Technical Challenges: European Cakes Week

When I saw what was in store for me this week, I have to admit, I got a little scared! I would almost rather have done the Dobos Torte, as I am relatively good with caramel, having made it often. But a combination of sponge, crème pâtissière and marzipan was highly intimidating, as I have tried making all of these a couple of times before, but they have not exactly been a success!

Fortunately, after having done an ok (although not great) sponge for the tiramisu cake only a couple of weeks ago, I felt like I could just about cope with that part. And I’ve been wanting to try out crème pâtissière again, although the only other time I’ve made it, it wasn’t particularly good. Marzipan is something I knew I could make, but struggle to work with…and I still feel the same way about it after completing this challenge!

So, bearing all of that in mind, here’s how it went…

PrincesstartaYou can find the recipe here.

After thinking I might have a heart attack due to the amount of cream and cake we ended up eating between the two of us in dessert week, I wisely decided to halve the recipe for this so we could manage to eat it. Thank the Lord I did, because as I made it, I could feel my hips getting wider just looking at the amount of whipped cream it contained!

Knowing that I am not that great at making sponge as I don’t make it often, I decided to make extra, so I halved everything except the cake mix. I’m glad I did, because although it came out nicely, once again it was uneven, so having more meant cutting it horizontally was much easier.

The crème pâtissière came out perfect, which was a very pleasant surprise! I watched it like a hawk, and was very careful to follow the instructions to a tee, and it paid off.

Princesstarta1The jam was less successful first time round, which was surprising as I make jam regularly. I think the problem was that I tried to do it at the same time as my crème pâtissière, and as I had halved the recipe, it was only a very small amount and cooked much quicker, so the first attempt came out tasting ever so slightly burnt. Attempt two was watched much more closely, and fortunately came out very well.

After over-whipping the cream the first time, that had to be redone as well (are you sensing a theme?), but ended up tasting light and airy once done properly.

Princesstarta2The marzipan was the bit that caused me the most grief, however. I have made marzipan once or twice before, but I find it can be tricky to work with, and this time was no exception. In fact, it was harder because of the new added element of colouring it. I have coloured fondant icing before, but not marzipan! When trying to knead in the food colouring, I found that the marzipan was sticking to my hands and the counter despite copious amounts of the suggested icing sugar. I tried wetting my hands with a little water to prevent sticking and it worked much better, but then the dough was much wetter for rolling out, and kept sticking to the rolling pin and counter. After quite a few botched attempts, I finally calmed myself down and looked up the problem online. Cornflour seemed a regular suggestion, and it ended up working after a couple of attempts, but as you can probably tell from the photos, the marzipan had been so overworked by that point that it left a few dents, tears, and generally rough patches that were difficult to smooth, especially once it was over the cream on the cake.

Still, despite the challenges, it worked out alright. Although I had a pretty unsteady hand for the chocolate decoration, and the piped cream exploded a little towards the end, I had made fondant roses before and that part of decorating worked well, at least.

And the flavour and texture were wonderful – not at all what I was expecting! It tastes very like a complex version of a Victoria sponge, and the texture is amazingly light. I thought it would be very rich and heavy with the amount of cream, but actually it was possibly the airiest, lightest cake I’ve ever tasted!

Princesstarta3I’d love to try making the cake again and see if I can get things right the first time. I think the key to this cake, other than a lot of patience(!), is to do things one at a time and watch them carefully. I found that once I concentrated on each element it came out much more beautifully!

If you enjoy a challenge, it’s certainly worth making, but if you would rather start small, a good ol’ Victoria sponge will taste almost as good for much less time, effort, and ingredients!

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