Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Celebrating marriage and cake!

My in-laws have great timing. Their birthdays fell during the May Daring Bakers challenge and I was able to present them with a stunning opera cake (if I do say so myself!) in celebration of their special days. This month was their 44th wedding anniversary and Daring Bakers didn't disappoint. Chris of Mele Cotte picked a truly decadent and impressive Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream which was a lovely dessert to mark another milestone in their long and wonderful marriage. As much as my husband is supportive of my baking hobby, I think my father-in-law is my most ardent cheerleader as he has an incredible sweet tooth (though he will deny it!) and loves to be the recipient of my many baking creations.

With their anniversary on a patriotic July 4th (although us being Canadians, our holiday was on July 1st), I didn't have much time to preassemble some of the cake components, only having learned of the challenge on July 1st. Added to this, I had already committed to making a cake for a friend's father for the same day. Luckily, I was able to double the buttercream recipe and use it for both cakes, saving a good amount of time in the process. I also had filberts (aka hazelnuts) already in the freezer and lots of eggs and butter in the fridge.

I started out with the genoise and decided to make a 6" diameter cake. I had my usual problem of not being able to grind my nuts in the food processor as fine as I would like. I wanted the consistency of a nut flour (powdery, dry) but instead got more of a grainy texture. I think it's from chopping the nuts rather than grinding (mashing) them but unfortunately none of the other Daring Bakers were able to provide suggestions for a finer texture other than simply pulsing the nuts more. If I can't find a method that I like, I think I will start buying the more expensive nut flour so that I get a finer texture to the genoise.

The buttercream was a delight as usual. The French and Italian meringue methods are so much better than the American method of icing sugar in shortening (what is typically used for Wilton cakes and are too sweet!) The top was a wonderful glassy mirror but the sides showed every lump in the layers. Next time, I would do a second bath in the ganache to smooth out the layers. Luckily I had some gumpaste roses saved from a previous cake job which saved time with the decorating.

Here's a picture of my friend's cake. Since it had to be transported by car an hour away along bumpy roads to a cottage without the luxury of a passenger to make sure it didn't move, I decided to simplify my original plans and use cookies along the side in hopes that it would survive the journey intact. The cake was made using Dorie's Black and White Cake recipe, the praline buttercream, and store bought cookies (I just didn't have the time to make them myself). Apparently it survived the journey very well and was a hit at the party. As usual my neighbour Jason stepped in to take great pictures while his wife Shelly and I relaxed on the back deck enjoying a refreshing glass of white wine. Summertime and the living is easy!!