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« Sweet Thirty-Seven | Main | Sweet Kitchen Tips 6 »

HCB: Apple Caramel Charlotte

Disclaimer: this post is long and there is a bit of a rant.  Just as long as making this cake was and reading about it.

A few months ago, I was emailing with Jenn from Knitty Baker and we were discussing those cakes that were still left to do in our HCB list and this one in particular came about in conversation.  We both were totally dreading it.

With 7 pages of instructions and 7 different steps, we knew it was going to take A LOT of resilience and baking savvy to do this one.  Jenn was hoping that Marie would give us this one on a long weekend so we would have more time to plan for it.  I was hoping that Marie would have a total Opps-y moment and would forget about this one.

We totally jinx ourselves.  Because not even a week after this whole discussion took place - there is was in the baking list, and NOT on a long weekend.

This cake, even from the start was a total Prima Donna, and not in a good way.  Did you know that the word “diva” means evil in some parts of the world?

Yep, this cake for all its prettiness and wow factor was pure evil.  It was difficult, temperamental, complicated and very demanding.   Even if at the end of all that you end up with a show stopper, full of attitude and greatness. This one is for that time when you really want to impress and have lots of time on your hands.

Because it’s going to kick your butt along the way.

In my case it did not help that I been sick as a dog with a cold for the past week and was still in recoup mode. My cold even flared up in the middle of this - that is how bad it was.

Like all the HCB bakers, I must have read the 7 pages of instructions over and over again, until those instructions were one blurry ink blot on the pages.  Nevertheless, I started to plan this cake a week in advance. Making sure that I had everything I needed, the right apples, the right liquor – another one for the bar people – the right pan, the right vanilla.  I was super duper prepare (or I thought).  I knew that I needed to space these steps in a 2-3 day interval or I was not going to even attempt it.

So it started on Thursday night, with the easiest step – poaching the apples.  Simple enough:  Sauce pan with water, a couple of tablespoons of Calvados, which was Tom’s contribution at a whopping $40+ a pop! (he and I had a “talk”) sugar, the vanilla bean and the lemon juice.  You take and peel the apple and core them with a melon baller, which was the first jinx – no melon baller in my kitchen gadget drawer – SO MUCH FOR PRE-PLANNING!  I made do and since this was my first time poaching a fruit, I was totally checking it and re-checking it making sure that I did not go over.  By the time this step was done it was 11pm at night - Keep that in mind, you will see a pattern here.
Friday was for me to do the biscuit and the caramel Bavarian cream filling was going to be made on Saturday.

My cold came on stronger than ever, so instead, I drank lots of tea with a bit of brandy and got myself totally tipsy, that it was impossible for me to even turn on the oven - I went to bed instead.

SO MUCH FOR PRE-PLANNING! (hear that sound? yeah, that is Jinx #2)

Saturday, I started with the biscuit, which was pretty straight forward.  I did try something new this time and instead of lining my half baking sheet with parchment, I opted to be brave and use the silpat, which totally worked! (Mr. Parchment bye-bye!).  7 minutes later, my biscuit was a thing of beauty.

Until I read the instructions in how to cut the templates for this.  

I read it over 10 times and still was confused about it – it does not help that part of the instructions are in one portion of the recipe and the other in another step. (grrr!)  I’m ashamed to say this, but Tom had to totally step in and show me the light bulb moment here. See, math and me, are not in the best of terms, sort of like piping and yeast. We just don’t get along.  So I cut my pieces and then dumped the whole thing in the freezer to make sure it was not going to fall apart on me when I use the apricot preserves to coat the layers and stack – which totally help me when it came to time to do this step. After you stack them they need to go back in the freezer to chill out before the final cuts.

While the book does tell you they need to cool for at least 2 hours, Rose does recommend overnight.  I was over it and wanted to continue on.  So at the 2 hour mark, I took them out of the freezer and started to cup them up in neatly into the required 3/8-inch strips to lined the pan.  I was suppose to end up with  20 even pieces, I (of course) came up with 16 – the hell? I measure my 16, they were all 3/8 what went wrong???  I used the left over to complete the 20 and covered the whole circle.  Put my 8-inch circle into the pan and put that whole thing away.  I was having issues with it at this point.

It was 10pm by the time I finish this step and was seriously thinking to call it quits and leave the Bavarian cream and final construction for Sunday.

I went to bed.

Could not sleep.

Got up and went back to the kitchen to tackle the caramel Cream filling.  I figure just the caramel cream and then on Sunday, I would do the rest – the Italian meringue and the whipped cream.

But after I started, I realized that I could not do the caramel and just leave it, I had to complete the whole thing.  When I hit the 5th step which was the Italian Meringue, I really though that the whole step had so many extra, unnecessary steps I was willing to do my 7-minute frosting, which basically was the same thing.  But, again - I thought about it (I think it was the cold medicine, and all the jinxes so far) and ended up following the directions after all. 20 minutes later, Italian Meringue in a bowl.

Next up the whipping of the heavy cream.  Then everything gets incorporate together to form a delicious Bavarian cream filling.  Yes, it was delicious.

Took out the mold from the refrigerator, filled it up with the cream, cut up the poach apples and created the Rose pattern on top.  The final step was the apple glazed.  Poaching liquid, some arrowroot and you are done.  

ahhh, not quite….

Looked all over my pantry and realized no arrowroot (BANG! Jinx #3).  At this point I realized that I need to go back to school and learn to read better, because the 10 + times plus the planning ahead was not enough!

At this point I realized that the cake had the upper hand because, I was over it.  So, I took an executive decision and used cornstarch instead and also melted a bit of the apricot reserved, and hoped for the best.

Painted the cake with the modified glaze, covered the whole thing and stare it down, call it a couple of nasty names and back in the refrigerator it went.

