Sicilian Seven Veils Cake

Sicilian Seven Veils Cake

Wotchers!

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!

The Midnight Meringue

Midnight Meringue Pie

Wotchers!

Cor! It’s been a while since I made a post – apologies for that, but it’s been a bit hectic since the final of The Great British Bake Off aired.

Now I know this is still a Bake Off recipe, but I wanted to make it a blog post just to fill in some background on how I put the recipe together. I did actually go through the reasoning behind the recipe on camera, but obviously it never made it into the edit. To me, at least, it therefore seemed like I’d just given a pie a bit of a poncy name for no real reason. So for those interested, here is the background and how I put this dessert together. Feel free to skip down to the recipe.

Still here? Awesome! Ok, so the recipe request for the Week 5 Showstopper Challenger was for: A Unique Meringue Pie. The guidelines were very specific in two respects:

  1. It had to be something much more than a regular Lemon Meringue Pie, and
  2. It had to be big. Huge, even. At least 30cm diameter across the base.

Obviously the size was going to test our skill in baking such a large pie, and the filling stipulation was going to test our creativity. So all this got me pondering how I could do something that was original, unique and achievable within the time limit of 3 hours.

Now when I think of a meringue pie, I naturally think of lemon meringue pie – and it just reminds me of a bright, sunny day: the circle of yellow like the sun, the mounds of fluffy white meringue clouds. So I thought it would be fun to make something that was a contrast – involving dark and light, very Ying/Yang. Then I thought about it a bit more and decided it wasn’t going to work – Ying Yang Meringue? Please.

So I crossed over to the Dark Side (Luke I am your father) and The Midnight Meringue was born!

Dark chocolate pastry, rich mocha filling and a dark meringue made with…..well, it went through several revisions, including (as some of you might remember) right down to the wire on the day itself! Treacle meringue, molasses meringue, coffee meringue – but on the day, brown sugar meringue won out.

I also decided to ‘assemble’ rather than bake the meringue, reasoning that less could go wrong that way – I could concentrate on each component individually and not have to worry about something over-cooking. The final dish consisted of a cooked Italian meringue made with brown sugar, a thick and rich custard filling flavoured with coffee and dark chocolate and a blind baked chocolate pastry case.

The meringue was piped in a huge swirl and finished off with a few blasts of the blowtorch to toast the edges.

The meringue was a little softer than the standard meringue topping because of the brown sugar, but I still think it was the right choice and really made the pie stand out.

This recipe is for a single large pie, but you could just as easily bake mini pastry shells and create individually-sized pies for a special occasion – and would probably be less stressful than worrying about one big pie. The fact that at least 2 of the components can be made in advance just makes it that much easier.

The Midnight Meringue

Chocolate Pastry
300g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
175g caster sugar
175g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 tbsp milk

  • Preheat the oven to 200C/180 Fan.
  • Grease a deep, loose-bottomed, 30cm tart tin.
  • In a food processor, mix flour, cocoa and sugar.
  • Add butter, cut in small cubes. Blitz.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of milk and blend again until mixture resembles coarse, damp sand.
  • Press the mixture into the base and sides of your pie tin. Alternatively, press mixture together and roll out using a rolling pin. It’s quite crumbly, so this is rather tricky and best done between sheets of cling film. Depends how critical your guests are going to be 😉
  • Line with baking parchment, fill with rice/beans/baking bead and bake blind, 200°C 180°C Fan, for 10-15 minutes.
  • Remove beans, cover edge of rim with foil to prevent burning and return to the oven until fully baked (10-15 minutes).
  • Allow the pastry to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then ease out of the tin and cool on a wire rack

The mocha filling
250g dark (70%) chocolate, chopped
6 large egg yolks
225g caster sugar
65g cornflour
1 litre milk
2 tbsp espresso coffee powder

  • Melt chocolate in microwave, stirring every 30 seconds to prevent burning.
  • In a bowl, whisk together yolks, sugar and cornflour.
  • Add the coffee powder to the milk and heat, stirring until the coffee has dissolved.
  • Whisk hot milk mixture into the egg/sugar mixture.
  • Return the custard to the pan and continue to heat, stirring, until it has thickened.
  • Stir in the melted chocolate until fully incorporated.
  • Check flavour. Depending on the strength of your chocolate, you may need to add more coffee powder.
  • Cover with cling film to stop a skin from forming and chill until required.

The brown sugar Italian meringue [1]
150g egg whites (5 large)
pinch of salt
few drops of lemon juice
45g granulated sugar
15g powdered egg white
150ml water
300g dark muscovado sugar

  • Put whites, salt and lemon juice in a mixer bowl.
  • Whip whites slowly until frothy, then fast until stiff peaks.
  • Gradually add granulated sugar and egg white powder (mixed together). Allow each spoonful to dissolve before adding the next.
  • Whip to stiff, glossy peaks.
  • Heat sugar and water to 115°C
  • Remove from the heat and allow the bubbles to subside.
  • With the beaters running, pour the sugar syrup into the whipped whites in a thin stream, then continue whisking until bowl is cool to the touch and the meringue is stiff. This will take between 10 and 15 minutes.

