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!