You can now purchase my handmade candy bars and marshmallows at http://www.bonbonbar.com/
Our Basic & Classical Cakes block is divided into two segments: Filled Cakes/Tortes and Unfilled Cakes/Tarts. Each one lasts 7 days (including a practical), and I was in filled cakes first. Here’s a sampling of what was made by my 3-person team (we sometimes each decorated our own cake or made one cake for the whole team). They are mostly sponge cakes with a kind of cream filling/frosting.
We began with basic layer cakes. This is a Sponge Cake with Poire William Buttercream Icing. Puffed rice is adhered to the bottom sides. To decorate it, you cut a sponge cake in thirds (and trimming any uneven parts on top) while holding it flat on the table and slowly spinning it with one hand as you saw the knife horizontally, mostly holding it in one place as the cake moves to have it cut. Once you cut off one third, you just have to cut the remaining piece in half. Then we put it on an 8″ cardboard (the same size as the cake), and brushed each layer with Poire William flavored simple syrup before spreading icing on it as level as possible. I always tried to put slightly less icing in the middle, because that area usually wound up with too much and made a slightly domed caked (I think my slices of cake also tended to be thicker in the middle). And the height of the icing should be about half the height of the cake layers. Once all the layers were on, we put it on a rotating cake stand and put a thin icing coating on the top and sides (filling in icing between the layers), and chilled it before putting on the rest of the icing. This is called a Crumb Coat because it captures the crumbs from the cake in one layer, and lets you have a smooth finish with the rest of the icing. We then transferred it to a 10″ cardboard with a grease-proof doily glued onto it (icing under the doily gives it a messy look once pieces are taken away). We cut it and then decorated the top.
Once you slice it and pull a piece out, you can measure the success of your cutting and icing work. Actually, now that I think about it, you could probably take most of the guesswork out of whether you filled it evenly if you establish how much filling you need per layer and weigh it out for subsequent layers and cakes.
The trick with this Chocolate Hazelnut Cream Cake was that a regular sponge had to be cut into 5 slices — 5 very thin slices which had to be removed and integrated again; we put each on a cardboard round to make it a little easier. The chocolate cream (Creme Parisienne) also had to be made the day before because if you melt chocolate into cream, you have to wait a day or else it won’t whip up.
This is a Vanilla Charlotte with Raspberries and Passionfruit. The filling is a Bavarian cream, which is made from a creme anglaise that has gelatin and whipped cream incorporated into it. This cake, and most of the ones below, were assembled in a ring mold (the type I used for my 2 inch quiche) until completed. The passionfruit was too runny to simply put on top of the cake, so we added two melted gelatin sheets to it so that it would set up. It also has a gelatin glaze on top to preserve the integrity of the surface and prevent the topping from bleeding across the surface.
The thin sponge cake on the outside and bottom were cut out of a jaconde sponge that we made on the back of a sheet pan. A chocolate tulip paste was spread onto a silpat through a stencil and then the sponge batter was poured on top and baked.
This is a Vanilla Charlotte with Blood Orange and Pomegranate. I think that the colors and design are fantastic.
A Gateau St. Honore, already discussed here.
Chocolate Cognac Cake, made with a short dough bottom covered with raspberry jam, 1/3 chocolate sponge, cognac simple syrup, cognac cream filling, dark chocolate filling, chocolate covered marzipan, and half truffles. A very rich cake. For the marzipan, we rolled it out and cut it with a ring mold, spread melted chocolate on top (which was tricky b/c it sets fast; I put mine briefly in the deck oven to melt it a little more and smooth it out), waited for it to set, and cut it. We laid the pieces on top of the cake and then cut the cake slices so that they were perfectly matched to their top.
Chocolate Raspberry Cake, with a Japonaise brushed with raspberry jam, 1/4 choc genoise soaked with framboise syrup, 1/2 of the choc mousse, 1/4 genoise soaked with framboise syrup, rest of the mousse, and raspberries. A Japonaise is a piped (w/ plain tip) disk of meringue flavored with ground almonds.
Chocolate Grand Marnier Cake, with Japonaise brushed with ganache, 1/2 choc genoise soaked with grand marnier syrup, half of choc grand marnier filling, Japonaise, and rest of filling on top and sides. We made the top by spreading out melted chocolate in a sheet pan, and rolling through it with a pastry cutter to form diamonds that we cut with paring knives into triangles. When that was cooled, we layered them on top, and sprinkled them with cocoa. For the sides, we spread melted chocolate onto an acetate sheet that had a pattern on it, and let it set just slightly before wrapping it around the cake. To cut it, we marked out 10 slices, and then warmed our paring knives with a blowtorch and touched the chocolate on the outside to melt it through. Then we went back and cut completely through the cake. This cake was a little too full of solid sheets of meringue and chocolate for me to eat.
Raspberry Yogurt Cake, with a short dough bottom covered in raspberry jam, 1/3 of a sponge cake soaked in Framboise syrup, raspberry yogurt filling (the yogurt here takes the place of creme anglaise), and raspberry mirror glaze. The cake has to be on a perfectly level surface for the glaze to set evenly, or else some areas are darker than others.
By the way, cutting these cakes was a challenge in itself. For 10 slices, you have to cut it in half, then estimate a fifth of one half and cut all the way across the cake, and then cut the remaining two large pieces in half across the acke. Not only is it hard to get the slices teh same size, but finding the middle of the cake is tricky. We made stencils to put under the cake to cut it, but even that had plenty of room for error.
Looking back on these cakes, I think that they look pretty nice, but except for the Gateau St. Honore, I wasn’t too thrilled with their flavors or textures. Bavarian cream is a bit too bland and gelatinous to me; I prefer looser creams. And I never did make my peace with sponge cake, which I find dry and bland no matter how much simple syrup is brushed into it; we made no moist American-style cakes.
We made the last four cakes at about the same time, and it was a bit tricky to remember which components went into which cakes because it seemed pretty arbitrary; the cognac cake could have been flavored with grand marnier as far as I was concerned. It’s fine that the flavorings are interchangeable, but I like it when the form of the cake is more linked to its flavor.
I think that the techniques used for these cakes still gives a good amount of food for thought for cake assembly, though, and I think they can be applied to many other desserts that I could play around with.