Saturday, July 19, 2014

brown sugar berries chocolate cake with vertical ombre frosting.

Helloo! It's cake again today! In fact I think it's cake 80% of the time around here. This time it's because I wanted to try the ombre frosting technique.

Usually, cakes frosted a la ombre would look something like this, with complementary colours spiraling up the cake in decreasing lightness, and I fully intended to do something like that until I realised that my cake was way to short to create a gradient of more than one colour. I then abandoned this idea (but not after first mentally berating myself for not using a smaller pan which I was close to doing (!)) and thought of maybe practicing piping some flowers but if I was going to pipe flowers then I would prefer to have different colours of them, and the problem was that I had only a piping tip of each kind. Which means that I would have to wash the piping tip and get out another pastry bag everytime I finish with a colour. Um, no thank you.

So I went back to my ombre idea and racked my brains for a way to make it work and it hit me suddenly that I could frost the cake in a vertical sort of way. Look at a cake from the top and mentally divide it into thirds, each in various shades - that's what I mean. I was a little hesitant when I started frosting, but then again it could be because this was only the second time I've tried ombre-ing, because the colours weren't quite like what I pictured them to be (not in a bad way, just different) and it was a little difficult proportioning the frosting equally. But after melding the borders of two colours into one and smoothing all the messy edges out, the cake actually looked pretty good. I think ombre frosting is definitely for me - I'm not the most meticulous and exacting person so sometimes I do a sloppy job of frosting (I don't have a turntable too so cut me some slack), so techniques like this that gives me a bit of room for messiness but still turn out quite amazing is just perfect. Just like how I love that the way to care for my permed hair is to mess it up~~

I didn't manage to frost the middle portion so well - a bit of the cake was showing through because the frosting was thin in certain parts - so I decided to use some cookie flowers that I'd frozen beforehand for emergencies such as this. The cake looks gorgeous if I do say so myself, so much so that I'm even slightly thankful for my lousy frosting abilities! But seriously, I need to get myself 50 cakes and 10 barrels of frosting and do something about this weakness of mine. Oh and get a turntable too.

So that's enough about the frosting and now moving on to the cake. Like I said, the main reason for baking this cake wasn't about trying out a new recipe but just frosting it so I wasn't fussed about the cake. I just picked out a recipe that I'd tried before and found it to be pretty decent. As I was getting the butter and egg out of the fridge though I spied a small tub of mixed berries yoghurt, and me being unable to follow recipes as they are written as usual I decided to grab that and replace the buttermilk called for in the original with it. I imagined that the finished cake would have just a faint hint of berries since chocolate is a very strong flavour but I was wrong. The whole kitchen was filled with the sweet smell of berries mixed with a bit of chocolate when the cake was baking. And it's pretty noticeable in the cake too, although chocolate dominates taste-wise. I quite like it, it keeps the predictable chocolate cake interesting.

Wow this cake feels like quite the adventure. I think I should stop here. I bet most of you have gotten tired of reading halfway - even I'm slightly tired of typing out all my self-instigated worries, but if you've followed my story to the very end, thank you! Please have some (pictures of) cake.

Brown Sugar Berries Chocolate Cake
makes a 6 inch cake

For the cake:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp + 2 tsp cake flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/3 cup butter, cubed and softened
1 egg
1/2 cup mixed berries yoghurt (or any other kind of berry yoghurt)
2/3 tsp vanilla extract

For the cream cheese frosting:
recipe here (make 2/3 of the recipe)

cookies, recipe here

Bake the cake: Prepare a 6 inch cake tin.

Whisk all the dry ingredients together. Stir in the butter and mix until the mixture resembles moist crumbs. Add in the egg, yoghurt and vanilla and stir until well-combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for about 30 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Cool cake completely before frosting.

Frost the cake: Prepare the frosting according to the recipe. Divide the frosting into three portions and tint them in your desired colours. Take the darkest shade and frost one third of the cake with it. Take the second darkest shade and frost the middle portion. Don't worry about overlapping the first colour; in fact, you should! Finally cover up the last third of the cake with your lightest colour. Again, try to frost such that this and the second colour blend seamlessly at their borders. Refer to the pictures and the third paragraph if you're unsure of what I mean by a third. Chill the cake to allow the frosting to firm up.

If you're decorating the cake with the flower cookies as well, after they are baked they should be cooled completely before studding them into the frosting.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

brown sugar oreo cake.

"My birthday is next monday!"

"Oh really? Shall I make a cake and bring it to class?"

"I like oreos."

So the story goes, a very abbreviated version of it that is. I then found myself with the task of coming up with a birthday-worthy cake using oreos. And I enjoyed it as usual.

I am a chronic daydreamer. Close to half my waking hours are spent daydreaming; it may be an exaggeration, then again maybe not. I feel that most of the time my eyes are open but I'm seeing without really seeing. In front of me lies a magazine flipped open with its pages painted in kaleidoscopic hues but even the brightest of colours can't pull me back from my state of being plugged out from reality; these kinds of scenarios happen a lot and reaches an all day high when I'm in school.

One of my favorite things to daydream about is baking. What to bake next, specifically. I like having to innovate with the last bit of heavy cream, the remaining few slabs of white chocolate, the final spoonfuls of peanut butter than having an entire range of ingredients available to me. I think it's because my brain would just overload with the amount of possibilities and I would usually end up not baking because it's too tiring to think.

