filbert gateau with praline buttercream, vegan.

It’s that exciting time again – Daring Bakers challenge! This is my third challenge, a Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream. This cute little cake was reminiscent of my first challenge (Opera Cake) in the sense that it too is multi-layered, hazelnut (filbert) based, and involved several steps (and days) to come together. Many thanks to this month’s host, Mele Cotte, for an inspired challenge pick.

July has been an absolutely insane month for me, as evidenced by my sorely low number of posts. I usually like to get the DB challenge done at the beginning of the month so I don’t have to worry about it – but not this time. This Gateau was made in the final week and spanned more than a few days of work – which was cutting it close. Thankfully, several steps could be done in advance which made life a bit easier, and made making the cake possible. I made the praline paste on the first evening and the hazelnut cake layers on the second. Then my crazy life got in the way of completing the cake for two more days. I wrapped those layers up tight and hoped for the best. They seem to be none the worse for wear, thankfully. When I was finally able to  get back to business, I made the buttercream, whipped ‘cream’, sugar syrup, apricot glaze, and chocolate ganache, and then assembled the entire thing.

I made an adorable 6-inch cake, using my new 6-inch pans. The original recipe called for making a single 10-inch cake, which would then be sliced horizontally to make three layers. Since part of the challenge involved splitting the cake layers (to make more layers), and because I made two smaller cakes which weren’t high enough to split in three individually, I split each of  them in two. This left me with an extra fourth layer which I then cut with a 2-inch round cookie cutter to make a mini tower gateau.

Skinning hazelnuts. I still hate it. This, despite hearing about a better method to remove them, involving boiling water and baking soda. It does work. I wasn’t expecting the violent chemical reaction that occurred when I added the nuts to the boiling water. It was an instantaneous increase in volume, one hundred-fold, a tidal wave of white foam which proceeded to cascade up and over the side of my little pot and down through the electric coil burner of my old stove and into the oven below. Now that was messed up. But the skins did come off after a good half hour of rubbing in small batches. So tedious. I made the mistake of using one of my favourite tea towels to do the job and it is now hopelessly stained maroon. Lessen learned. Avoid hazelnuts.

I hadn’t been completely satisfied with my hazelnut joconde from the Opera Cake, so I saw this challenge as an opportunity to revisit it. However, with time constraints being what they were, I didn’t have as much time to experiment as I would have liked. What I ended up doing was a melding of the plain vanilla cupcakes from VCTOTW and my Opera Cake. It’s still not perfect – but it’s pretty good. Hubby loved it, as did my mum. Next time around I’d like to try making a plain vanilla cake or perhaps cut back on the hazelnut flour a tad.

Update: In truth, I’m probably projecting my decorating disappointment onto the actual taste of the cake. The taste is pretty great, I must admit – and seems to improve with each passing day. All those flavour layers really compliment each other quite nicely – as do the differing textures. In fact, this Filbert Gateau kicks my Opera Cake’s butt – and I quite liked the Opera Cake.

I once read about using toothpicks as a guide if you need to split a cake into multiple layers. I tried it out for this cake and it worked very well.

Making praline paste was a first for me. It tasted quite nice. I can see how it would make a great topping for other desserts. I thought I killed my Kitchen Aid momentarily, when I first set to turning the candy brittle to dust, but it made it through to see another day of olive hummus.

I cut back on the rum in the sugar syrup this time around (another lessen learned from the Opera Cake), and didn’t use it anywhere else. This means that you can’t really taste the rum, but that’s ok. I also didn’t brush the cake layers quite so heavily with syrup. This made for a preferable, lighter texture. I test drove a new Hazelnut Buttercream, despite the fact that I really enjoyed the one I made for the Opera Cake. I thought I could make it even better. I wanted something a little smoother, fluffier, and less sweet.  With the help of some soy milk powder it was a delicious success.

One of the most exciting developments for me was my rediscovery of a product I hadn’t seen in years: NutriWhip. NutriWhip is an oil-based whipping cream. It is similar to Cool Whip – however, where Cool Whip contains a little dairy, NutriWhip does not.  NutriWhip comes in liquid form in an aseptic tetrapack and must be whipped up with an electric beater, which is half the fun. Not the healthiest thing in the world, but then neither is whipped cream. It’s good to know that if I need something whipped-cream-like, I can pull this product out. It gave the cake a beautiful light texture that worked wonderfully in tandem with the buttercream. I suspect that I could also fold some chocolate into it, or other flavourings, and make a lovely fluffy icing with it sometime. This is definitely going on the to-do list.

Every chocolate ganache I have ever endeavored to make has always been too thick to pour properly. This time I erred on the thin side. This meant that some lumps and bumps were visible, and the ganache didn’t adhere to the sides of my cake as cleanly as I would have liked. Confession: I did not strain the apricot preserves before brushing them on my cake, for which I shall be punished with lumps. And while we’re on the topic of ugly, my piping skills clearly need work. I’ve never piped anything  before. Also, I had a cheapo piping bag and tip from the supermarket. Clearly inadequate. And, I didn’t make enough extra buttercream for decorating. I so wanted this cake to be pretty. Ah well, next time.

