Sunday, April 29, 2007

I Dare You

Read on and then tell me, would you bake this cake?

Day 1 – Just found out that our April Daring Baker’s Challenge will be a Crepe Cake…a Deep Dark Chocolate Crepe Cake with an Italian Butter cream Filling and Candied Nuts on top. Mmmmm.

Day 2 – Took a look at the recipe. It looks very detailed and I suspect that it can be broken down so that some of it can be done ahead before the final putting-it-all-together day. Sounds kinda exciting!

Day 3 – Talked it over with Sweetie. We agreed that we’re not big hazelnut fans, so I’ll come up with another filling flavor.

Day 4 – Went online and found the website for the flavored creamer with the hazelnuts called for in Martha Stewart’s recipe…that’s the one we are supposed to use for the challenge. Turns out there are other flavors. I kind of like the chocolate raspberry flavor…wonder if I can find it at the store.

Day 7 – Bought the chocolate, boxes of butter, eggs, lots of heavy cream, and the chocolate raspberry non-dairy creamer. This recipe will be hell on the arteries, but I’ll just have a tiny piece, right? Suuuure.

Day 9 – Served some of the non-dairy chocolate raspberry creamer at breakfast for a crowd. No one used any. Hmmm. I smelled it. Nope, I’m not going to use it either. It smells artificial and chemical. I’ll figure out another way to get the raspberry flavor. Out with the noxious stuff.

Day 12 – The reports on the crepes are a little scary. It seems that this recipe makes a delicate crepe that is difficult to flip, plus it might get rubbery after standing. Oh, boy. Guess I better allow time to experiment with the crepe cooking.

Day 15 – Finally have time to make the crepe batter. I decide to add the water to the egg mixture instead of to the chocolate mixture. I also decide to melt the butter and chocolate in the microwave like I do for truffle ganache. I use the food processor to chop the chocolate (from Trader Joe’s) up fine and it mixes together with the butter like a charm. The batter looks O.K. Into the fridge.

Day17 – Well, the batter is well chilled, hehe, but today was the first time I could spend the needed time to work on the crepes. First off I tried a seasoned cast iron small frying pan with butter. A disaster. No crepes survived the process, mostly tearing when I tried to turn them. Then I tried a similar size non-stick pan. Slightly better, but still no crepe that I can use for a cake. They taste pretty good, so if I ever get any that can be stacked, the cake should taste good although it may look strange.

Sweetie heard me cursing and banging things in the kitchen and took over the stove. He used a larger non-stick pan. At first his didn’t work, either. Then he managed to flip them correctly, but the crepe was slightly burned. No butter and lower heat, plus two spatulas seemed to work. I stood ready with waxed paper squares to put between each crepe and the next, then, eventually learned how to make the crepes.

(The waxed paper helped, but some still stuck to the paper and tore when I got around to stacking them with the filling, so I’m glad I made lots of extra crepes and decided to do a mini-cake about 5 inches in diameter, rather than a full sized cake.)
Wrapped everything up airtight and it all went into the fridge.

Day 22 – Time to try out the filling. I followed the recipe except that I used some juice drained from a package of frozen raspberries, plus a tablespoon of half and half instead of the same amount of the hazelnut cream. I’ve never made this kind of butter cream before, but it was really easy as long as I followed the directions. I’ll make it again when I need an easy to handle and really delicious filling, except that I would reduce the salt quite a bit next time. Didn’t anyone at Martha’s kitchen test the recipes first?

Once the filling was ready, I began to stack the cake. The filling was easy to use and the crepes were mostly the same size. It went quickly and the stack only listed to the side slightly when done. I wrapped the crepe stack tightly and put it in the fridge.

Day 24 – Here’s hoping that the crepes haven’t gone stale, but it takes time to do even part of a recipe like this. And more time to wash up all the pots, pans, bowls, spoons, spatulas, racks, etc. that are needed. First off I decided to do the Candied Nuts.

