A cake to celebrate

When the lovely Chris of Mele Cotte announced the Daring Bakers July challenge was announced, a shudder went down my spine. Nuts, and lots of them, and hazelnuts, which I´m not really a fan of. I don´t know what happens in the rest of the world, but almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts have been getting more expensive around these parts. As in, 6 pesos for 100 grams, as in, I never eat nuts.


But I decided the recipe sounded tempting enough to go for it, especially if I managed to find a birthday to justify baking the most expensive cake ever. And I found the perfect birthday boy, my cousin and godson Martín.


Doesn´t he look adorable? Well, he actually is, in between hyperactive fits. And he truly has a life worth celebrating, since his heart gave him trouble from the moment he was born. Fortunately, he´s perfectly fine now, and he is one of my favorite people on earth. It´s no secret I like unusual people, and Martín gives me plenty to love. Even before he was able to speak, he would crack jokes only he would understand while playing with his toys and started laughing. And he has some peculiar sense of humor… I don´t really know how to describe it exactly, but he likes to play with words and to exploit the ridiculous side of life.

And the morbid side every once in a while too. Like the time he was about 4 and he was asking everyone how old they were, so when he got to our mutual grandpa and he said “82”, so Martín said, as if he was stating the most obvious fact ever, “oh, so you are the one that´s going to die first then.” haha Ok, it´s funnier if you are not my grandpa, of course.

But I´m getting sidetracked here by Martín´s awesomeness, since we are here to talk cake, people. So, after having shelled out those precious pesos for the almonds and the chocolate. I set about to make the cake, which let me tell you, isn´t too bad if you do some things ahead of time, tedious things like peel almonds.



And making caramel to make praline and fancy decorations.


And then you make the cake, fill it up with whipped cream or buttercream with the praline paste you made before. Cover it up with a ganache, whipped cream or buttercream, your fancy caramel thingies, and voilá… easy, right?


Ok, maybe not particularly fast or straight-forward, but I have to say this probably was one of the best cakes I´ve ever made. It was very moist and it tasted amazing, if I may say so myself.

So if you ever want to honor someone special and have some time to spare… or find a good bunch of almonds or hazelnuts on sale, I´d say this is the cake to make.


And for a thousand other takes on this recipe, check out what my fellow Daring Bakers did.

Recipe after the jump


Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream
From Great Cakes by Carol Walter

1 Filbert Genoise
1 recipe sugar syrup, flavored with dark rum
1 recipe Praline Buttercream
½ cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
1 recipe Apricot Glaze
1 recipe Ganache Glaze, prepared just before using
3 tablespoons filberts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Filbert Genoise

Because of the amount of nuts in the recipe, this preparation is different from a classic genoise.

1 ½ cups hazelnuts, toasted/skinned
2/3 cup cake flour, unsifted
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
7 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar, divided ¼ & ¾ cups
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. grated lemon rind
5 lg. egg whites
¼ cup warm, clarified butter (100 – 110 degrees)

Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 10” X 2” inch round cake pan.

Using a food processor, process nuts, cake flour, and cornstarch for about 30 seconds.  Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture.  You’ll know the nuts are ready when they begin to gather together around the sides of the bowl. While you want to make sure there aren’t any large pieces, don’t over-process.  Set aside.

Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add ¾ cup of sugar.  It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step.  When finished, the mixture should be ribbony.  Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind.  Remove and set aside.

Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so.  Continue to beat for another ½ minute.
Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk for 1 minute.

Pour the warm butter in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). * It must be a deep bottom bowl and work must be fast.*  Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time – folding it carefully for about 40 folds.   Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter.  Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate, about 13 or so folds.

With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon.  **If collected butter remains at the bottom of the bowl, do not add it to the batter!  It will impede the cake rising while baking.

Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan.  Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes.  Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan.  Cool the cake completely.

*If not using the cake right away, wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap, then in a plastic bag, then in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If freezing, wrap in foil, then the bag and use within 2-3 months.

Sugar Syrup
Makes 1 cup, good for one 10-inch cake – split into 3 layers

1 cup water
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp. dark rum or orange flavored liqueur

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the liqueur. Cool slightly before using on the cake.  *Can be made in advance.