Despite its less than stellar looks, the cake turned out awesomely delicious. I really like how the flavours are layered, as well as the textures. Hubby loved it. Mum loved it. Even I liked it. The left over ganache makes a great hot sauce when heated – Hubby likes to drizzle it over a slice of cake with a few extra dollops of whipped ‘cream’ on the side. Very, very decadent. I shall endeavor to make the next cake prettier. My novice decorating skills may not win this cake any beauty contests, but the taste makes it a winner.

~

Hazelnut Cake (makes one 6-inch cake):

1 cup plain soy milk (full fat)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup hazelnut flour
2 tbsp corn starch
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla

  • Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 6-inch pans, and line bottoms with parchment paper.
  • Whisk apple cider vinegar and soy milk in a large bowl and set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, sift dry ingredients together and combine.
  • Return to large bowl with soy milk mixture and add remaining wet ingredients. Stir to combine.
  • Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Stir to combine.

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Praline Paste:

1 cup hazelnuts, skinned and toasted.
2/3 cups sugar

  • Line a baking sheet with parchment and lightly grease.
  • Place sugar in heavy skillet and heat on low for 10-20 minutes until starts to melt around the edges. Do not stir.
  • After 20 minutes, if the sugar in the centre has not melted, stir lightly.
  • When sugar is completely melted and caramel in colour, remove from heat.
  • Return to low heat and stir in nuts with a wooden spoon, working to separate the clusters.
  • Make sure all the nuts are thoroughly coated, cook until mixture starts to bubble.
  • Warning: EXTREMELY HOT. USE CAUTION. If you touch it, it will burn the hell out of you.
  • Pour mixture onto prepared parchment and allow to cool.
  • When cooled, it will turn into brittle. Break into small pieces and place in food processor.
  • Process until completely fine and smooth, stopping several times to scrape the sides and stir.
  • Store in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place. Do not refrigerate.

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Hazelnut Buttercream:

1/2 cup earth balance, softened (or other vegan buttery spread)
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup praline paste (see recipe)
1 cup soy milk powder

  • Cream earth balance and confectioner’s sugar together in a large bowl, using an electric mixer.
  • Add soy milk powder and water, and combine.
  • Add praline paste.

~

Apricot Glaze:

2/3 cup apricot preserves
1 tbsp water, or more if needed

  • In a small saucepan, bring water and preserves to a boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes, adding more water if needed to prevent mixture from sticking to bottom of pan.
  • Remove from heat and strain.
  • Apply to cake using a pastry brush.

~

Ganache Glaze:

4oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup soy creamer
2 tbsp earth balance
2 tbsp maple syrup

  • Heat soy creamer, earth balance, and maple syrup on stove until it starts to boil.
  • Remove from heat and add chocolate chips.
  • Stir rapidly until chocolate has melted completed and all is combined and smooth.

Assembly:

  • I made two 6-inch cakes which were each split in two horizontally, giving me four layers. You could use all four if you like – for this cake I used three. The fourth was turned into a mini-cake. Toothpicks make a great guide if you need to split layers.
  • Brush first layer with sugar syrup, add layer of buttercream, then a layer of nutriwhip.
  • Repeat with second layer.
  • Add third layer, brush with syrup. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Cut a slight bevel around outer rim of top layer, so ganache will drip down sides.
  • Brush sides and top of cake with apricot glaze.
  • Pour ganache glaze over top and allow to spill over sides.
  • Decorate with buttercream.
  • Pour ganache glaze over top.

Be sure to visit the Daring Bakers Blogroll for a bounty of incredible cakes, the beauty of which will blow you away.

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and the nominees are.

A million thanks to Jennifer of the fantastic blog Small Space Sweets for her super nice compliments and for nominating me for a Brillante Weblog Award – my first award, awesome!

First, I must put the logo on my blog. Check.

Second, I must link to the awesome person who gave me this award. Check.

Thirdly, I must nominate seven other blogs and provide links to them.

Now this is so much harder than it sounds. My blogroll is ever increasing with so many awesomely talented individuals – not to mention my very swollen blog reader. I love every single one of them – but I made a quick random sampling of all that excellence out there and this is how it unfolded:

It is my honour to recognize the following awesome blogs for the Weblog Brillante Award:

Cooking at the Pacific Outpost – Great food and witty, well-written posts.
Innocent Primate – chock-full of awesome vegan food, especially desserts.
Vegan Lovlie – this is one talented, friendly vegan – desserts to die for.
The Dark Faerie – one of the first blogs I read regularly – great food and a sharp wit.
Walking the Vegan Line – one of the first blog connections I made, showing me how friendly the blogosphere is.
What the Hell Does a Vegan Eat Anyway – incredibly inspiring fare, for anyone, vegan or not.
Yeah, That “Vegan” Shit - witty, well-written posts and great food.

Fourthly, I must leave messages for my nominees on their blogs. And off I go to do that!

Thank you Jennifer – you made my day!

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my priorities are clear.

The wonderful foodie blog Lick The Spatula introduced me to this very fun app called Wordle.

I’m a sucker for anything having to do with words, text, and images, and Wordle is all of these things wrapped up in one fun little package.

You go to the Wordle site, enter the URL of your blog or blog feed, and it generates a word cloud based on the most used text on your blog – from however many posts that happen to be on the front page of your blog at a given time.

I couldn’t resist – I had to give it a try.

As you can see, my priorities are very clear. Sorry hubby.