Mar 29, 2010

Le Succes (Passover Cake #1)

I hope that none of you decided not to bake this cake because of my whininess about piping the batter onto parchment paper rounds. As Jennifer (Evil Cake Lady) assured me, it's not that hard. In fact, it wasn't hard at all, although it was a little messy, and that is probably where my lack of experience is most obvious.
Besides being worried about the piping, I was also feeling a little unnerved by what seemed like the complexity of the initial directions. Once I actually read through them a few times--always a good idea--I realized it wasn't that difficult. I just had to make 8-inch parchment-paper circles on which the meringue would be piped.
And then I just had to make the meringue. Again, not difficult. The almonds didn't even have to be toasted, so I actually felt like I was omitting a step. This also gave me a chance to use the blanched almonds I mistakenly bought when the recipe called for unblanched almonds. I feel like I should be able to draw a lesson from this, but I can't think of one.
Despite all the self-imposed angst I endured about this cake, putting it together is about the easiest process so far. Just beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. There's no scientific test for this stage, as far as I know, but since the instructions warn about wilted meringues if they whites aren't properly whipped, it's better to err on the side of over-beating.
Then whisk the ground almond/sugar mixture into the egg whites. That's it!
Well, not quite it. "It" doesn't really happen until you pipe concentric circles on the parchment paper. The nice thing about this piping exercise is that it really doesn't matter how clumsily you do it because it gets flattened anyway. I should have spent all day doing this piping exercise.
My guess is that a Master Piper doesn't have so many squiggles. But so what?
See, after you flatten it out, there's no way of knowing whether you need to take a Piping 101 class.
I loved the way the sweet little meringue cakes looked when they came out of the oven, all brown and puffy.
They very quickly lose their puffiness and become thin, sad little wafers.
These wafers are also extremely delicate. You can see a few tears in the first one on the plate. (You can also see the can of infamous instant lemon-flavored iced tea, which Katya, I think, described as so "ghetto" for an ingredient of Rose's.)
I agree, but I can see the method in the instant tea madness--it imparts just a whisper of lemon and tea flavors, and real lemon would probably be too strong for the chocolate.
You know the drill for the ganache. Pulverize the chocolate in the food processor and add hot liquid--cream and creme fraiche in this case. Add the instant tea and let it stand until it becomes the right consistency.
Although making the cake was quick and easy, putting it together is slow and tedious. Each layer has to be refrigerated for about an hour before the next one can be added, so the whole thing takes about three hours to assemble. Fortunately, we had a CD of the last episodes of season 3 of The Office, so we just watched Pam and Jim discover they were in love with each other (finally!) at the same time I put the finishing touches on the cake.
Are you a cake person or a frosting person? I'm a cake person myself. I love a big piece of unadorned pound cake, for example, and I've been known to scrape off frosting and put it on Jim's plate. (He's such a good sport). On the other hand, I love truffles. If you're a cake person, the best way to eat this cake is to think of it as a giant (and delicious) chocolate truffle, textured with a little almond meringue.
If you're a frosting person, you may wonder, as Jim did, why even bother with the cake. I would have preferred another layer of the meringue, with a little less ganache between each layer. If I make it again, I think I'll try it that way. I loved the nutty taste and texture of the paper-thin cake layers; Jim just thought they were grainy. I think we have a Jack Sprat situation here.
     Jim:  "The frosting has a rich chocolate taste, but I don't like the graininess of the cake."
Woody: "I'd forgotten how good this is--all the layers of flavor; first, bitter, and then pow! Everything else. You did good."
Jan: "It's delicious."
Rachel: "The passover cake was excellent. It was rich, but not in an overwhelming way. And the wafer or sponge layers, whatever they were, were perfect with the chocolate. I wish I had another slice right now to have with my afternoon coffee."


faithy said...

I think you did great with your piping! Your meringue looks great! I didn't bake this cake because it sounded like a huge macaron cake to! Instead of ganache in the centre of macaron, this is the opposite. So i thought i'll give it a miss since i doubt i'll like it in a 'cake' form with that much ganache.

faithy said...

..and i forgot to add, that last photo of your cake..i love it! Your cake looked very professional!

Lois B said...

Nice job, Marie! You and Jim are meant for each other. :)

Faithy, I was wondering if this was like making macarons while I was in the middle of this cake. I've been wanting to make them for a while, but they seem intimidating!

doughadear said...

I am definitely a cake person, probably because I’m not very good with frosting not to mention all the added sugar. However I love ganache (truffles in frosting form) and I love almond macaroons so this is a win win combination.
Your cake looks great.

Monica said...

Oh boy this cake and I had issues... it was all downhill from the get-go. I should have been as smart as Faithy and pass GO and collect $200.

