The most difficult part of baking a cake for me has always been decorating it. I am not the most creative or artistic person out there, but I just don’t like reusing any prior cake designs. I always believe the design of the cake should reflect the recipient, and since I am baking for different recipients, well, each cake warrants a customised design for that particular recipient.
And this cake is for a rather special recipient. Someone I have much admiration for, probably for more reasons than one. Unfortunately, this also happens to be someone I don’t know particularly well, at least not on a personal level. Which makes it that much harder to come up with a suitable design. After my prior two practice cakes, I decided to stick to Pierre Hermé’s black forest cake, taking into consideration some feedback I received on increasing the amount of the chocolate cream, and my personal experience on discarding the difficult-to-slice chocolate ganache.
As I was not sure how many people there may be, I decided to err on the side of generosity. After all, one can never have too much cake, right? The recipe below is double of my first attempt with some slight variations in ingredients and techniques.
Makes a 8-inch round cake
For the sour cherries
90ml mineral water
120g fine granulated sugar
300g frozen sour cherries, pitted
1) Prepare the sour cherries the night before by bringing the mineral water and sugar to a boil.
2) Remove from heat, and add the Kirsch.
3) Pour the liquid onto the cherries in a bowl. Cover with cling wrap and allow to macerate overnight in the refrigerator.
For the chocolate biscuit
60g unsalted butter
25g plain flour
25g potato starch
30g cocoa powder
120g egg yolks (approximately 6large)
100g fine granulated sugar
130g egg whites (approximately 4 large)
1) Melt the butter and set aside to cool to room temperature.
2) Preheat convection oven to 220C.
3) Sift together the flour, potato starch and cocoa powder.
4) In the stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks with 3/4 of the sugar on high for 5 minutes. The egg yolks should be pale and thick.
5) Clean the whisk and mixer bowl thoroughly, then whisk the egg whites and remaining sugar until stiff peaks.
6) Scrap the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites and fold lightly. Then add the flour mixture and fold until no streaks are visible.
7) Spoon 4 tablespoons of the egg mixture into the cooled melted butter and whisk to incorporate. Then, pour the butter back into the batter and fold to incorporate.
8) Draw 3 8″ circles onto baking parchment then place the parchment, drawn side down, onto the baking trays. Divide batter equally between the 3 circles. Smooth the batter slightly over the circles and try to get an even layer.
9) Bake in the preheated oven for 8 minutes.
10) Remove from oven and allow to cool, then, cut out the 3 cake rounds.
For the pastry cream
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
130ml whole milk
30g fine granulated sugar
5g corn flour
5g plain flour
30g egg yolks (approximately 2 medium)
10g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1) Add the vanilla bean paste, milk and sugar to a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a light boil.
2) In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the flours.
3) Pour a third of the boiling liquid while whisking vigorously. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and continue cooking on medium heat while whisking continuously until mixture have thicken to pastry cream consistency.
4) Allow the pastry cream to cool to 60C then whisk in the butter.
For the Kirsch syrup
30ml mineral water
35g fine granulated sugar
1) Bring the mineral water and sugar to a boil.
2) Remove from heat and stir in the Kirsch. Set aside to cool.
For the light vanilla custard
2 gelatine sheet
240ml heavy cream, very cold
Pastry cream from above
1) Soak the gelatine sheet in cold water to bloom. Then squeeze the liquid from the sheet, and stir it into the pastry cream, making sure it is melted entirely.
2) Whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks. Then fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream.
For the dark chocolate cream
100g dark chocolate couverture
225ml + 38ml heavy cream, very cold
1) Melt the chocolate over a bain-marie, removing it from the heat once the melted chocolate is smooth.
2) Add the 2 tbsp cream into the melted chocolate and stir to incorporate.
3) Whisk the remaining cream to stiff peaks and fold into the melted chocolate mixture.
1.5 tsp gelatine powder
360ml heavy cream, very cold
45g confectioner’s sugar, sifted
Melted, tempered chocolate and cocoa powder, to garnish
1) Line a 8″ cake ring with acetate and place it onto a cake board.
2) Drain the macerated cherries.
3) Place the first layer of chocolate biscuit into the cake ring. Using a pastry brush, soak the cake layer with 1/3 of the Kirsch syrup.
4) Then, spread half of the light vanilla custard onto the chocolate biscuit.
5) Arranged the drain cherries onto the custard layer. Then cover the cherries with the remaining custard.
6) Place the second chocolate biscuit layer, pressing it down slightly to even out the custard layer. Soak with another 1/3 of the Kirsch syrup.
7) Spread the dark chocolate cream onto the chocolate biscuit.
8) Place the last layer of chocolate biscuit onto the chocolate cream and press down lightly to even it out.
9) Soak the top layer of the chocolate biscuit with the remaining Kirsch syrup.
10) Allow the cake to freeze overnight.
11) On the second day, remove the cake from the freezer and remove the cake from the cake ring.
12) Prepare the whipped cream by blooming the powdered gelatine in 1.5 tbsp cold water then melting it over a Bain-Marie.
13) Whip the cold cream and confectioner’s sugar until soft peaks then pour in the melted gelatine mixture and continue whipping until very stiff.
14) Cover the entire cake with the whipped cream, using a comb to comb the side of the cake. Fill the remaining whipped cream into a pastry bag with a small round tip. Pipe squiggles around the top edge border of the cake.
15) For the birthday message, make a paper cone, fill it with melted chocolate and pipe the message onto a piece of baking parchment. Allow to set in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Transfer the chocolate message onto the middle of the cake.
16) Put the cake into the freezer for another 3 to 4 hours. Then cut out a circle large enough to cover the birthday message in the center of the cake and sift cocoa powder onto the frozen cake.
After much deliberation, I finally decided to go with a slight variation of my first design, which I thought was rather original (honestly, I have not seen that anywhere else) and classy. I quite like how it turned out. I just hope the recipient would feel the same.