deadline for posting for the Sugar High Friday, I will have to update this post later with further information and videos. To start with, below is a video I put together on making the chocolate ruffles.
How-to video for making the chocolate ruffles
(Sorry about the background noise, I unthinkingly left my microphone near my computer's fan.)
I also encourage you to view the master herself, Alice Medrich, on the PBS website, from "Julia Child Cooking with Master Chefs." Watching Alice Medrich on video is how I learned to make the ruffles, and what inspired me to try my own hand at video demonstrations.
A few step-by-step photos
The meringue disks were not perfect, but this doesn't show underneath the combination of mousse and ruffles.
My first attempt at making the cake exactly as per Hermé's recipe (ie no ruffles, just his shiny smooth icing).
The problem for me was two-fold: the icing is a nuisance to make -- not that the ruffles aren't work, they're just more fun -- and I don't know how to get a sleek finish, especially when you consider the building blocks of the cake were approximate spirals of meringue, clumsily covered with chocolate mousse. Hard to turn something lumpy into something slick. Chocolate ruffles do a good job of hiding imperfections. And they taste delicious!
The advantage of a classic icing is you can write a message in white chocolate. Alas, my white chocolate clumped up, probably from having been melted at too high a temperature.
But lumpy or not, the cake tasted good. I just had to improve its appearance. That's when I decided to try it with ruffles.
A few more shots of the version with the ruffles
When I make a celebration cake, I never seem to have time to take good pictures once it is finished. At that point we have to rush it to whatever party it's being brought to. Luckily some guests took the following pictures.
While the flash is harsh, it shows the shiny chocolate wrapping.
I had to crop the following shot out as the background was very cluttered. I'm including it here to give an idea of the inside of the cake.
Another less successful attempt
For the same occasion as the cake above, I also made a chocolate génoise filled with whipped chocolate ganache and raspberries, inspired by an Alice Medrich recipe, and which I've posted about here:
This one wasn't as popular as the meringue cake. I personally found it a bit too strong and flat in its chocolate flavor. But then, I made it with 70% cocoa chocolate (not Valrohna). I should try it again with the 64% chocolate for the filling, or with more sugar mixed into the ganache. A. Medrich gives some tips on different percentage chocolate substitutions, and I'm not sure I followed them. Perhaps also the icing needs a lighter touch in terms of cocoa. Again I had trouble spreading the icing in a smooth pattern. The wrapping in chocolate technique is really a good way to get shiny smooth sides.