Writing my post later on today.

Your piping looks MUCH better than mine (trust me).

Mendy said...


I love how nice and white your layers came out.

The amount of ganache for this cake seemed a bit much. Two cakes worth!

My, how times change. Here it might seem that Jack is the one eating the fat, thick layers of ganache, while his wife is eating the lean, thin meringue layers.

Raymond said...

You did great Marie, I am glad you are getting over your fear of piping. It isn't that bad and you can always scrape it off it you make a mistake so go for it. I am right with you on a big piece of pound cake. The best


evil cake lady said...

Marie, I thought about you as I piped my squiggly-lined disks! I too had meringue all over my hands after I was done. I also remembered Katya calling the lipton tea ghetto which me me laugh. I put mine together last night so I won't be ready to eat until tonight. I am definitely a cake person so thanks to you I will think "truffle" when we do try the cake--er, truffle!

Hanaâ said...

Marie, your cake looks very pretty. I love the bright white layers of the meringue between the dark chocolate ganache. Based on Jim’s reaction, I’m thinking Jim might have liked the meringue better sans almonds. I’m wondering if you would get the “ultimate gourmet” S’More if you layered a thin slice of this cake between two graham crackers :o)
When I read through the recipe and realized that there wasn’t any “cake” per se, and lots of ganache, I knew my husband would find it too chocolatey. I also thought that cutting the cake would be messy because for some reason, I thought you were supposed to make a crispy meringue. Anyway, it’s good thing I didn’t make it because I would have messed up something, somewhere! :o)

Nicola said...

Your cake looks grand.

I am passing this week. I awoke this morning to discover that my bag of frozen eggwhites had defrosted just fine... all over the bench and the floor.

That said, my husband just saw all the blog photos of this cake and wanted to know where his share was. I may yet get myself to a store to buy some eggs. I have a massive pot of creme fraiche that will otherwise go to waste when it really should be going to waist.

Nicola said...

Oh, I meant to ask, do you think I really need to pipe it or could I just smear it into place? Like a pavlova?

evil cake lady said...

nicola, i almost did just that (smear the meringue into place). i bet it would be fine! bummer about your egg whites.

Jenn said...

Marie - I thought your cake looks great. Love the last photo and how nice and even the layers are.
Nicola - I so wish you live nearby, I have about 30 egg whites in the freezer that I would happily donate!
Faithy - the cake does remind me of macarons, though it makes me want to make it LOL. Opposite reaction to you.

Marie said...

You Heavenly Bakers are so nice! All I did was mention my rudimentary piping skills (it's true--I saw the pictures of real piping from people who know what they're doing), and everyone says, "Marie! Your piping looks great!" I may not entirely believe it, but it's nice to hear it all the same.

See what I mean? I'll agree with you about the last photo. I liked that one too--although I'm not the one who took it.

We are indeed meant for each other--I'm not always sure whether our togetherness is a reward or a punishment for past behavior.

I find that thinking of ganache as a truffle makes me feel less piggish and more dainty in eating it.

The funniest posts are written by the people who have issues with the cake!

I suppose I could have gone easier on the ganache, but I figured that if Rose had us make that much ganache, she wanted us to use it.

I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm getting over my fear of piping. I'd say that it's not at all bad when you know it can be well hidden under tons of ganache.

I hope you took pictures of your squiggles. I'll be glad to see some non-perfect piping.

Marie said...

Jim would have liked it better without almonds, although my belief, which I can't prove, is that he thought it was "grainy" because I'd screwed something up, and when he realized it was just ground almonds, he dug in his heels and kept insisting he didn't like the cake. (He ate a second piece, by the way). It would have been SO messy if the meringues had been crispy!

Dang! Nothing like oozing, seeping egg whites to wake up to. You really cannot let that creme fraiche go to waste. It would be morally wrong. And I see no reason that piping is necessary. Since you ultimately smooth it out with an offset spatula, I don't know why you can't just do that in the first place.

You have a generous heart, but I hope you don't try to ship the egg whites to Nicola.

NancyB said...

Very pretty! I'll be reading the posts this week with interest, because I didn't manage to bake before leaving on a business trip Friday. I do want to try Le Succes, though--maybe I'll bake two cakes next weekend when I'm back from my trip. (right...)

Vicki said...

Is there such a thing as a piping tripod for bakers? This cake made me want to try my hand at funnel cakes!
I was pleasantly surprised how tasty Le Succes is.

Marie said...

Nancy B.,
The two-cake weekend is a possibility--and there are worse things you could do (like go on business trips).

I think there must be a market for a piping tripod--although it may be a small one--I think you should go ahead and invent it!