Sep 28, 2009

White Gold Passion Genoise

I hardly know what to say about this cake. It's a special-occasion cake, not one that you whip up at 5:00 when guests are arriving at 6:00. And it requires passion fruit, which doesn't just fall off the tree in my part of the world, or frozen passion fruit puree, which is also not readily available in Minnesota. Still, if you're looking for a cake that will impress, stun, and amaze your friends, this may be it. Be warned that you do need to set aside two days for this project--the first day to bake the cake, and the second day to make the passion fruit curd, the passion fruit syrup, the white chocolate custard, and the white chocolate buttercream. Then you have to assemble it. When I described the process to our neighbors, Fred said, "Marie--you need to go to a bank, take out a loan, and buy yourself a life." In fairness (to me), Fred loved the cake. Also, he spent Saturday afternoon at the new football stadium, watching the Minnesota Golden Gophers lose to California, so I'm not sure who really needs a life.
On Day 1, you just make the genoise. As you may remember, I've been making genoises left and right since this project started, and if you've already got clarified butter in the freezer, you can practically make this with your eyes closed. I kept my eyes wide open, but that's only because I don't trust myself.

Day 2 brings the more complicated procedures. First, you have to figure out the source of your passion fruit. As I said, it's not native to Minnesota. Not by a long shot. You can buy wonderful frozen fruit concentrate at Perfect Puree. It's not cheap, and the shipping is even less cheap. (Because it's frozen, it can't dawdle from West Coast to mid-America). You can also order the same product from for the same price. It is concentrated, so you get a lot, and there are interesting-sounding recipes on the website, but I can't get around the fact that the price may be off-putting.

The passion fruit curd is a typical curd recipe, made with egg yolks, sugar, butter and the puree, and not difficult at all, despite the recipe's continued warnings about the possibility of curdling.

The passion fruit syrup is even easier. The recipe recommends a vanilla bean, but, to my surprise, I realized that I'd finally gone through what I thought was a life-time supply of vanilla beans, courtesy of Melinda Pickworth, who came into a mammoth supply of vanilla beans herself and then generously shared the bounty. You get to let the syrup come to a rolling boil with nary a worry about curdling.

I did have trouble with the white chocolate custard base. The directions say to "melt the white chocolate and the butter, stirring often until smooth and creamy." I can tell you that you should stop immediately when it gets to the "smooth and creamy" point, and not continue to see if it will get smoother and creamier. It will not. It will curdle, separate, and turn into an ungodly mess that simply has to be dumped out. There is no picture of the ungodly mess because Jim backed away from the kitchen as I was swearing like a pirate. I asked him why he hadn't taken a picture of the ungodly mess so I could illustrate what not to do, but he claimed to fear for his life if he stayed in the same room. Really. Who would believe such nonsense.
It worked just fine the second time.

The white chocolate custard has to cool for a while before it can be incorporated, which gave me time to do some speed shopping with my friend Karen, who led me into temptation and convinced me that I couldn't do without a number of new purchases.
I got home, unpacked my bags and momentarily castigated myself for my spendthrift ways, and then went back down to the kitchen to complete the white chocolate deluxe buttercream, made with the custard base, cream cheese, butter, and a dollop of creme fraiche. There is no sugar at all in the frosting--it relies solely on the white chocolate for its subtle sweetness.
Putting it all together is what gave me the heebie-jeebies. Not only did I have to cut the cake in half, which is frightening, but also I had to figure out a way to plop it on a plate after I'd brushed syrup on the already fragile and thin layers of cake. Let's just say I didn't perform this in an artistic way, but the job got done.

The passion fruit curd goes between the layers as a filling.

And the buttercream on the sides and top. Some day I should take a cake decorating course. When I frost cakes, their shoulders always slope.

I would like them to stand up straight. But I was running against the clock, as I had invited neighbors over for dessert, and dessert-time was drawing near. The cake, sloped shoulders and all, had to go in the refrigerator for an hour to set. Then, just as the neighbors were about to walk in, I swirled on a few dabs of leftover curd. You could tell just by looking at it that this is no ordinary cake.

