Sicilian Seven Veils Cake

Sicilian Seven Veils Cake


Here’s a delicious treat I’ve had bookmarked for YEARS – and boy am I kicking myself for not trying it sooner! For no other reason that the mirror glaze. I mean, come on – just look at it! In fact, I can’t as the shine from it is so DAZZLING – let me go get my shades.

Today I had the pleasure of sharing a coffee and a chat with the delightful Brendan Lynch – a delicious treat in itself – and decided I would shamelessly recruit him as taste tester.

The Seven Veils of the title refers to the seven different layers of this cake. From the top they are:

  • Chocolate mirror glaze
  • Chocolate Bavarian Cream
  • Chocolate Joconde Sponge
  • Praline Bavarian Cream
  • Chocolate Joconde Sponge
  • Vanilla Bavarian Cream
  • Chocolate Feuilletine crunch.

The cake layer is traditionally a Genoise, but I’ve chosen to switch it for a Joconde, as the ground almonds and teeny bit of butter make for a softer, more delicious texture to the sponge.

Feuilletine is flakes of wafer-thin biscuit that keeps its crunch when mixed with various patisserie items. It is available from online from Melbury and Appleton at a very reasonable £2.55 for 200g. Alternatively, I have found a recipe if you fancy trying to make it yourself (NB I haven’t tried the recipe). If you’re game, you can find it over at BraveTart here. The third alternative, which is what I did, is to crush up some Crepes Dentelles biscuits you have lying around – but then I happened to have grabbed some in France when we were on holiday in the summer. Still, those too are available at Melbury and Appleton for a slightly less reasonable £3.20 for 80g. If all else fails, crushed cornflakes make a great substitute for next to nothing.

Seven layers might sound daunting, but is really more an exercise in assembly than technical skill. The various components can be made over the course of several days and then brought together to assemble the day before the cake is required. In a cunning move worthy of a Professor of Cunning at Cunning University, the cake is assembled upside down and then frozen, to give a firm, smooth base for the glaze to dribble over. It can then just sit in the fridge until required. Actually, it is best served at room temperature, so take it out of the fridge about 2 hours before you intend to serve it.

I made this cake in a 20cm square, loose-bottomed tin, but you can make it in a circle, spring-form tin or even as a slab/tray-bake style. Having a tin does help to keep the edges of each layer neat and it also helps protect the cake whilst it’s in the freezer. Then again you can always trim the cake edges before pouring the glaze, if you prefer.

Seven Veils Cake

Chocolate crunch base
100g dark (70%) chocolate
50g feuilletine or crushed corn flakes
50g toasted, chopped hazelnuts

  • Line the tin you’re going to use to build the cake with cling film.
  • Blitz the hazelnuts in the food processor until they become a paste. (You’ll need more of this paste for the Praline Bavarian Cream, so maybe blitz all the hazelnuts together at once).
  • Break the chocolate into pieces and melt.
  • Stir in the hazelnut paste and the feuilletine.
  • Press the mixture into the tin and smooth over. NB This layer should be no more than 5mm thick, otherwise it will be too chunky-monkey to cut easily.
  • Fold over the clingfilm to cover.
  • Put into the fridge to set

Chocolate Joconde sponge

I bake this in a single, half-sheet pan (30cm x 45cm) and the cut the sponge to size. You can use 2 or 3 round cake tins if you prefer, but make sure to bake for slightly less time.

90g egg whites, at room temperature
15g granulated sugar
112g ground almonds
112g icing sugar, sifted
3 large eggs
20g plain flour
20g cocoa powder
45g clarified butter, melted

  • Preheat the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan
  • Line a 45cm x 30cm (half sheet) baking tray with baking parchment and brush with the melted butter.
  • Make the Joconde sponge:
    • Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
    • Add the granulated sugar and continue whisking until stiff peaks are formed.
    • Scrape the meringue mixture into a bowl and cover with cling film to prevent the meringue collapsing.
    • Beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs in the bowl for 5 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy.
    • Turn the speed down to low and mix in the flour and cocoa powder.
    • Gently fold in the meringue mixture using a large spatula.
    • Put the melted butter in a small bowl and mix in a cupful of the sponge batter. Pour this back into the mixing bowl and gently fold into the rest of batter.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared baking tin, spreading it smooth and into the corners ensuring it is level. An offset spatula is useful for this.
  • Bake for 5-7 minutes, until the sponge is cooked and springy to the touch and has shrunk away from the edges of the pan.
  • Turn out by covering the sponge with a sheet of parchment then flip the baking tray over onto the work surface. Peel off the parchment and lay it lightly on top of the sponge. Leave to cool.

