It was cookie day! I had been hearing about this class for weeks and was excited it was finally upon us. Our chef warned us that we were about to make literally hundred of cookies and should invite some friends to come at the end of class to enjoy the bounty.
We were told that this class would be the closest thing we had in the curriculum to working in a real kitchen and were immediately told the seven cookies recipes we would each need to produce in the next four hours.
A chocolate ribbon cake sounds easy enough to create considering we had already been through molded cakes. It is made up of three 6-inch round cake layers of chocolate nut cake, imbibing syrup, mousse, and chocolate plastic. Well, instructions can be deceiving…I had no idea what I was about to get myself into.
In the next 3 lessons we tackled the separated egg sponge cake method, in which you whip the egg yolks with ½ the sugar and separately whisk the whites with the other ½ of the sugar. After both have thickened, fold the yolk mixture into the whites, being careful not to flatten the whites, add in the flour and pour into pans.
This method led us to making pan di spagna, a typical Italian sponge cake, tiramisu, biscuit joconde, symphonie and grenoblois.
These were fun classes because we were getting to make some classics that we recognized. We all loved making the tiramisu, which was full of coffee and wine flavor and the symphonie, a seven layer cake full of hazelnut cream, ganache, buttercream, and biscuit! We also learned a new trick to help cakes not stick to the cardboard that they’re placed on. If you form a pate a glacer (90% couveture and 10% vegetable oil) and melt it, you can spread it very thinly on the bottom of the first layer of cake and it will prevent the cake from sticking itself to the cardboard.
Next up we leave the traditional world and enter the contemporary with the chocolate ribbon cake!
In case you’re wondering, a miroir is a cake made of a genoise mousseline cake, syrup, bavarian cream, and nappage. It is a beautiful, delicate cake perfect for any girly event. They are made in entreme rings (essentially cake pans with no bottoms), which create the gorgeously smooth and shiny sides of the cake. To make a miroir, start with 2 discs of genoise mousseline. Place one inside of an entremet ring that has been lined with cardboard. Moisten the layer of cake with syrup. Fill the entreme ring ½ way with bavarian cream. Then place the second layer of cake in the ring and moisten with the syrup. Fill with bavaraian until ¼ of an inch from the top. Chill to set. Reheat your nappage, chill it to room temperature and pour a thin layer over the miroir. Allow to set and unmold.
Next up we started on sponge, or genoise, cakes. Genoise cakes are very dry and so they always need to be soaked in ”imbibing syrup”. This is a great way to add different flavors to the same cake, but you have to be careful not to cover them in too sweet of an icing because the cakes are already very sweet and have been soaked in a syrup.
You start a genoise cake similarly to how you would make swiss meringue buttercream, but we will be using whole eggs, plus extra yolks, rather than just the whites. Essentially you whisk eggs, yolks, and sugar in a bowl over simmering water until it reaches 110 degrees. Then you take the mixture and place it on a mixer, whipping on high, until it is cool and has tripled in volume. After the mixture has cooled, remove from the mixture and fold in the dries. Sounds easy enough, right? The difficulty in this recipe comes in when you need enough patience to really let the egg/sugar mixture triple in volume. This step is essential to the recipe, but unfortunately quite painful to watch! You also need to be sure that when folding in the dries you fully incorporate them and don’t wind up with a blob of flour at the bottom of the bowl. This takes a delicate hand as folding too much will wind up deflating your eggs.
In the next two lessons we moved onto a new cake method, modified creaming method. Modified creaming method is similar to the traditional creaming, but rather than adding the eggs together, either after creaming the butter and sugar or with the wet ingredients, the eggs are actually separated. The yolks are added to the creamed butter and sugar and the whites are stiffened with the sugar and folded into the creamed mixture.
To illustrate the point of this method, we focused on international cakes, mainly from Hungary and Austria. We started with a Dobostorte. Now if you’re like most American’s you’ve never heard of this cake, but it is actually a very pretty little cake and is shown at the top of this post. It is essentially a crepe cake, chocolate buttercream and a caramelized top layer, cut into wedges and applied to the tops of the cake like the spokes of a windmill!
In lesson 58, we focused on foam cakes, angel food and chiffon. A big difference between chiffon and angel food cakes are that angel food cakes have no egg yolks, which is also why they’re always considered a diet cake (although with the amount of sugar in one, I’m not sure I can agree).
We had been warned that this would be one of the toughest classes in the entire curriculum, so I entered lesson 56 with great trepidation. The almond cakes were already baked and filled with raspberry jam and the class was about to begin. As I looked around the kitchen, everyone seemed as nervous as I was and we were all frantically trying to draw some possible options for our decorations. The challenge we were given was to create 12 identical petits fours…seemed simple enough, but because of the warning we had been given, I knew I must have been missing something.
After a fairly successful icing day in lesson 54, I came to lesson 55 ready to decorate. We were going to ice the chocolate cakes we made in the first lesson of this mod and right away I knew I needed my cake to have a Ganache beurre praline filling, a filling made from one-and-a-half parts chocolate, to one-part cream, to half part butter and half part praline paste, so I got to work on that right away. Then I was given two cakes to use, so I didn’t even have to cut it. I had a blast filling the cakes, pouring ganache over them and eventually patting chocolate curls to the outside. Luckily I had hazelnuts on hand because after attaching the curls, a huge crater began appearing on the top of the cake…nothing a few cut hazelnuts couldn’t hide!
Lesson 54 was one of the scariest lessons to date. I’ve always found the thought of icing a cake to be completely daunting. Nevertheless, I entered this class with an open mind and got to work creating the lemon buttercream that I was going to use to ice my lemon-scented white cake.
This was the easy part.
After creating the buttercream, I was given one of the cakes I had created the previous lesson and told to slice this two-inch cake into two cakes horizontally. I was scared out of my mind. How on earth was I going to evenly slice a 2-inch cake, I thought to myself. After shuddering at the cake I finally approached it with my bread knife, got down to eye level with it, and got to work. I placed my left hand above it gently and started to carefully and timidly cut and swirl. I swirled the cake with my left hand while gently cutting into it with my right. I don’t think I let out one breath for what seemed like the eternity of me cutting this cake. But low and behold, my method worked! I had successfully cut my cake in half and was ready to begin filling it with some raspberry jam.
Lesson 52 introduced us to the two-step, or high-ratio, mixing method. For this class we were making a fruit financier, high-ratio pound cake, and a high-ratio fresh ginger pound cake. A high-ratio cake is easy to recognize from its list of ingredients. The weight of the sugar will always be equal to or greater than the weight of the flour. If you were to use this recipe and make it using the one-step mixing method, the high proportion of sugar could lead to a coarse texture in the final product. That is why in the 1940s, Proctor and Gamble created the two-step mixing method, which creates a particularly fine textured cake.
This method involves combining all of the dry ingredients, adding the fat (usually butter) into the dry ingredients until well incorporated and then combing all of the liquid ingredients and adding them into the mixer in two-to-three additions.