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Monday, March 29, 2010

HCB: Le Succes

This is one of those cakes that seem like it's going to be super easy but turn out having a hidden challenge along the way.

It all starts out easy enough. Blanched almonds, process them with the sugar in food processor until fine. Then whipped egg whites, add cream of tartar and sugar. Once the egg whites are stiff and glossy, fold the almond sugar mixture into the whipped egg whites. Next comes my favorite part, piping. I love piping, I find it fun.

Btw, I love that Rose is so specific, she even gave instruction on how to make the circles if you are using silpat. I dipped my 6 inch cake pan into cocoa powder, then tap it on the silpat. I would never have figured this out myself!
So far everything went well, the challenge come upon unmolding the meringue. Per Rose's instruction, the circles are very soft and therefore you have to unmold it carefully. I tried to do this super carefully, but I am also impatient so I tore 2 out of 3 of the circles. I didn't take a picture of it b/c it looks just too sad. But oh well, the good thing is that all these will be frosted with yummy ganache, so I'd be able to hide the imperfections!

I'm getting pretty good at making ganache now (yay!). I didn't even use the food processor, just mix it in the bowl. This is the first time I use creme fraiche for ganache. Instead of using instant lemon tea, I used Starbuck's decaf instant coffee. Not trying to promote Starbucks or anything, but I love their new instant coffee. The ganache smells and taste very coffee-y. I love the smell of coffee so I think it is heavenly. But I do wonder what the tea version will taste like. Hm.. will have to make this one again using tea.

I am trying to improve my cake-photography skills. These pictures are taken with natural light, white balance on, ISO setting 100, and flash off. I think they are not bad, better than my previous pictures - taken during the night. This means that I would need to bake on Saturday or early enough on Sunday so I can take a picture early enough :). Which means I need to be organized enough to do this, LOL!

Tasting impression: 
YUM! (this seems to be my general consensus for Rose's cake). I like the crunchy texture of the meringue. Though I do think the balance of portion between meringue and ganache is off - there's too much ganache, too little meringue. I do love the creme fraiche in ganache more than regular heavy cream. It taste more tart and it balance the chocolate taste nicely. The coffee smell is stronger than the taste. Overall I think the cake is pretty good. It is definitely a very interesting combo and cake experience. Thank you Rose for this yummy recipe!

Monday, March 15, 2010

HCB: (California) Pistachio Cake

I ended up getting the California Pistachio from Whole Foods, so I renamed the cake to "California Pistachio Cake." It didn't seem appropriate to call it Sicilian cake :).

This cake is very easy to make. I made 1/2 a recipe again and made sure I split everything in half (also did not forget the sugar this time ^_^). I blanched the pistachio and let it dry on a kitchen towel for about 3 hours. Then process the pistachio with the sugar. Mix the egg yolks with 1 1/2 Tbsp. of sour cream and vanilla paste. Then mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda in the stand mixer. Next, add the butter and the rest of the sour cream. Once it's all mixed, incorporate the egg mixture in 2 additions. Finally, into the oven it goes!

The cake baked about 40 minutes. And it baked flat on top! That sort of never happened to me for butter cakes. I did spend some time making sure the top is smooth and used a silicone spatula to do this (vs. offset spatula). However, it is still amazing to me that it's completely flat. Wish I had taken a picture of it so I have proof, :)).

Next, the buttercream. I have never made the neoclassic buttercream before, so I was naturally curious of the taste. So far my favorite buttercream is the mousseline, which I've made several times. This buttercream is easier to make than the mousseline. It is also easier to work with. I frost the cake with no effort and in very little time (and no my friends, let me assure you it is not because I'm becoming an expert in frosting cakes). Now the part that I love the most is "throwing" the pistachio nuts onto the cake. This is like the easiest decorating that I've ever had to do on a cake, just throw the nuts on it, and make sure that it's evenly covered. And ta-da, the result look pretty!

The cake was a huge hit. I think it's hard to have a cake that uses sour cream taste bad, but it is really really good. The pistachio flavor is pretty faint but I love the crunchy texture of the nuts against the soft moist cake.

Oh forgot to add that I use vanilla paste in the buttercream, I don't know if you can see little black specks in the picture. Also I added a Tbsp. of amaretto to the buttercream (following Matthew, one of Rose's forum blogger) - it added a nice touch to the taste. I still like the mousseline better. But I do look forward to next time when I'll make the neoclassic again - and look forward to piping it!