Monday, April 20, 2015

The Baking Bible: The Polish Princess

This is a very rich a decadent cake based on a modern Polish dessert called the Ambassador. Rose says, "the cake came into popularity in the early 1990s...when there was an influx of quality chocolate, alkalized cocoa, and raisins from abroad." I tried to Google what the Ambassador cake looks like but all I got were results pertaining to a DJ called the Polish Ambassador. So...I have no idea what the original inspiration is like but Rose came up with a sponge cake topped with two flavors of pastry buttercream. That's right, we took a regular ol' pastry cream and enriched it with MORE BUTTER. This is a really really good idea.

she's not the prettiest princess at the ball, but she has a buttery heart. a delicious, buttery heart. 

I assumed the cake would be a genoise, but it isn't. It was, for me, a very unusual sponge cake. The egg whites are beat to stiff peaks with the sugar, then then yolks are beat in, then the flour sifted over and folded in. Then, weirdest ingredient in my opinion for a sponge cake, a bit of warm water is folded in.

Important tidbit: the cake should not pull away from the sides of the pan until after you pull it from the oven, or at all, really. My cake wasn't done at the earliest suggested time so I left it in for ten more minutes and guess what--it had pulled away from the sides! Nooooo! Oh well. I am not a throw away and redo type of person, so I soldiered on. I am also not a perfectionist in any way, shape, or form, so I wasn't fretting about my overbaked cake. At least, not yet.

overbaked bottom
 The cake, once cooled, is syruped with a vodka tea syrup. Basically you make a cup of black tea, Eastern European style (with lemon and sugar), and you add a good glug of vodka. I used to have nice black tea but these days I'm keeping it classy with Red Rose and PG Tips. The cake got the Tips.

This is a lot of syrup for the cake, but patient dabbing with the pastry brush seemed to get it all in there. I focused the syrup more towards the outside edge and the sides of the cake especially since I overbaked it. I may have drank the last little bit for myself, but the cake didn't seem to suffer. (Neither did I.)

gooey, but it will be ok in the end

Next up, the pastry cream. I've never made pastry cream with cornstarch, but this one calls for it and a quick internet search reveals that it is pretty normal to use cornstarch to thicken pastry cream. I guess it would be good insurance against curdling the yolks and also keeping it from seeping later on. I bought the fancy jersey cow's milk in the jars. Really good ingredients can cover up some basic technique mistakes like overbaking the cake. :)

product placement

completed pastry cream

The recipe also recommends high fat butter so I splurged for the Danish Lurpack. Two packages, since we needed almost one pound of butter.

The pastry cream has to cool for at least a couple of hours. I stashed it in the fridge after one hour while we ventured out to the park.

Next up, making the pastry buttercream. Now it doesn't mention it in the recipe, but it would be best if the butter and the pastry cream were about the same temperature to encourage the smooth emulsification of the butter. I discovered this the hard way as my pastry cream was super cold and my butter was room temperature, but all I did was leave the grainy buttercream stuff on the counter for about an hour and rebeat it madly until it smoothed out.

The pastry cream is then divided in half, and to one half cocoa powder and thinly sliced and toasted walnuts are mixed in. I burnt my last stash of walnuts instead of toasting them, so I used pecans instead. I kinda like pecans better, so I wasn't too upset.

The other half of the pastry buttercream gets some raisins and chopped bitter chocolate. Well you know I hate raisins but I went ahead and used the golden raisins. So far I have been pleasantly surprised with the raisins in the recipes we've made so maybe they would be good here, too.

Once the pastry buttercreams have been mixed up and the cake has been syruped, all that's left is to assemble. I wonder if it would have been better for the pastry creams to have been a little chilled so as to be a bit stiff. Mine were close to room temperature at this point and almost on the verge of being runny. And since my cake had shrunk from the sides of the pan, it was a little trickier getting the pastry cream smoothed out. Anyways, first layer down is the chocolate-nut layer. Then it needs to be refrigerated for an hour to firm up, but I took a page out of Raymond's book and put it in the freezer for a bit instead. Then the pastry cream with the raisins and chocolate. After his layer firms up you're supposed to grate chocolate on top, but I was feeling done so I left it as-is.

not the prettiest top, but everybody ate it anyways
Then the cake needs to hang out overnight to sort itself out. So we had some for breakfast. It is a very decadent breakfast. The buttercreams are rich and creamy, and were the stars of the show. There was a nice light sponge cake lurking beneath all the creaminess, but honestly it wasn't much to write home about, especially when there was all that topping. Mark decided the real name of the cake is "Now We Can Buy Everything! (And Cram It Into One Cake) "

I was meeting some of my dear doula sisters later that afternoon and shared the cake with them. The ladies loved it, yet we all agreed (as did Mark) that the raisins don't add much and can and should be left out. I told them I was dreaming of turning the cocoa layer into a mocha layer with slightly salty nuts, and leaving the top layer as is (without raisins). One of them suggested toasted coconut in place of raisins which is certainly worth trying.    

There's one slice left for Mark, and I am having a hard time not eating it myself. A delicious, fairly simple cake to make, share, and eat.


  1. Boy, your cake cut so nicely. I don't know why mine cut so rough. It seems that I should have liked this cake, but I guess the way the stars had aligned on that day, I just couldn't get into it so much. Just the same, yours looks perfect in every way. And you know, Rick had the same comment about the raisins. He liked the nuts and chocolate, but not the raisins. A peculiar texture I suppose.

  2. I like your husband's suggestion for the name of the cake. I'm not sure about the raisins either, or the walnuts to be honest. But it was still lovely and certainly interesting.

  3. ב''ה

    Your cake looks so good. We used to get milk like that when I was younger. We would shake in the heavy cream that floats on top. :)

  4. `I love PG Tips tea!!! I think your idea of mocha and salty nuts would be fabulous! Your cake looks good to me. With that milk and butter it must be really tasty.

  5. I like your idea of mocha and salty nuts too! Your cakes look just like a princess! And I also like the way your husband named the cake. LOL! Oh..I also used Lurpark butter. It's my favorite butter to use for baking. :) I think the raisins added is like rum and raisin's ice-cream?

  6. great looking cake, and must tasted so good with this milk...

  7. It's so good to have a few non-perfectionists in the group! Although your cake ended up looking pretty close to perfect. I agree with you about the raisins.

  8. Your cake is lovely, I actually like its looks without the chocolate made the Princess much more accessible. Heart of butter, yes. I also love your relaxed approach to baking, you sound like you are having fun!

  9. I love your idea about coconut! What a great idea! I omitted the raisins and added extra chocolate. I think your cake looks great! I have a friend who is a doula, BTW! :-)