May 24, 2010

Bernachon Palets d'Or Gateau

As you can see, there are no currants on top of this cake, and no gold leaf either, so it doesn't have the same spectacular look as the cover cake. It's still pretty spectacular, with the gleaming glaze, however, and the photos don't do it justice. Even my daughter Liz, who is, in her own words, "picky about everything," told me it was beautiful. The birthday candle is for Liz's husband Joe; the two of them flew in on Joe's birthday for my daughter Sarah's wedding.
I took Wednesday afternoon off from work to bake this cake, and it's a good thing, because I haven't had any time this weekend to do any baking at all. It certainly had the potential to be a disaster--I was distracted by a million different things I was supposed to be doing, and I wanted to bake a nice cake for my son-in-law, and it looked like such an elegant (that is, easy to botch up) cake. But it turns out to be a simple cake to bake and put together, and all of the components are forgiving.
The cake starts out with a rather unpromising mix of lots of cocoa and lots of sour cream, which, even with eggs added, didn't want to mix up. In fact, you could say "they're like sour cream and cocoa" instead of "they're like oil and water," except no one would know what you're talking about. And they do eventually mix together, so probably the "sour cream and cocoa" saying is never going to catch on.
After the sugar, butter, and dry ingredients are mixed in, it becomes a very thick and luxuriant batter, which will be darker or lighter, depending on your cocoa. I'm still using up a tin of Hershey's natural cocoa, which is lighter than Droste, my go-to brand. I have a friend who swore there was no Dutch-process cocoa available in Minnesota. I told her I'd get her some. I brought her a box of Droste, and she said "This doesn't say Dutch-process." I said, "Well, no, but it says it's made in Holland." "Oh," she said. "I get it." Anyway, I know that Dutch-processing is something that people feel strongly about, but I have no firm opinions one way or another; I just like the way Droste cocoa tastes in brownies.
A close-up of thick chocolate batter is Jim's second-favorite picture, right after the mountain of sifted flour.
Of course, at the point I'm about to put the cake into the oven, I see all the "plan ahead" directions, and I realize I'm going to be cutting it closer than I'd like. At this same moment, I get a call from Liz, saying their plane has been delayed. I think, but don't say, "well, that's a relief."
Now I have plenty of time to grind the chocolate in a food processor, add warmed creme fraiche and cream in which the chocolate melts, and smooth out the flavor with a ittle butter and vanilla. (I didn't use the optional creme de cassis, since I wasn't going to use the fresh currants anyway). You can see the very messy food processor behind the nice, neat bowl of completed ganache.
By this time, the cake is out of the oven. With two of the three elements done, I feel okay. I also realize that if I got really pressed for time, I could just stop with the ganache, and swirl it instead of smoothe it to prepare for the layer of glaze. But the lacquer glaze seems much less forbidding than it did the first time I made it (for the chocolate apricot roll).
In fact, here's how unforbidding it is. After I mixed everything up, and strained it, I realized that I'd forgotten to add the cream. I just added the cream after I'd already mixed in the gelatin. It didn't seem to care that I did a few things in the wrong order.
Another new experience: I've never done a crumb layer before. In fact, I had no idea what a crumb layer was before I started this cake-baking project. It sounds unappetizing, doesn't it? But it's just a thin layer of frosting that anchors any crumbs in place so they don't show on the real layer of frosting that comes next, after you refrigerate the crumb layer for an hour or two.
And it's true. The frosting does go on more smoothly. Because any faults will show under the glaze, the layer of frosting is supposed to be as smooth as possible. Once you smooth out one place, however, someplace else gets messed up. Eventually you run out of patience, and say, "good enough."
Before you say anything, I know I should have had the cake layer on a wire rack with foil under it instead of on the serving plate, but I couldn't figure out any way that I could possibly get the lacquered cake from the wire to the serving plate, so I already had it on the plate. I think I'm going to have to get some cardboard rounds. I'll bet they're cheaper than edible gold foil.
It's so shiny! The shine is not quite as intense after it dries, but its gradual drying allows you to carefully slide the pieces of wax paper out from under the cake, leaving a simple, beautiful, one-layer shimmering cake. It's just lovely.
I topped the cake with a few cut strawberries, a few blueberries, and a sprinkling of sparkling sugar. Not as elegant as the currants and gold leaf, but--again--good enough.
Do not, I repeat, do not be put off this recipe just because it's five pages long and has three components. It's not as easy as the infamous cake-in-a-cup microwave cake, but it's not difficult. It does take a while, although I managed to finish it before Liz and Joe landed at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. It has the sophistication, taste, and simple elegance of a French little black dress. Three days later, I served the rest of the cake to family who was in town for the wedding, and it was still good--a little bit drier, but that was made up for by plating it with a dollop of whipped cream.
The next time I see currants in a grocery store--and that's a very iffy proposition--I think I'll bring this recipe out and try it again. Maybe I'll even bring out some gold leaf.

