Well it's been hot and sticky here in Brooklyn and by the time I finished my latest Daring Bakers challenge I was hot, sticky and covered in chocolate ganache. But I was also happy because our challenge this month, hosted by Chris of Mele Cotte, was to make a hazelnut gateau from the book Great Cakes by Carol Walter.
What a great boozey cake! Layers of hazelnut genoise coated with rum sugar syrup and then filled with the most fabulous praline buttercream (containing both rum and Grand Marnier!). Sounds decadent already, right? But there's more! The assembled layers are sealed with an apricot glaze and then coated with shiny dark chocolate ganache, which contains more Grand Marnier!
I admit the extremely hot weather caused me to keep putting off getting this baby made... but I finally decided to jump in. I followed the recipe exactly, with three small changes: I used two 7 inch pans (whole genoise recipe) and then split each layer in two, resulting in a four layer cake; I did not use any whipped cream between the layers, as I felt the buttercream (and syrup and preserves and ganache!) were enough; and I used a different recipe for Swiss Buttercream (Carol Walters recipe was too fussy for me).
I like to taste a cake as it is intended before I make variations and I'm really glad I did with this one, as I loved the orange and rum flavors with the hazelnut. That praline butter cream is effing fabulous!
I broke the process up into two days worth of steps: making the genoise, syrup and buttercream, and then assembling the layers up to the point of sealing them with the apricot preserves on the first day and then wrapping the assembled cake in plastic and popping it in the refrigerator to chill. The next day I made the ganache, coated the cake and then piped out some frou frous with more buttercream.
I had a vision for my finish, that involved very detailed and ornate piped scrolls and leaves, but unfortunately it didn't work out. I could see the effect I wanted in my head, and I was able to draw it on paper, but the force was not with me. In fact, I'd say the force was entirely against me, as the kitchen was very warm, the buttercream was very soft and getting softer with every second, and my hand was not steady. The saddest part is that once I made the first scroll I was committed. There was no scraping the buttercream off the ganache and starting over with simple piped shells (I am the champion of shells!). Poor Jack had to listen to me swear and mutter for an hour.
Still, when we ate the first piece we were impressed. The complex layering of the flavors together really worked! Great challenge, Chris! You can click the link to see the recipe.