I took a peek at  the clock, realized that it was 2AM and totally promise myself that this cake was never, ever going to be done ever again in my lifetime - period.


Tom: “DELICIOUS, totally worth all the effort you put in to it - and no, I not going to ask you to ever do it again (he knows when to cut his looses that one). I really love the flavor of the poach apples.

My mother: “ I found it really yummy and super fancy dessert too.  Very delicate, it seems its going to be overly sweet and its not.  Nice balance and Tom is right, the poach apples are the real star here”

Myself: I did enjoy the challenge, and I did learn new techniques. But, I was really put off by the amount of equipment that the book calls you to use, and sometimes the instructions were not very clear cut and left you scratching your head. One example is that, while Rose tells you to compose the whole thing 8 hours before serving it once you finish the whole thing, you have no clue how to store it? Can it be left at room temperature? Does it go back to the refrigerator? After 7 pages, you would figure that piece of information would be included in there, its not.  - While I did not try the whole thing together (I’m still mad at it), I knew that each of the components were good, since I tasted it along the way.

I also learned something else… I totally need to seriously hire a dishwasher! 


Reader Comments (14)


Lovely rant. Lovely cake too. :)

Looks like the Bavarian cream really kept you up at night!

September 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMendy

I think everyone needed a serious HUG after this one. I REALLY did not like the directions on different pages and continually got lost. I did not help myself in underlining key points ahead of time. I actually added to my own confusion. I love my pretty bottle of Calvados brandy but I put a little on my tongue to taste and the flavor knocked the wind out of me and my eyes instantly started watering! What in the world do we do we a 40+ dollar bottle of apple brandy?

I had a major snafu at the end but all-in-all I loved the rose on top and like you, did enjoy the challenge. Now I have a question . . . how the heck did you accomplish so much the last night of assembly on cold medicine? I couldn't read a recipe right, much less create the perfect rose top the way you did.

All your pictures are beautiful! I finely have mine posted. I almost didn't because sitting in front of the computer with a myriad of pictures to go through felt just a little tooo much after what we went through in the kitchen.

September 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShandy

Despite all, you made the cake and it looks beautiful! I haven't read the recipe yet..lol..but after reading your post, i'm not sure if i even want to attempt it at all..lol!

September 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterfaithy

Mendy: Thanks, I needed to let it all out. Yours looked great too.. I'm working my way thru the post, I saw yours just have not commented on it yet. But seriously, How do YOU DO IT?

Shandy: I was like you, hated the way the recipe was laid out... I also flipped back and forth tons of time. I think I was totally running on fumes.. because by the time I finished it all I wanted to do shout around my kitchen - figure I would wake up Tom and totally confirmed that his girlfriend was one step from the loony bin.

Faith: YOU, the one that did a cake with a lobster??? You will probably breeze thru this one! Plus, you have an advantage, now you know the loop holes to look for - ah ha!

September 20, 2010 | Registered CommenterMonica

You did a beautiful job on the apple slices looking like a rose! Gorgeous.


September 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBaking is my Zen

Store it in the fridge! Hidden somewhere in the recipe, I think near the end, it says that it keeps for 3 days in the fridge, or 3 weeks in the freezer. I stuck mine in the freezer, intending to get it out on the weekend, but forgot about it and took it to work on the Monday instead.

Yours looks really pretty, and your sponge is so nice and tall and even!

September 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenteranitsirK

Anitsirk: I thought those were the instructions for the Glaze! See, this recipe I swear - CONFUSING.. I want a piece of time with Rose's publisher - if they ever reprint this book, they need to really work on wording this recipe better.

September 21, 2010 | Registered CommenterMonica

In the instruction where it said to refrigerate the cake for 8 hours, up to 3 days.

Sorry for all the trouble you had with the cake - having a cold sure doesn't help. I love the rant though :).
Oh I also use silpat for once this time, and it totally worked better than parchment!

September 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJenn

Thanks for welcoming me to the group! I wasn't sure I made the right decision when I saw the first cake we had to make, but I'm very proud that I made it through. Way to motor on thru with your cake! It is beautiful!

September 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah the Bear

Monica, it turned out perfect!!! And good rant! You said everything I thought. I kept asking myself, over and over, is this right? Could this be right? What does this mean? I felt like throwing the whole thing against the wall a few times, got in a very bad mood and was generally not very nice to be around while making this thing.
It was like a crazy marathon and I knew better than to stop because it would be all over for me! I could barely write a word about the whole process because I was seriously brain dead and took IBprofin plus aspirin plus had to put my swollen ankles up! Pathetic! And then last night my son had the last saved bit and he rapturously exclaimed "OMG! OMG! I want this for my birthday!!! This is amazing!!! It's so European!" Well, I told him to forget it, I was never making it again. "That's okay, give the recipe to B (his wife). She'll make it." To which I said, No no I won't. I wouldn't do that to her.

How can this evil Diva be made easier? Dang if for being so good. I so totally wanted to hate it.

September 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVicki

I loved your post and your cake! I definitely felt like ranting as well after that cake. We should all feel so proud just to make it through that.

September 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

oh monica, your cake looks lovely even if it did torture you all weekend. you are one dedicated baker to get up in the night and finish the cake! on cold medicine! your cake looks beautiful, and it sounds like it was delicious. keep your fingers crossed for me as i attempt to make this cake this week!

September 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterevilcakelady

It's beautiful better than the blog who picked the challenge (no offense) And congrats on being # 37!!!

September 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Wow that does not sounds like a cake I would want to attempt. It looks lovely though. Why don't you go on over to Rose's site and tell her about the problems you had?

September 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAvanika (Yumsilicious Bakes)

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