The other week, when Fuchsia was here, I slept in late. She came in to wake me at about 9:30am. When I woke up, the only explanation I could give her as to why I’d slept in, was that I was dreaming of making Praline Buttercream. This challenge consumed me.
I’ll admit, when I first saw this challenge I was pretty miffed. I don’t much like nuts, especially not nuts in chocolate. If it had been walnuts, I’d have been happy. Macademia nuts, happy. Cashew nuts, happy… But Hazelnuts? Please god, please no. This fear of the nuts was made worse, when in the rules we were told we were only allowed to not use hazelnuts if we had a genuine reason for doing so, like an allergy. If we just didn’t like them, then we had to make it anyway, and give it away to someone else (or put up with it, and eat it yourself). Now, call me greedy, but I’m not too fond of slaving over a cake, spending allllllll my money on the ingredients, just to pass it on… I was pretty annoyed, I’ll be honest. I was considering sitting out, or even completely bending the rules and doing something else. But then, when I was in the shower, I had an epiphany (the shower is the place I have all my epiphanies) and I realised that this was Daring Bakers. I joined this group so I could challenge my baking skills and my taste buds.
Alas, if only this were the end of my problems… I come from a small family (there’s three of us here) and none of us like hazelnuts. I can hardly serve such a massive gateaux full of an ingredient none of us are particularly fond of… Thankfully, my Beau had recently moved in to a shiny new flat, and he was going to be having a flat warming party. Also! He likes hazelnuts! Problem solved. Only thing is, now I had to transport it all the way up to Mannie on a train… and I was going via London. Not easy.
I remembered that when I made him a fondant covered cake for his birthday, and made a similar train journey (only this time, minus London) it didn’t do so well either, so I had to think of another way to do this. I chose to cook the cakey bit down here in Swindon, then transport just that to Mannie, where I’d assemble it.
Tilly helped me make the cake. We had so much fun that we decided she’d help me make my Daring Bakers challenge every month. We’ve formed ourselves a little tag-team. I’m glad I had a helper- although I was distracted an awful lot (enough to leave a good coupla eggs out) there were bits which I definitely couldn’t have done on my own. Sometimes I think the Daring Bakers group should be renamed “the group for those privileged enough to have a stand alone mixer”, as me and my little electric whisk often get weary (and you know them young girls, they do get wearied).
Ok so! In my kitchen: Cake, done! Praline Paste, done! Swiss Meringue Buttercream, attempted- FAIL. I was trying to be vegan, only the only buttery vegan substance I could find was a tub Margarine. I needed a block margarine. Of course, I didn’t think of this until I’d wasted allllll those eggs and alllllll that sugar. Nevermind.
I cut it up into three layers (How on earth did I manage that?!) and then I quite stupidly soaked all the layers with sugar syrup. This now meant transportation was basically going to murder it. And murder it, it did. When I got to Mannie, I couldn’t pick it up without all the crusts falling off. I could’ve cried. I persevered nevertheless, and I made myself a buttercream with the aid of whisky and left over praline paste. This was plain on buttercream, butter and icing sugar, then with the above fun bits added. Mmm, whisky. It was totally delicious. I no longer morned for my swiss meringue buttercream.
I just about managed to glue the layers together, and then I did a crumb coat. Next, time for the ganache. What a glorious mess I made. The flat’s kitchen is tiny and void of any thing that could’ve helped me coat my cake with ganache. It was a wee bit of an epic challenge… but I like to think I made it pretty. Finally I decorated it with more buttercream and beautifully placed hazelnuts (a la my Beau) and then it was ready for the guests to come.
Everyone seemed impressed, and by the time the cake was cut, everybody was suitably drunk for me to not be terrified about their reactions. Everybody loved it though, but whether that was the alcohol talking or not, I guess we’ll never know. My Beau tells me it was my best cake yet.
Chances are I won’t make it again, but I might use the skills I learnt… Praline making, Swiss Meringue Buttercream (this time with a proper block of butter). I can’t wait for next month’s challenge!
Recipe here on Mele cotte’s blog, who was the host for this month. Thankyou Mele Cotte!