This is another skill I’ve wanted to try and it really was fun. Unfortunately it takes a remarkably short time for the sugar mixture to go from lightly colored to dark amber. I saw that I’d overcooked it and promptly poured the mixture into a Pyrex measuring cup to stop the cooking. The nuts were on their skewers, almonds instead of hazelnuts, and at first the candy didn’t drip off correctly, but I played with it and soon had lovely candied almonds with wispy top knots. Then I dipped the tines of a fork into the candy and made fun threads of spun sugar on some waxed paper. They made a complementary decoration for the top of the cake. It was fun getting advice from some of the other Daring Bakers. One suggestion was to make the sugar decorations so that the extra drips went onto the open dishwasher door. Close it and run the dishwasher & cleanup is easy!

The last part of the cake was the Chocolate Glaze. It’s basically a ganache. Since I had experienced the over-salting of the filling, I reduced the salt to ¼ teaspoon, but otherwise followed the recipe. It makes a shiny, delicious topping, although I did have some trouble making it stick on the sides where filling was present. Back into the refrigerator to chill, and then time to decorate with the nuts and spun sugar. I used some of the glaze to act as glue to put the candied nuts on top. Time for photos!

Once sliced, you can see all of the layers of crepe and filling which is quite pretty. My resident tasters declared it a good cake, especially the filling. One comment was that the crepe itself didn’t have enough flavor to stand up to the filling and glaze. I look at it as a bunch of crepes that are needed to hold the filling and glaze together. We had the first pieces of cake for lunch since dinner was to be early. Despite my knowledge of all the rich ingredients, when a second piece was offered that night, I accepted and enjoyed the fruits of my labor.

Today – Along with most of the rest of the Daring Bakers, I’m posting my Crepe Cake for you to enjoy.

If you are going to make it, I recommend using less salt everywhere and making the smaller version. The crepes are a bit easier to handle, you can probably halve the recipes, and you’ll have just the right sized pieces when you have that second serving.

Darkest Chocolate Crepe Cake
3/4 Cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus melted for pan
8 Ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/3 Cup sugar
1/2 Teaspoon salt
2 1/2 Cups whole milk, room temperature
6 large eggs, room temperature
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Bring 1/4 cup water to a rolling boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, whisking to combine after each addition. Remove from heat; stir in chocolate until completely melted. Set aside.
Whisk together flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together milk, eggs, and vanilla in another medium bowl. Gradually add milk mixture to flour mixture, whisking until smooth. Add chocolate-butter mixture, whisking until smooth. Pour through a fine sieve into an airtight container; discard lumps. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
Lightly coat an 8-inch crepe pan or nonstick skillet with melted butter. Heat over medium heat until just starting to smoke. Remove pan from heat; pour about 2 tablespoons batter into pan, swirling to cover bottom. Reduce heat to medium-low; return pan to heat. Cook, flipping once, until edges are golden and center is dry, about 30 seconds per side.
Slide crepe onto a plate. Repeat process with remaining batter, coating pan with butter as needed. Crepes can be refrigerated, covered, up to 1 day.
Place a crepe on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Spread with about 3 tablespoons hazelnut filling. Top with another crepe. Continue layering with hazelnut filling and crepes, using about 32 crepes and ending with a crepe on top. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
Spoon 1/2 cup glaze on top of the cake, spreading to edges. Spread remaining glaze around sides of cake, coating completely. Refrigerate until glaze is firm and set, about 20 minutes. Cake can be refrigerated up to 3 days. Garnish with toasted and candied hazelnuts.

Hazelnut Filling
Serving: Makes about 8 cups

2/3 Cup heavy cream
6 large egg whites
1 2/3 Cups sugar
1 3/4 Cups (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, softened
1 Teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 Cup hazelnut cream, (available from Whole Foods Market,
1 salt (I recommend much less salt)

Put cream into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Refrigerate 1 hour.
Whisk egg whites and sugar in the clean bowl of mixer set over a pan of simmering water until sugar has dissolved and mixture registers 160 degrees;, 2 to 3 minutes.
Attach bowl to mixer fitted with the clean whisk attachment; beat on high speed until slightly cooled and stiff (but not dry) peaks form, about 5 minutes.
Fit mixer with paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low speed, add butter, several pieces at a time, mixing well after each addition (meringue will deflate slightly as butter is added). Add vanilla, hazelnut cream, and salt; mix until mixture comes together, 3 to 5 minutes. Fold in whipped cream with a rubber spatula. Use immediately.