The neighbors went off on a passion-fruit tangent: what do they look like? how do you make the puree? where do they grow? do they have seeds? why are they called passion fruit? [Answers, which I looked up after I realized I knew nothing about passion fruits: round, yellowish to purple, about 3 inches wide, with a tough rind; cut the fruit in half, scoop out the pulp, and strain out the seeds; native from Brazil to Paraguay, and also grows in Hawaii and California; yes--about 250 small, hard seeds per fruit; it got its name from Catholic priests who noticed a resemblance between the passion flower and a crown of thorns, the ten apostles, and the nails on the cross; it is "passion" in the religious sense, not in the popular sense.]
But never mind these fun facts about the passion fruit. We're here to talk cake.

The genoise is nice and delicate, but the showstoppers here are the passion fruit curd, which is tangy enough to make you sit up and take notice and the white chocolate buttercream, which beautifully balances the fresh, tangy passion fruit curd. I like the dreamy, creamy white chocolate buttercream that's been used on several cakes so far, but this version is so delicious that you will want to lick off the whisk, lick out the bowl, and surreptitiously lick off any spots you see clinging to the plate. Of course, it's more complicated to make than the dreamy, creamy version, but it's dreamier and creamier. If anyone ever says to me, "Marie, just tell me what kind of birthday cake you want, and I'll make it for you," I think I might just point to page 173, and say, "I want this one."


Karen: "It was an excellent taste. All the various components work together very well. One of my favorites so far."
Betty: "It's deliciously tart. It may be the best one yet."
Jan : "Outstanding."
Fred: "It has an exciting taste. Sparkling, and robust."
Laurel: "The cake is a good vehicle for the passion fruit."
Jim: "I loved it--I think it's the best one so far, and I've liked all of them."


Anonymous said...

Wow, this must be a great one to win the "birthday cake" challenge. It looks delish. I've never tried (or even seen?) passion fruit, but this certainly looks like a great way to try a new fruit!

Do you think it would be more "Minnesota friendly" if the passion fruit-cake were baked in a Bundt pan? ;)

Oh, and by your panel comments, I don't think anyone noticed the poor posture of your cake!

Chris in RI

Marie said...

I don't think I've ever seen a passion fruit either, but people tell me they're on the top shelf in the produce section, along with the papayas and guavas. Unless you have a really reliable source for the passion fruit (sounds like they're not a staple in R.I. either), the frozen puree is definitely the way to go.

Anonymous said...

You can usually find the frozen puree in Hispanic markets. I've also used the Ceres juice you can find at whole foods, and it works well too.

hector said...

my intention isn't to rub this in, but passion fruit is one of those that are considered trash or weed where they grow, but GOLD when on a dessert. it is worth its price in gold to make a curd or a mousseline with Rose and passion fruit. it really is awesome.

restaurant supply stores usually carry the well known Boiron brand of frozen fruit purees. It isn't my favorite brand, but when it comes to passion fruit, any frozen brand would do.

Marie said...

Anon. and Hector,
I had no idea there were so many sources for frozen passion fruit puree. I've never seen it before (although I guess I've never looked either).
Maybe if I had passion fruit growing wild in my back yard, I'd consider it a weed too. Not much chance I'll ever find out.

Annie said...

Passionfruit vines grow very well in Australia. I had some recently and simply cut them in half and scooped out the flesh and seeds with a teaspoon straight into my mouth! The seeds are edible, if very crunchy. The taste is delicious!
BTW, this cake looks wonderful. Wish I was on the tasting panel :-)

doughadear said...

On a recent trip to Chinatown I was in awe of all the exotic fruit at the many markets that line the streets some of which I had heard of and some of which I had never seen or heard of before. I wonder if passion fruit was among these. Next time I will look for it.

Your cake looks lovely and I am glad that after all that work it turned out to be a favourite.

Marie said...

Do they grow like weeds in Australia too? (By the way, so sorry to hear about the dust storms you're having--it sounds like they pretty much closed the Sidney airport).

I'm going to be keeping my eye out for fresh passion fruit too. At least now I know what to do with them.

Yet Another Anna said...

Your timing on this one is PERFECT! I stumbled across some frozen (Goya) passion fruit at the store and snapped it up. I thought I'd make the curd first, just to see if the stuff I found works with this recipe, LOL! (gotta get going on the creme fraiche, though, hmmm ... )

Melinda said...