Praline Buttercream
1 recipe Swiss Buttercream
1/3 cup praline paste
1 ½ – 2 Tbsp. Jamaican rum (optional)

Blend ½ cup buttercream into the paste, then add to the remaining buttercream.  Whip briefly on med-low speed to combine.  Blend in rum.

Swiss Buttercream
4 lg. egg whites
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 ½ -2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier or liqueur of your choice
1 tsp. vanilla

Place the egg whites in a lg/ bowl of a elevtric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved.  The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.
Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. *Do not overbeat*. Set aside.

Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. *Do not overbeat or the butter will become toooooo soft.*

On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute.  Add the liqueur and vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.

Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.

Wait! My  buttercream won’t come together! Reheat the buttercream briefly over simmering water for about 5 seconds, stirring with a wooden spoon. Be careful and do not overbeat. The mixture will look broken with some liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Return the bowl to the mixer and whip on medium speed just until the cream comes back together.

Wait! My buttercream is too soft! Chill the buttercream in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes and rewhip. If that doesn’t work, cream an additional 2-4 Tbsp. of butter in a small bowl– making sure the butter is not as soft as the original amount, so make sure is cool and smooth. On low speed, quickly add the creamed  butter to the buttercream, 1 Tbsp. at a time.

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or can be frozen for up to 6 months. If freezing, store in 2 16-oz. plastic containers and thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for several hours.

Praline Paste
1 cup (4 ½ oz.) Hazelnuts, toasted/skinless
2/3 cup Sugar
Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and lightly butter.

Put the sugar in a heavy 10-inch skillet.  Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals.  If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly. When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides.  Cook until the mixture starts to bubble.  **Remember – extremely hot mixture.** Then onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle. Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor.  Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder. To make paste, process for several minutes. Store in an airtight container and store in a cook dry place.  Do not refrigerate.

Apricot Glaze
Good for one 10-inch cake

2/3 cup thick apricot preserves
1 Tbsp. water

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and preserves to a slow boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add water as needed.

Remove from heat and, using a strainer, press the mixture through the mesh and discard any remnants. With a pastry brush, apply the glaze onto the cake while the cake is still warm.  If the glaze is too thick, thin to a preferred consistency with drops of water.

Ganache Glaze
Makes about 1 cup, enough to cover the top and sides of a 9 or 10 inch layer or tube cake

**Ganache can take on many forms.  While warm – great fudge sauce.  While cool or lukewarm – semisweet glaze. Slightly chilled – can be whipped into a filling/frosting. Cold & solid – the base of candied chocolate truffles.

6 oz. (good) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, like Lindt
6 oz. (¾ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier, Cointreay, or dark Jamaican rum (optional)
¾ tsp. vanilla
½ – 1 tsp. hot water, if needed

Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside.

Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside.

Heat the cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil.  Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate.  Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla mixture. If the surface seems oily, add ½ – 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!

Assembling Cake

Cut a cardboard disk slightly smaller than the cake.  Divide the cake into 3 layers and place the first layer top-side down on the disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 Tbsp. of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1 cup of praline buttercream and set aside.

Spread the bottom layer with a ¼-inch thickness of the remaining buttercream.  Cover with ½ of the whipped cream, leaving ¼-inch border around the edge of the cake.  Place the middle layer over the first, brush with sugar syrup, spreading with buttercream. Cover with the remaining whipped cream.

Moisten the cut side of the third layer with additional sugar syrup and place cut side down on the cake.  Gently, press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate to chill for at least 30 minutes.

Lift the cake by sliding your palm under the cardboard. Holding a serrated or very sharp night with an 8-ich blade held parallel to the sides of the cake, trim the sides so that they are perfectly straight. Cut a slight bevel at the top to help the glaze drip over the edge. Brush the top and sides of the cake with warm apricot glaze, sealing the cut areas completely.  Chill while you prepare the ganache.

Place a rack over a large shallow pan to catch the ganache drippings.  Remove the gateau from the refrigerator and put it the rack. With a metal spatula in hand, and holding the saucepan about 10 inches above the cake, pour the ganache onto the cake’s center.  Move the spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance.  The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. When the ganache has been poured and is coating the cake, lift one side of the rack and bang it once on the counter to help spread the ganache evenly and break any air bubbles. (Work fast before setting starts.) Patch any bare spots on the sides with a smaller spatula, but do not touch the top after the “bang”.  Let the cake stand at least 15 minutes to set after glazing.