Chocolate Glaze
Serving: Makes about 2 cups

1 1/4 Cups heavy cream
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
1 salt (less salt here, too)
10 Ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Bring cream, corn syrup, and salt to a boil in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium- medium-high heat. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; swirl pan to cover completely with cream. Let stand about 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Let cool completely.

Candied Hazelnuts
Serving: Makes 9

9 hazelnuts, toasted and peeled
1 Cup sugar
Thread each hazelnut onto tip of a long wooden skewer; set aside. Place a cutting board along the edge of a countertop; set a baking sheet on floor next to edge.
Cook sugar and 1/4 cup water in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved. Continue to cook, without stirring, until syrup comes to a boil, washing down sides with a wet brush to prevent crystals from forming. Let boil until syrup turns light amber, about 5 minutes; remove from heat. Let stand until slightly cooled, 8 to 10 minutes.
Dip 1 skewered hazelnut into syrup, coating completely and letting excess syrup drip back into pan. When dripping syrup becomes a thin string, secure end of skewer under cutting board, letting caramel string drip over edge onto sheet. Repeat with remaining hazelnuts. Let stand until caramel has hardened, about 5 minutes. Break strings to about 4 inches. Carefully remove skewers.

Martha Stewart Recipe via the website.

So, would you??

Now 30 strong, The Daring Bakers are now having a member choose the recipe each month instead of voting. Brilynn chose Martha Stewart's Darkest Chocolate Crepe Cake for April.


  1. Elle, yours looks great! I love the candied almonds and the sugar nest! I left my sugar almost too long and the last nut didn't even drip so I couldn't do anything with my leftover caramel! I wasn't sure what the 1 salt meant so I just used a pinch!!

  2. I would have a big hunka slice from this one!! Yeah for completeing the challenge! I love how you detailed your thought process day by day. Great work DB!!

  3. Well, I did. My question is: Would you do it again?
    Yours is fantastic.
    Great day by day progression report! That was fun.

  4. Love the day by day account too! I left any thoughts of mine until the last minute and was barely coherent by the end of it! The whole ensemble looks amazing and good enough to eat!!

  5. Woot for you, for getting it done! Your layers look great!

  6. Elle you are my spun sugar hero! Your's look great. And thanks for the 2 spatula tip last weekend, it helped me greatly.

  7. I love the way you decorated yours! So cool! It is a fun cake to cut, people just love looking at the layers. Great post!

  8. Well done, Elle. It looks beautiful and I love your day-by-day account.

  9. Elle, wow! it looks fabulous. Maybe if I had had some of your discipline I would have given myself time to achieve something. Loved the journal style post.

  10. I love the "diary of a cake" approach to your post. Your cake looks really delicious.

  11. That is nice that your hubby helped. I would have like it.
    Oh and no, I would not do it again.

  12. No. No I would not. teee!

    Simply gorgeous, Elle! I love your almonds on top, they are adorable!

    That filling looks and sounds amazing. And it wasn't until I read your post that I realized the original filling called for in the recipe is also an italian meringue - go fakkin figure! hehe

    A beautiful job!


  13. Anonymous4:08 PM

    it looks awesome. I love the day by day account, you definitely gave it plenty of thought and sounds like you had a fun time doing this cake... which is quite a feat in itself. Here´s for a challenge without crepes in May... hahaha

  14. I did, but I won't ever again!

  15. Wow, what an adventure! According to your gorgeous pictures it was well worth it!

  16. I tried to make a sugar nest but failed. I'm glad you succeeded though, your cake looks very pretty!

  17. Freya, wish I'd only used a pinch. The candied nut thing was lots of fun, but it took DAYS to wash the leftover, hardened candy out of the glass measuring cup.

