Have you felt a strange sense of deja vu as you have been surfing around the food blogs today, finding that everything looks the same but different at the same time? If so, your instinct would be right - today is Daring Bakers reveal day! This month's challenge is hosted by Chris of Mele Cotte, who has selected a wonderful Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream, a recipe by Carole Walter. Chris loved the beauty of this cake, and kindly decided to share it with all of us.
Once again, I was initially overwhelmed by the length and intricacy of the recipe, but it was definitely no more difficult than the Opera Cake from May this year. Once again, I learned quite a bit as I completed the challenge, despite the fact that I would call myself an experienced home baker. I learned (a) that a hazelnut is also called a filbert; (b) if your buttercream looks like watery scrambled eggs, don't give up - just keep beating it! (unlike the advice from an unrelated Internet food forum, where a contributor helpfully told the world at large that if your buttercream separates, it is irretrievable); (c) how to make praline and praline paste; and (e) how to make your own nut flour. This is a great "grab bag" of learnings to take with me to the next challenges and my own baking.
The filbert gateau was not really as complex as it first looked - it was just a matter of patience and time. I spread the cake making over two days, toasting and skinning the nuts and making the cake on day one, then completing all the other steps (making praline and praline paste, Swiss butter cream, whipping cream, sugar syrup, apricot glaze and chocolate ganache) on day two.
I pretty much stuck to the flavour combinations in the original recipe - I used hazelnuts, my buttercream and sugar syrup were flavoured with rum and I used an apricot glaze.
My cake rose nicely, almost to the top of the tin. However, unfortunately, it took much longer than the 35 minutes quoted in the recipe to bake - in all, mine took 55 minutes to bake completely. At 45 minutes, I assumed, wrongly that it would be done, and pulled it out of the oven - at which point the lovely domed middle of the cake sunk!!! It recovered somewhat when I put it back in the oven to continue baking, but it remained slightly sunken in the middle. This made cutting the cake into three even layers quite a challenge.
The praline was a joy to make - it was all I could do not to just eat it. It reminded me of World's Finest Chocolates fund-raising peanut brittle from primary school:
The praline was then processed into a paste in the food processor:
This paste was then used to flavour a Swiss buttercream. The buttercream gave me the greatest headache in this challenge, because it seemed determined to stay watery and curdly. However, after panicking a bit (there's a lot of eggs in this buttercream that I didn't want to waste!), and reading the unhelpful hint on the Net that it was irretrievable, I then turned to the trusty Daring Bakers forum and the posts from the Yule Log challenge in December, where I remembered that a lot of people had trouble with the buttecream separating. There I found comfort - the simple advice was just to keep beating the buttecream! And beat it I did, until magically, it came together:
I took the cake to work for Brad's birthday, hence my photograph of the cut cake is not great, but you get the idea:
I liked the taste of the rum and the praline in the cake (from the syrup). I also loved the ganache on this cake, which had a gorgeous shiny mirror finish. However, I found that my buttercream was too thick to pipe easily (hence my pretty average decorations), and I did not enjoy the overall taste as much as the similar Opera Cake. That said, it was a lovely cake, both visually and to eat, and was appreciated by the troops.