To garnish the cake, fit a 12 – 14-inch pastry bag with a #114 large leaf tip. Fill the bag with the reserved praline cream.  Stating ½ inch from the outer edge of the cake, position the pastry tube at a 90 degree angle with the top almost touching the top of the cake. Apply pressure to the pastry bag, moving it slightly toward the center of the cake.  As the buttercream flows on the cake, reverse the movement backward toward the edge of the cake and finish by pulling the bag again to the center. Stop applying pressure and press the bag downward, then quickly pull the tip up to break the flow of frosting.  Repeat, making 12 leaves evenly spaced around the surface of the cake.

Make a second row of leaves on the top of the first row, moving the pastry bag about ¾ inch closer to the center.  The leaves should overlap.  Make a 3rd row, moving closer and closer to the center. Add a 4th row if you have the room. But, leave a 2-inch space in the center for a chopped filbert garnish. Refrigerate uncovered for 3-4 hours to allow the cake to set. Remove the cake from the refrigerator at least 3 hours before serving.

Leftover cake can be covered with foil and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


Filed under Daring bakers, food, sweet

24 responses to “A cake to celebrate

  1. Fabulous! Your cake looks very pretty!



  2. sleepingbear

    Oh but Martin is a lucky guy!!!!! How wonderful to be presented with this for ones B-day and to have one so loving as to bake it !!
    Looks fantastic Marce, great job!!!!!

  3. Lovely Cake! I like how you decorated it…

  4. Martin is a lucky guy!
    Gorgeous cake.

  5. Marce, I am thrilled you love the cake! It looks amazing. And, I so enjoyed reading about Martin. 🙂 Thanks for completing this challenge! Cheers!

  6. cookingupafamily

    I love your idea to use the brittle as a cake decoration. You are right nuts are getting expensive. I used almonds also, I had a good little supply of them at home so I didnt have to spend too much.

  7. Ahhhh…..your caramelized sugar as a decoration is gorgeous. Cool firecrackers too! LOL!!!

  8. I like the cake, sarap (delicious).

  9. Well, I’d say Martin had a perfect looking birthday cake! And it did taste divine didn’t it!

  10. Ann

    Love the look of your cake!

  11. Susan in CA

    I need a SMALL piece of that NOW!

  12. Yay Marce! Excellent job on those decorations. I didn’t even think of using the praline until every single piece was in my processor. Maybe next time. I agree that the cake was very moist which is nice. What a handsome boy Martin is! I could pinch one of those cheeks of his right now.

  13. Y

    Lovely cake. I thought of using some unprocessed praline on top of my cake too, but then I accidentally ate it all 😛

  14. Wow, that cake looks wonderful! I want to reach right inside the blog and put a fork in it! 🙂


  15. He is quite adorable! I’m glad it was him that you got to make the cake for 🙂

    And what a cake! Holy cow, Marce, it’s gorgeous!! Way to go, my love!!!

    Smooches to Phoebe.. tell her auntie misses her!

  16. Yum–Martin is so lucky to have a cake-baking padrina like you! Que rica torta!

  17. flyingturtlesstringband

    Such a nice aunty, you are. What a great birthday cake!!!! It is the most festive thing I’ve baked in a loooooong time. And so dang yummy. Love your use of the caramel/nut thangs.

  18. flyingturtlesstringband

    Ooo…I used my musician alterego there…sign me as Dove and my food/farm blog is at http://paletteable.livejournal.com…Cheers!

  19. sorry about the costs – but what a great way to celebrate!

  20. What a great cake to celebrate Martin! Your cake turned out perfect!

  21. Oooh snap is that a firework on the cake?!!
    That makes me all kinds of happy inside! =)
    Martin sounds like so much fun! The best kids are always the morbid ones with weird humor.
    YAY for you and your cake and Martin’s birthday!

  22. Your cake looks great! The sparkler adds a nice touch too, how fun. I hope your Martin enjoyed it.

  23. Ooo, your cake looks great! I love the fancy caramel thingies!

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