To assemble

  • Place the chocolate pastry case on the serving dish.
  • Whisk chilled custard filling and pour into the pastry case.
  • Spoon (or pipe) over the brown sugar meringue. Make sure there are no gaps between the meringue and the pastry shell, and that the filling is completely covered.
  • Use a blowtorch to lightly toast the meringue. Serve.

[1] This quantity makes enough meringue to cover a single large meringue pie. If you want an awe-inducing mountain of meringue like the picture (although I feel obliged to point out that the picture is actually of a mini, 8cm pie), you might want to make double the quantity. If so, then I would suggest making two batches, because a single batch fills a standard mixing bowl.


Chocolate and Orange Mousse Cake

Chocolate & Orange Mousse Cake

Wotchers!

Semi-final week on The Great British Bake Off, and the Signature Bake for Round 1 is a layered sponge and mousse cake.

My original recipe is listed on the BBC Food website, which was the version from the show and which was completed within 2 hours.

This version varies slightly in that, without the time-pressures of competition, I have suggested a gelatine-set orange gelee for the top. This can look especially impressive as it means that the gelee stands proud of the surface of the cake, as if by magic.

The instructions below are for a single, large mousse cake. The same quantity will also make 12 mini versions like the one pictured above, which stands about 6cm high. Instead of teeny tiny springform pans (I’m not even sure they make them that small), I used the ‘improvised baking rings’ (made from tinned peas tins) mentioned earlier in the Muffins post.

Joconde décor paste
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g icing sugar
100g egg whites
110g plain flour
orange food colouring
2tbs melted butter

Joconde sponge
180g egg whites, at room temperature
25g granulated sugar
225g ground almonds
225g icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
40g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
85g clarified butter, melted

Chocolate and orange mousse
1 orange, zest and juice
1 tsp powdered gelatine
175g plain (60%+) chocolate, broken into pieces
2 large eggs, separated
300ml double cream, whisked to soft peaks

Orange gelée
300ml orange juice
3 sheets gelatine

To decorate
300ml double cream, whisked to soft peaks
3 oranges
cocoa powder

  • Preheat the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan
  • Line two 45cm x 30cm (half sheet) baking trays with baking parchment and brush with the melted butter.
  • Line the base and sides of a 25cm springform cake tin with baking parchment.
  • Make the joconde paste:
    • Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then gradually add the egg whites, beating continuously.
    • Fold in the sifted flour then add the food colouring.
    • Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 5mm plain nozzle.
    • Pipe the mixture onto the buttered parchment in a swirl pattern and place in the freezer to harden.
  • 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.
  • Remove the baking trays with the decor paste from the freezer.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the two baking trays, spreading it smoothly over the decorations and into the corners ensuring it is level. An offset spatula is useful for this.
  • Bake for 5-7 minutes, until the sponges are cooked and springy to the touch and have 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 paper to reveal the pattern, and lay it lightly on top of the sponge. Leave to cool.
  • When cooled, cut strips of sponge to line the sides of the cake tin, ensuring the pattern is facing outwards against the sides of the tin. Cut a circle of sponge to line the base and lay it patterned-side down, in the bottom of the tin. Cut a second circle to make the top of the cake and set aside.
  • Make the mousse:
    • Pour the juice from the orange through a fine sieve into a small bowl and sprinkle over the gelatine. Set the mixture aside for three minutes then place the bowl over a small pan of simmering water, taking care the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water, and stir gently until the gelatine has dissolved.
    • Place the chocolate in a large bowl and melt it in the microwave, stirring every 45 seconds.
    • Mix the orange zest and egg yolks into the melted chocolate, then stir in the gelatine mixture and fold in the whipped cream.
    • Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks then gently fold into the chocolate mixture. Pour the mousse into the tin, level the surface and place the remaining sponge circle on top, pattern uppermost and chill in the fridge for at least two hours.
  • Make the orange gelée:
    • Cut the gelatine sheets into small pieces and put into a bowl. Add 60ml of orange juice from the 300ml and leave for 10 minutes while the gelatine swells.
    • Heat very gently in a saucepan until the gelatine has dissolved, then stir in the rest of the orange juice.
    • Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Don’t skip the cooling. If you try and pour the orange gelee over the cake before it has cooled and thickened slightly, it will just soak into the sponge.
    • When the orange mix has cooled and is beginning to thicken, remove the tin from the fridge and slide a strip of food-grade acetate (or silicon sheeting) between the side of the springform tin and the sponge.
    • Carefully pour the orange mixture over the top of the cake and return to the fridge to set (2 hours)
  • To decorate:
    • Release the sides of the springform tin and peel off the acetate/silicon. Transfer to a serving plate .
    • Whip the double cream to stiff peaks (be careful not to over-beat) and pipe swirls around the edge of the mousse cake.
    • Cut thin strips of peel from the oranges and curl them around a straw.
    • Decorate mousse cake with orange zest curls and dust with cocoa powder.

Cost: £9.50 (September 2011)