Bavarian Cream
Bavarian cream is basically a custard with added gelatine, with flavourings and cream folded through. If you want to break down the process because of lack of time, it can be made in two parts. The first part is the custard base, the second adding the flavourings and gelatine when ready to construct the cake. If you do this, then warm the custard slightly before trying to stir in the soaked gelatine.

250ml milk
2 large egg yolks
35g cornflour
85g sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 leaves (8g) gelatine

650ml double cream
100g dark (70%) chocolate
100g toasted, chopped hazelnuts – blitzed to powder/paste

  • Soak the gelatine in water to cover for 10 minutes.
  • Heat the sugar and the milk until almost boiling.
  • Whisk the cornflour, vanilla and egg yolks together, then gradually whisk in the sweetened milk.
  • Return the mixture to the heat and continue heating and stirring until thickened.
  • Remove custard from the heat.
  • Drain the gelatine and stir into the warm custard until fully dissolved.
  • Cover with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming.

Chocolate Bavarian Cream: To one third of the above custard, stir in 100g dark (70%) melted chocolate, then fold through 250ml whipped double cream.
Praline Bavarian Cream: To half of the remaining custard, stir in the hazelnut powder/paste and fold through 250ml whipped double cream.
Vanilla Bavarian Cream: Fold through 150ml whipped double cream.

Simple Syrup: Dissolve 75g of sugar in 150ml water.

To Assemble The Cake

  • Remove the feuilletine base from the tin and set aside.
  • Line the tin with cling film over the bottom and the sides.
  • Pipe the chocolate Bavarian cream into the base of the cake and smooth over.
  • Add a layer of Joconde sponge, cut to size.
  • Soak the sponge with the simple syrup. This will ensure each mouthful is moist and tender.
  • Pipe the Praline Bavarian Cream and smooth over.
  • Add a layer of Joconde sponge, cut to size.
  • Soak the sponge with the simple syrup.
  • Pipe the Vanilla Bavarian Cream and smooth over.
  • Unwrap the feuilletine layer and press it, upside-down, into the cream.
  • Cover the cake with cling film and put into the freezer for a minimum of 8 hours.
  • 12 hours before you wish to serve the cake, make and glaze it with the chocolate mirror glaze.

Chocolate Mirror Glaze
4 leaves (8g) gelatine
175ml water
150ml double cream
225g granulated sugar
75g cocoa powder

  • Cut the gelatine into small pieces and soak in water to cover.
  • Put the rest of the ingredients into a saucepan and heat gently, stirring, to dissolve the sugar.
  • Continue stirring and, once the sugar is dissolved, bring to the boil.
  • Simmer for 3-4 minutes, until the mixture reaches a temperature of 104°C
  • Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool for 5 minutes. Keep stirring as the base of the pan will still be very hot and might burn the mixture.
  • Leave to cool until the mixture reaches 50°C, then drain the gelatine and stir into the mixture until it is fully dissolved.
  • Let the mixture cool further until just 35°C and is beginning to thicken and set. Now it is time to glaze the cake.

Glazing the Cake

  • Remove the cake from the freezer and turn out.
  • Cover the removable base of the tin (if you have one) with a double layer of foil and place it under the base of the frozen cake. This foil layer will be useful when you need to transfer your cake to your presentation plate.
  • Put the cake onto a wire rack, and balance the rack on the rim of a large bowl. The bowl must be big enough to catch the excess glaze as it drips off the sides of the cake.
  • Pour the glaze onto the middle of the cake. It will run easily over the frozen cream and start dripping off the sides.
  • Move the pan around so that the sides are fully covered.
  • There is more than enough glaze to cover the cake. The excess in the bowl underneath can be stored in the fridge for other uses.
  • Once the glaze has stopped dripping, move the cake to the refrigerator and leave overnight.
  • Remove the cake 2 hours before required to allow it to come to room temperature and the creams to soften.
  • Enjoy!

