Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Life Gets the Upper Hand
Every had one of those weeks? Where you intend to sit and write at your computer every week day but things like school and a new art teaching job and volunteering and dishes and laundry and making cakes get in the way? I had one of those weeks. But on the plus side, I taught a great art lesson on drawing the human eye, got all my housework caught up, and made a cool cake. There's always a plus.
A good friend of mine had a milestone birthday and I wanted to make him a cake for the occasion. Since I wasn't taking requests or fitting the cake to someone else's vision, I was able to make whatever I wanted. This meant a Cake with a capital "C" that takes several pages of directions and a full day of my time. I visited Epicurious, which is the website for Gourmet and Bon Appetit magazines. They have some great recipes and this one really caught my eye. It called for mascarpone cheese, which is something that I've never tried before and thought it sounded great. They called for a chocolate bark topping, but I didn't include that. It was an expensive cake to make, but totally worth it. I trimmed it with almonds and dots of ganache as well as a little sketch of a Cessna 120 surrounded by clouds of mascarpone frosting. The cake was good, the party fun, and the kids' kazoo rendition of "Happy Birthday" was perfect. Now I just have to live with a couple of extra pounds and noisy kazoos in my house!
Almond Praline Cake with Mascarpone Frosting
Bon Appétit - March 2007
This big-deal cake can be made a day ahead.
Yield: Makes 12 servings
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 7-ounce packages almond paste,* crumbled into 1-inch pieces
7 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 teaspoons almond extract
1 cup sugar
2 cups whole almonds, toasted
1 1/2 8-ounce containers mascarpone cheese**
1 1/2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
*Available in the baking section of most supermarkets and at specialty foods stores.
**Italian cream cheese; available at many supermarkets and Italian markets.
For ganache filling:
Simmer cream and sugar in medium saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add chocolate; whisk until smooth. Chill until just spreadable, about 6 hours.
For almond cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter three 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Line bottoms with parchment paper; dust pans with flour. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in bowl. Using heavy-duty mixer, blend brown sugar and butter in large bowl. Beat in almond paste 1 piece at a time, then beat until smooth. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in extracts. Fold in dry ingredients. Divide batter among pans; smooth tops. Bake cakes until tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on rack.
For almond praline:
Line baking sheet with foil. Stir sugar and 1/4 cup water in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring until deep amber, swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush occasionally. Mix in nuts. Pour onto foil; cool. Peel foil off praline. Chop praline coarsely. DO AHEAD Praline can be made 1 day ahead; store airtight at room temperature.
For mascarpone frosting:
Beat all ingredients in large bowl just to soft peaks (do not overbeat or mixture will curdle).
Run knife around pan sides to loosen cakes. Turn cakes out; peel off paper. Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread half of ganache over; sprinkle with 1/4 cup praline. Top with second cake layer. Spread remaining ganache over; sprinkle with 1/4 cup praline. Top with third cake layer. Spread frosting over top and sides of cake. DO AHEAD Cake can be made 1 day ahead; cover with cake dome and chill. Store remaining praline airtight at room temperature.