    Helene, it was tasty, if salty, but SOOO rich. Fun to see what other DBs did. Glad to be part of the group.

    Tanna, Yes, you did, and it's beautiful! No, I would not do it again, even to impress guests. It was fun, but too rich.

    Laura, I wrote it ahead, but good thing I didn't spew after the crepe makeing session like I wanted to. Thanks for the compliment.

    Quellia, Thanks for the compliment. The layers were the easiest part, too, at least for me.

    Sher, It IS a fun cake to serve, isn't it?

    Creampuff, Thanks. Yours looks lovely, too.

    Valentine, It wasn't discipline, but fear. Once I read how hard the crepes were to make, early on, I forced myself to start, but took a long time to finish. Thanks for reading the journal.

    Mary,Thanks! Forced myself to write the journal, too. Not an inspiring recipe.

    Peabody, I was thinking of you and wishing I'd brought some rolled up socks to the kitchen to throw when the crepes kept tearing time after time. I'm with you...once is enough.

    Lis, Thanks for the nice words. The almonds were the most fun! It was a challenge to make this cake, but the fellowship of the Daring Bakers was the real star this time.

    Marce, It was fun in a way just to try new things, even if the crepes raised my blood pressure.
    No crepes in May...I'll drink to that!

    Brilynn, If you hadn't chosen this recipe, I might never have played with molten sugar. Next time you will make something amazing 'cuz you are one of the most Daring of the Daring Bakers!

  18. Wow. That's some unbelievable piece of art!

  19. Elle! I did but would never again. Although things went more or less smoothly I still just cannot imagine spending 3-4 days for a damn cake. But I dare YOU ... make it again and I'll be over with my fork!! It looks great!

  20. Anonymous5:09 AM

    Hi Elle! Great post - I love your day-to-day breakdown - it demonstrates how labour-intensive the process truly is! The candied almonds and sugar nest are just stunning, and I love the thick layer of filling... yum!

  21. What a nice post to read! And a beautiful cake! Brava!jkv

  22. Elle, good move on waiting to see how it all panned out! My favourite picture?? The one with all the gooey drippings of the frosting...made me want to lick the screen

  23. Anonymous6:37 AM

    oh elle, this is awesome. I like your spun sugar....great day by day account too!

  24. Elle, raspberries are my weakness! I'd love to try your cake!

  25. Love it! And without even having made it to the point of making of the filling, I admit I did a double-take at the amount of salt that it called for - I'm a sweet and salty kind of gal, but it seemed like an excessive amount.

  26. Look at the filling, oh how I want to reach my finger through the computer screen.

    Well done.

  27. Your cake looks beautiful Elle. I love your sugar design and your filling looks much more substantial than mine did. :)

  28. Anna,It was yummy at, but way too rich.

    Meeta, I'd make it again if we could all be in one place together, filling our faces with it :)

    Gilly, Thank you! I was a lot of work, but in the long run fun.

    Ilva, Thanks!

    Breadchick, Yeah, that's why I put it in there. Did you notice I'd already done some lickin'?

    Veron, Thanks! I loved playing with the spun sugar.

    Patricia, Yes, me too. I wish it was raspberry season. Fresh would be better.

  29. Becke, Oh, you caught that, too? It was the only thing not yummy about the cake, but the sweet chocolate of the glaze offset it some.

    Cheryl, Thanks. It WAS good filling, except for too salty.

    Jen, You cake is lovely, too. Thanks for the nice words. The sugar part was pure fun.

  30. Sara, Sorry somehow I missed your comment & Eva's. I agree, not likely to happen again!

    Eva, Thanks, it was an adventure made worth it because of the other DBs. Glad you enjoyed the story.

  31. Anonymous11:59 AM

    This cake is too high maintenance for me, however I would love a piece of it :) I love your day by day documentary of it. This is one of my favorite posts about this cake :)

  32. Kristen, High maintenance says it all LOL.
    Thanks for the kind words.

  33. My gosh, that's impressive. I don't think I'd ever get there--but I am so pleased that other people do! Great job, it's stunning.