21 Comments on “Sicilian Seven Veils Cake”

  1. carrietxxxxx says:

    Wow! that is a thing of beauty & a joy forever ..well,at least for the 2 secs its going to take me to eat it !The length of the method of making it is making me rather nervous (you must have serious RSI from all that typing! ) but I just know it’s going to be worth it !
    Regards, Caroline

    • MAB says:

      Thanks Caroline – you can spread out the making of the cake over 3 or 4 days rather than have one made mega-bake. Much less stressful! 😀

  2. Hannah says:

    looks AMAZING I must try it pronto… do you know anything of the history of the cake or where the name comes from?

    • MAB says:

      Wotchers Hannah! This dessert was created by a team of 3 Italians back in 1997, Cristian Beduschi, Luigi Biasetto & Gianluca Mannori – and it contributed to their winning of the Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie – literally the Pastry World Cup – held in Lyons every year.

  3. Lu says:

    thats amazing!!

  4. vannillarock says:

    Oh my giddy aunt this looks and sounds amazing and I love that you can do it over a couple of day. Thanks so much for posting.

  5. Seonaid says:

    Wow this looks amazing! The length of the recipe is putting me off a bit, but maybe I’ll try it for a very special occasion!

  6. gillbla says:

    Gosh, that sounds epic- even spread over several days. Is the effort:smug ratio worth it? You seem to say it is but it just sounds a bit scary! I’m very impressed.

  7. craftiliciousyorkshire says:

    Yum! That’s definately going on my to bake list!

  8. Jason Hart says:

    Hi Mary Anne. This is Jason – Brendan’s partner. I just got home from working away all week to find a large slice of your seven veils cake awaiting me. Not sure how B managed not to eat it himself since it is really delicious. Thanks so much. By the way, it kept very well in the fridge.
    All the best

    • MAB says:

      Jason! Thank you for the feedback. I’m really glad you enjoyed the cake. Was great to meet Brendan – hopefully we can all met up soon! M-A 😀

  9. misspiggy says:

    I am keeping this page until I have reached a point in my life where I have the coordination, patience and sang froid to make this recipe!

  10. Cheng says:

    Hi Mary Anne, I want to make this cake but just a quick question, for the bavarian cream you mentioned soaking the gelatine in water, how much water do I use? It’s not mentioned in the ingredients.


  11. JennaJ says:

    I’ve been trying to figure out the perfect over the top dessert to make for this upcoming family Thanksgiving (basically as busywork and distraction, family events are always… fraught. I’m hijacking the kitchen at my parents, shooing everyone out, and doing all the cooking which will allow me to avoid 90% of the possible fighting, I hope) and this gorgeous bit of dessert decadence… rings the bells. Making a few changes (I’m a celiac and both myself and my nephews have nut allergies so the praline will be swapped and I’ll use a killer GF Genoise I have already in place of the jaconde) to make it more holiday centered – the vanilla mousse will be salted caramel, the praline will be a lightly spiced pumpkin. I also think I’ll make a cranberry coulis to cut through the sweetness of the whole shebang. I’m making the feuilletine this weekend to get started on things (thanks for the BraveTart link) and I’m actually now almost looking forward to the upcoming family Thanksgiving.

    Well. Looking forward to the food, anyway. And my mom, sil, and husband are all dark chocolate nutters so I can at least be sure THEY are happy with dessert. Thanks so much for the holiday extravaganza save!

  12. […] which doesn’t lose it’s shine on refrigerating. Appropriately enough, this came from Mary-Anne Boermans (whom my contact from Love Productions called Jonny told me, is the most lovely person – […]

  13. […] think my second attempt at these mini cakes came out better. I used my go-to chocolate cake as the sponge base. I made half the portion of the […]

  14. […] more than I was hoping they would. So I decided to try to top it with some Bavarian cream from this […]

  15. […] find an opera cake recipe, and in the process, I found one called Sicilian Seven Veils Cake (recipe here), which has 7 layers instead of 6.  More is always better, […]

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