Cakes-CtoM 1: Crunchy Caramel Cake

2006-03-10

Update: Since this is the most requested item on this blog, here is the recipe we used.

There weren't as many students in this weeknight class as ones I've taken in the past, about 12 people. The instructor is the same one I had for Art of Cakes so I was very pleased. We started the class by making a “modern” cake which is really a knockoff of La Rocca's Super Caramel Crunch cake. I've never had this before in a restaurant or from a store, but it's supposed to be very popular.

Crunchy Caramel CakeThe first component was the meringue noisette layers. We whipped egg whites until foamy, then slowly added sugar to them. Chef told us that the finer the sugar, the better the result, as it dissolves completely in the foam. Canadian refined sugar is among the world's best, she said, and is superior to imported products from the US or Brazil. Off the beater, we folded in cornstarch and ground hazelnuts by hand. With a large plain tip, we piped them into 7" circles, letting the batter fall from the tip to get more volume. She baked them in a low oven but noted that there might be air pockets. At home, if we had the time, she recommended we bake them at an even lower temperature for a longer time.more…

Next, we made a butterscotch caramel using the wet method, in which water is mixed with sugar and then boiled. During the early stages of cooking, we washed down any crystals that formed on the sides of the pan with a brush dipped in cold water, as well as adding liquid glucose. Any sugar crystals encourage crystallization of the caramel, so both washing and the added simple sugar discourage that from happening.

During Chef's demo, her pot boiled violently and produced a lot of scum, evidence of sugar contamination. She theorized that the bin where she scooped from contained a bit of icing sugar, and had to dump the pot out and start over again. Using a newly opened 20 kg bag of sugar, her second attempt was far more successful. She related a story of how she was taught to test the temperature of melted sugar by quickly dipping her hand in cold water then the hot caramel! When the mixture reached a deep honey colour, she took it off heat then carefully added scalded whipping cream a bit at a time. As soon as the liquid hit the caramel it boiled furiously so we had to stand back and keep stirring. Lastly, we added some butter. To help it cool down faster, we poured it onto a sheet pan then put it in the freezer. Each team had our own unique caramel-making experience: one group burned theirs and had to start over; another pair created fudge when their caramel crystallized after cooling down.

The final component was a Chantilly cream that we stabilized with some gelatin. My partner and I decided to omit the sugar. For assembly, we took a meringue layer and spread some butterscotch caramel on it then piped a spiral of cream over it, repeating for all three layers. When the caramel got too stiff to spread, we placed the pan in the warm oven for a few minutes to melt it again. Using a parchment cone, we drizzled a pattern over top using the leftover caramel.

As you can see from the photo, during the drive home, my cake leaned over. The meringue was very fragile so I was not able to reposition the layers without breaking it. No matter, as my coworkers devoured the cake very quickly. Even after a night of refrigeration, the meringue was still crunchy and had a wonderful hazelnut flavour. The whole thing was a bit too sweet for me, but that's what dessert is supposed to be sometimes!

In case you missed it above, here again is a link to the recipe we used.

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