This week's Heavenly Cake is magical cake alchemy at its best. A tender, buttermilk yellow cake is baked inside a crispy, nutty dacquoise--something I would never have thought possible. Magic, I tell you!
January 30, 2011,
Name of cake: Magic!
Constituents: buttermilk cake, chocolate/pecan dacquiose, frosted with leftover caramel ganche
The original cradle cake won the Pillsbury Bake Off in 1953, and my hat is off to the ingenious woman who figured out what to do with her leftover egg whites (or leftover egg yolks, as the case may be). The cake batter calls for egg yolks plus buttermilk and all the usual cake suspects, and the egg whites are used to make the dacquoise.
A dacquoise is a meringue to which nuts and possibly other stuff has been added--in this case unsweetened chocolate and toasted pecans. I love dacquoise because it isn't all sweet and cloying like a regular meringue, yes still retains that crisp/chewy texture that meringue is famous for.
By the way, I've decided eggs are my most favorite food, simply because of all the amazing ways they can be manipulated into such widely varied textures. I scrambled an egg for breakfast and then a few hours later I was looking at a bowl of glossy white meringue peaks and marveled that they were originally the same thing. Plus--when fertile and left alone, they sustain and grow babies. Freaking amazing. Eggs, you rock.
To these glossy white peaks the ground toasty nuts, chocolate and a little bit of sugar is folded in, and then spread along the inside of the baking pan. I have a couple different loaf pans, neither the size Rose recommends for this recipe, but I chose the smaller of the two pans because it had a nonstick surface. I was having a hard time believing the dacquoise was going to come out of the pan so I hoped going nonstick would hedge my bet.
I didn't use all the dacquoise since the pan was smaller, and I didn't want a very thick layer of dacquoise. I figured the thinner the layer, the crisper it would turn out to be. The little bit I didn't use I spread at the bottom of this little mini cake pan I have and baked alongside the cake. It got a bit burnt, but it was still edible, and pretty good.
The buttermilk cake is the usual two-stage butter cake, and is spread gingerly over the dacquoise. The dacquoise looked like it kept slipping down the sides of the pan--was that because the pan was nonstick? Or was the meringue not stiff enough? Before I scraped the cake into the pan I re-spread the dacquoise up the sides.
The cake batter sat primly on top of the meringue like oil on top of water, which fascinated me. I also wondered if maybe I didn't measure something properly as it looked like there wasn't enough cake batter.
After about 45 minutes, the cake was baked and looked like this:
After cooling in the pan for an unusually long time (20 minutes), I nervously unmolded the cake. It actually came out pretty much in one piece, but one corner of the dacquoise did fall off. Still, I was pretty happy with the way it turned out. Well, I thought the top looked ugly, but that was easily taken care of.
Look what I found in my freezer!
It was still delicious, and after a little re-beating to fluff out and soften, the ganache was good as new and just enough to hide the top of the cake.
Ah, much better.
The cake is ridiculously tender and melts in your mouth, while the dacquoise retains its classic crisp/chewy texture. The bitter, toasty, nutty dacquoise is nice next to the mellow cake, and the caramel ganache is awesome. I don't really think the cake needs frosting to be enjoyable, but I'm not complaining.