This week's HCB choice has been in the calendar for over 3 weeks and most of the bakers have been talking non-stop about it during all that time, if you check out the HCB Blog and the recaps comments, the choice gets mentioned again and again.
This one would likely fall under the "difficult" category, not because it’s difficult to make, but after 6 pages with 6 different steps, we must call it SOMETHING! Now for most season bakers, all of those steps are not very difficult, the batter is pretty straight forward sponge cake. Then the syrup is pretty easy, the making of the Chiboust Cream is made in 30 minutes top, then there is some cutting and mixing on the next step of preparing the strawberries and the preserves. The second to last step is the whipped cream topping and then the piece of resistant, what all of us bakers been talking about for the last 3 weeks, the spun sugar step.
Yep, Rose is making us cross boundaries here and urging us to be daring bakers.
With lots of ground to cover lets start off with the first step: The batter. Nothing complicated here. We have the option of using clarified butter or beurre noisette, which at this point most of know that using the beurre noisette is the ONLY way to go. I have become quite a pro when making this, my confident has grown so much that I now put the butter on the stove, turn it to low and walk away Yep, I WALK AWAY people. The end results? A toasty hazelnut color beurre noisette, with amazing smell power once the vanilla extract is added to it. And well, to quote my fellow baker Raymond "this can be life changing".
My 2 round cakes baked in about 25 minutes. Out of the oven and right away they are to be un-molded and place in a wire rack to cool off. Then forget them, because you still have 3 more steps before you even get to use them.
Next up, the Grand Marnier Syrup. Side note: If I ever have the chance to meet Rose in person, I will give her a high five for making sure that Tom and I are the proud owners of the best liquor cabinet in the whole neighborhood – we totally rock with all the fancy liquor in there. Sugar and water is brought to a rolling boil over the stove, then removed, covered and cooled completely before adding the Gran Marnier.
Step 3 is the Chiboust Cream – which is just a fancy way to say pastry cream, if you ask me. I have made pastry cream before, but never this way. I had to look for the vanilla beans. The recipe calls for using Tahitian and Madagascar vanilla beans. After a trip to my local Whole Foods and finding 4 different types of vanilla beans well over $10 a tube for 2, none of which were the Tahitian and/or the Madagascar type, I made an executive decision and bought the $3 one, hoping that it would not make much of a difference – we will soon find out. The rest of it was pretty straight forward. Mix egg yolks with sugar, with the cornstarch, stir in the hot milk, set in the stove until creamy, thick and pale yellow colors with those vanilla specks showing - YUM!
Step 4: Strawberries and the preserved. Pretty simple, cut up the strawberries and if not natural sweet, macerate them with a bit of sugar – mine were perfect, so it was just making sure to cut them up all nice and pretty. Then mix orange marmalade with once again the Grand Marnier, until spreadable consistency and put everything aside.
Step 4 and ½ : building the trifle. I own a trifle bowl, actually I own 2. I make my Italian trifle all the time, so these bowls are constantly utilized around these parts. Unlike the Italian trifle I usually make, where I actually cut the sponge cake in strips and the cover the layers as I move up the trifle bowl. Rose has us cut the cakes by a half and then fit them in the circular bowl, making adjustments along the way by trimming it to size. No big deal here. You coat one side with the orange spread, then you place the layer, spread size down, moist the top of the cake with the syrup, pour some of the cream, sprinkle the cut up strawberries and repeat until you use all 4 layers up. The top is coated with the rest of the cream, covered and place in the refrigerator overnight to get all that nice and moist.
In my case, mine sat in my refrigerator for 2 days, because well, life happens and Sunday was just crazy around these parts, so I did not get to the final 2 steps until Monday afternoon.
Step 5 (which takes place the NEXT DAY, or in my case two days later) is to whip up the heavy cream until nice and thick. I must have read this portion pretty fast, because I totally missed the step of actually warming up some of the heavy cream with the sugar and cornstarch over the stove. And when I did, I was pretty much not paying attention, because mine thicken up and it was not in the pourable consistency. But, just like any daring baker, we make it work. And sure enough I took a bit of the cold heavy cream before whipping and mixed into the warm thick mixture and made it nice and flowing. Done and done.
And now we come to step 6. The one that had us all buzzing about and sharing notes and watching videos in the internet - The spun sugar. Most of us were pretty anxious of this step. Marie even gave us a free pass to skip it all together.
No skipping for me. I wanted to be daring! Try new things! And get my kitchen totally messy full of hard sugar! I wanted to spread newspaper all over the place.
And I could go and write about it, but we are in the age of technology, my baker buddies deserve more than misspelled writing, they deserved to see me in all my messy self. So instead I will show you…behold my first video attempt:
And there you have it. We survive to tell the tale.
I was so giddy about this, that I put my sugar creation on the side, while I piped the rows of whipped cream. Once I was ready to top it with my spun sugar I realized that living in Florida with a high humidity level was not the sugar friend. My beautiful spun sugar was melting! I topped my trifle, and ran to take a gazillion pictures before the whole thing just puddle around, before it became one gooey mess and end up in the trash.
Tom: “Cut it up, cut it up already! I have been eyeing this in the refrigerator for 2 days!” He liked it, said the whole thing was worth the effort, but, told me if he had to choose between this one and my own Italian trifle he would go for mine instead of this one. “But, don’t you worry, I will eat it”.
Neighbors: “So this is the famous spun sugar dessert? Its good, very good, we love the cream and that little orange hint it has – very fancy looking too”
Mom: “Not impress at all, I found it a bit dry in places, and I found some portions of it sweet, other not, I did not get the taste of the syrup or the orange marmalade”.
Me: I really enjoy making this, even when my spun sugar melted in front of my eyes. Taste wise, I liked the different takes on it with all the different flavor combinations. I had to agree with my mother, that mine was dry in some places and moist in order, the cake had not soaked enough of the syrup and the orange spread. I think it was a combination of the cake being too thick and making it difficult for the syrup and spread to soak it all the way thru, making for a moist cake. If I make it again, I would up the syrup and spread it a bit more with the orange marmalade, and will also cut the sponge cake up in thinner slices helping it soak up better. I did love the cream and plan to use it in the future for other desserts.
At the end of the day, I will remember this dessert for pushing my comfort level. I mean, we will now all have the spun sugar stories. Mine will not only be in print but out there for people to see how silly I look when I have a video camera in my face.
Disclaimer: No recipe are shared in my Heavenly Cake Baker posts, due to restrictions in sharing the recipes by the publisher of Rose's Heavenly Cakes. But, you can purchase the book here.