Beaut! I don't want to rub salt into your Minnesota wounds but I can easily get passionfruit in my English grocery problem. (Can't get a really good dill pickle, though!)
I got my Heavenly Cakes book 2 days ago. Am loving looking at all the recipes and the beautiful pictures!
I feel much better now that I have my copy!

Marie said...

I can't believe it--passion fruit is as common as dirt! Don't worry about the creme fraiche; sour cream is an alternative, and you only need 1/2 tablespoon, so it doesn't matter which one you have. I love creme fraiche, so I take any excuse to get it.

What did I say? Common as dirt. Except in Minnesota. Dill pickles, though--no problem getting those, including the Minnesota State Fair dill pickle. Good luck finding that in England.
I'm so glad that people have the book now! You should try this passion fruit baby--I know that yours would look perfect. No sloping shoulders for Melinda!

Yet Another Anna said...

I did it! My cake is in the fridge even now. Delicious! I did the curd, syrup and cake yesterday, the frosting today. No real trouble, but I did put the syrup only on one side of each cake layer, and I think the recipe says to put it on both sides of each layer. Still delicious! Dad asked me where I got the recipe, and said that 'whatever that cookbook cost, it was worth it.' High praise indeed. :)

Marie said...

That's so exciting! I love your dad's comment--it's the kind that should be on the cover of the book.

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

marie! when you finish going through all the cakes, if you don't decide to open a bake shop, you really should write a book. how i adore your writing style. i bet everyone (including and especially me) wishes they could be your neighbor. i bet jim would agree that you are the funnest (and that's NOT missing an i)!

Jim said...

You bet!

jini said...

wow marie. you really outdid yourself on this one. it looks beautiful and sounds delicious! i'm not sure about spending 2 days on a cake, but i am willing to think about it.
that's a low blow saying a football fan should get a life. i plan to wear red and cheer my little heart out tomorrow!!!

Marie said...

Nice to hear from you--I'm always a little afraid you're going to ask yourself what this woman has done to your beautiful cakes. (I know you're too nice to say it aloud). I really did love this cake. By the way, Jim calls me weird more often than he calls me fun.

Not you. Go Cornhuskers! (Did I get it right?)

evil cake lady said...

Marie, what I love is that you take a complicated sounding recipe and then break it down so that it sounds do-able. Sure, it takes time and effort (and maybe even a splurge for good passionfruit) but if you can do it, so can we all!

evil cake lady said...

ps--i like the new layout and blog title!!

jini said...

marie......very good. you got it exactly right! :)

Unknown said...

Mary, there are several species of Passion fruit. Did the one you bought say which one it was (maracuya, granadilla, estococa, other). If the scientific name is mentiones, i could ask a botanist to tell me which one it is. I´m sorry if I sound pedantic, the one most commonly found here in supermarkets, doesn't resemble the one in you photo; it isn't fleshy al all, just a lot of tasty seeds!
Regards, Silvia

Shirley said...

This cake caught my eye when I saw it in the book. Kudos for doing all those steps!

Marie said...

When I first looked through that five- or six-page recipe, I thought I could never do all that--but you're right, it's just doing it one step at a time. (Hey, that sounds like a good slogan!)

Thanks. How'd your team do?

It's very eye-catching, isn't it?

Wow. I have no idea, and the container doesn't say. I'd love to know what kind of passion fruit it was--all I know is that it was good.

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

OK guys: i recognize that pan and i have one so i measured (from the inside) and it's only 2 1/2 inches high whereas the recipe says (meaning me) if your pan is not 3" high extend it with a parchment collar.

yours truly,
sherlock rose

Roxanne said...

I live in Denver, CO, and I can find frozen passion fruit in just about every Hispanic and Asian market around. Also, passion fruit nector works just fine in a passion fruit curd.

Marie said...

Do you have a source for quail eggs too? They're supposed to be available in Asian markets. I haven't looked yet, but we're going to need those eventually.

Cakelaw said...

I've just made this cake too - it is so worth it!

Marie said...

It really is impressive, isn't it?

Jojo said...

I made this cake for my Mom's Birthday! It's delicious! Everybody asked about the recipe. It's a bit of work but well worth it! Enjoy!