Jim: "It has a great chocolate flavor. It's beautiful too!"
Liz: "I like flourless chocolate tortes better, but this is nice too. Maybe it's a little dry."
Joe: "It's perfect. Except maybe it's too moist." [joke]
Doug: "I love the frosting."


gartblue said...

Well, shiny it was !

I still have mine in the fridge at the moment (forgot to take a pictrue )and I bet it's less shiny that it was last night, especially with a set of pinched side on the cake, roughly the size of a certain boy arund 5 years of age. :)

great job!

btw, hope sarah's wedding went well.

faithy said...
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faithy said...

It's beautiful Marie! I think you did wonderful job..looks beautiful with grapes and strawberries.

I was feeling rather didn't bake anything this weekend..perhaps it is the hot weather that's giving me the headache..

doughadear said...

It was a good thing you didn't use a wire rack because I did use a rack when I made my son's birthday cake and I had the hardest time transferring it to a plate. The icing stuck to the wire rack and all my hard work to make the sides of the cake smooth was ruined upon tranferring.
Your cake is very elegant!

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Oh Marie - your sliced cake is so appetizing! I love your addition of sanding sugar which appears to sparkle in combination with the high gloss glaze!

I honed my baking skills while living in MN, so I can tell you Dutch-Processed Cocoa is available! Droste is okay, but I like Penzey's even better (they carry natural and Dutch). Penzey's Spices is located in several MN locations (St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Lakeville), or you can order online.


Patricia @ ButterYum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NancyB said...

Very pretty--and it's oh so true about trying to blend that cocoa powder into the wet ingredients. I dusted myself with cocoa more than once as I stirred....

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

PS - I can't believe you baked the week of your daughter's wedding - congratulations to you and to the happy couple. Oh, and I love your glass cake plate!


Marie said...

Sarah's wedding went well--thanks. I'll try to post some pictures later this week. After our visiting cakes ate out the center of the biscuit, I remembered that I used to have to hide anything I was baking from my children. Life does become easier later on.

Lethargy and baking are almost as incompatable as cocoa and sour cream!

I haven't yet used my new frosting turntable because I can't see a good way of moving it from the turntable to the serving plate. I know people do it all the time, so it's possible. I just can't picture it.

There's a Penzey's store that's qwuite close to our house. I buy spices there, but never thought of it for cocoa. I'll definitely give it a try. Thanks!

Nancy B.,
i did forget to mention that this is not a difficult cake, but it's an exceptionally messy one.

It was kind of crazy to get that baking in, but I didn't want to miss a week. It will take more than a wedding to keep me from my appointed cake!

Melinda said...

May is quite the festive month at your house this year! So many celebrations. It a good thing you got cake!
Your cake looks delightful.

Marie said...

It's our wedding anniversary too--2 days after my birthday. (43 years). There is no end to the festivities in May!

Katya said...

Such sparkly sugar!

evil cake lady said...

Man, I could use a chocolate cake right now; I wish I had baked this! I am also very impressed that you squeezed in a cake right before your daughter's wedding--you are dedicated! Happy birthday (and wedding anniversary)! Can't wait to see what Jim bakes up for you.

Alpha Baker Joan said...

Your cake looks beautiful with the contrasting fruit and little sugar sparkles. I was so glad to learn of Droste and Penzey's cocoa since I can't find G&B right now! I was left using Hershey's and it was a dry disaster. Not to mention of course the things I had to resurrect -
love your crystal plate design too.

Monica said...

I should have used fruit to decorate the top, but got lazy and did not want to go out at all this weekend.

Love the end product, and I also love your serving glass plate.

I cannot wait to find out what Jim bakes for your birthday...

And wedding pictures are coming?

Marie said...

I love that sugar! It's left over from Christmas cookie decorating. I wish I'd bought more.

I could use another chocolate cake right now! Have you started baking in your new kitchen yet?

Yes, I'm excited about trying Penzey's cocoa now. I've never tried Green and Black--that brand isn't reliably available around here.

It doesn't really need fruit--or anything. It's nice plain.
Pictures are posted!

evil cake lady said...

yep--i made the st. honore trifle on saturday! i skipped the spun sugar, but that trifle was awesome. it was my birthday cake (i celebrated early), and a good way to break in the new kitchen.

Mendy said...


Looks really great! Especially that second to last picture, simple and unadorned.

Aspiring Mom2three said...

Very elegant and rich looking! Great pictures to illustrate the steps. I love the fresh blueberries and strawberries on the top! When I first saw this cake, it initially reminded me of a Tuxedo Cake that I've made from The Pastry Queen's Cookbook.

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