So I was glad that my friend named a particular ingredient she wanted in her cake. It's only one condition, which I think draws a certain boundary but doesn't restrict my creativity too much either. But I had other issues to think about as well. The cake had to be transported and exposed to super hot temperatures for at least 15 minutes so I wasn't about to risk frosting the cake for it may melt. Therefore, my two restrictions were: oreo, no frosting (but the cake still had to look good).

I started with the idea of a giant chocolate chip cookie cake with oreo pieces embedded in it. But I was afraid it would be too rich and too sweet for some and I momentarily played with the idea of making regular oreo-stuffed cookies. Then I wondered if cookies were festive enough for birthdays and decided that it was not, instead turning to a cake version of a chocolate chip cookie, replacing the chocolate chips with oreos. I would have picked it if I wasn't that particular about aesthetics; I mean - the cookie cake is supposed to bake up a little shorter than regular cakes and you know when it comes to birthday cakes, the bigger, the taller, the better. I think this paragraph is getting kinda long so I shall skip to the end where I finally decided to do this brown sugar oreo cake. My friend also likes cookie dough so I just adapted a regular yellow cake recipe, changing the white sugar to brown for a caramelly flavour that is reminiscent of chocolate chip cookies.

When the cake was baked the top, although littered with oreos, looked a little bare so I decided to drizzle a regular glaze over the surface. Halfway through I decided to add a little cocoa powder and continue waving my fork back and forth over the cake just for a little extra colour. I sliced the cake, I snacked on a few large crumbs that dislocated themselves from the slices. Baker's treat. The cake was so moist it might as well have been one that was made with oil and not butter.

Oreos or not, I'm bookmarking this recipe.

Brown Sugar Oreo Cake
makes a 7 inch tube cake

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
one sleeve of oreos (about 14), crushed roughly

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a 7 inch tube pan.

Whisk the cake flour, baking powder and salt until combined.

Cream the butter until smooth. Beat in the brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one by one, incorporating the first fully before adding the next. Beat in the vanilla extract.

Stir in flour mixture in 3 additions and the milk in 2, incorporating each fully before adding the next. Stir in some of the crushed oreos.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining oreos on top. Bake for about 30 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Cool completely before slicing.

Friday, July 11, 2014

butterfly cookies.

When I'm absolutely bored out of my wits, feel like baking but have reached the capacity of my sugar intake for the week (I do have a limit, surprisingly), I turn to cookies, and the more complicated the better.

Cookie dough can be made in advance and stored in the freezer, defrosted and baked as and when your craving hits. Even if you bake the cookies straight away you don't have to finish them as soon as possible. Plus, cookie dough allows you to relieve your playdough years. (I was a huge fan of the giant tub of brightly-hued cylinders of dough that can be found at Ikea.)

Years ago I received a Japanese cookie recipe book from my cousin that has amazing cookie designs. Before I read that book my idea of a very fussy cookie was the cut-out kind - I could groan at the very thought of having to roll out dough of any variety in this tropical weather. Moments after you retrieve chilled dough from the fridge it's already melting all over your board. The dough is sticky, your hands are sticky and you really just want to wash all this sticky business off your hands. Then, buckets of flour later, there's the slightly difficult task of rolling out the dough to an even thickness all around. Needless to say, I seldom make cut-out cookies.

It's thus very strange that I'm beginning to like making cookies from that book. The instructions stated in it extends beyond simple rolling. You have to separate a batch of plain dough into several other smaller portions of different colours depending on the design you wish to execute and then shape them into thin cylinders fat cylinders triangular logs squares etc. You refrigerate the dough (there's a lot of waiting time involved overall), you combine all the components together. And it's not easy to keep true to the original design. But it's equally rewarding. As strange the final design turned out, I couldn't help feeling a small sense of satisfaction. The pink circles embedded in the purple wings are almost undistinguishable and their positions awkward, I forgot to add the top part of the feelers so something was clearly missing, and there are large gaps in in between the disproportionately-sized body and the brown rectangles that extend from it, but the colours work together beautifully and these definitely aren't your average chocolate chip cookies.

Today I'm not going to type out the instructions on how to make the butterfly shape because looking at these pictures I'm sure you wouldn't feel very compelled to try it out *insert laughs of embarrassment* but I shall share with you the recipe for the cookie dough because I think it's a great one to have on hand. Cookies made with this dough don't expand much so it's great for cookies with patterns and they taste great too!

Plain Cookie Dough

100g butter
75g sugar
1/2 egg
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
170g cake flour
30g ground almonds

Beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar in two additions, beating until combined before adding the next. After adding in the second batch of sugar beat the mixture until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract. Fold in the cake flour and ground almonds just until combined. Refrigerate dough if too soft before shaping.

To retain the pale colour of the cookie dough I suggest that you bake it at 135C. How long the cookies need to bake depends on their shape and thickness.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

matcha pyramid cake.

Holla! How's everybody been? I've finally been granted a few days free from exams (free from worrying about exams as well) so after I finished my last paper, I went home and did the most logical thing - sleep. Then bake. I bet you were expecting baking to be my top priority, believe me I was betting on that too, but math just drained me of so much energy I was close to crawling the last stretch of pavement leading back home.

Over the past few weeks when I didn't get to bake at all, I had so much creative energy stored up inside of me bubbling so furiously that it was about to explode that I just couldn't even fathom baking anything from all my recipe books except for one titled Bake It Like You Mean It. I think I wrote about it before; it is my go-to book whenever I have a little more time, a little more energy and a whole lot of crazy. Almost all the recipes there are over. the. top. Perfect for my baking-starved soul.

I browsed through the book quickly and decided on a recipe called Chocolate Pyramid. Imagine layers of chocolate cake shortening in length, glued firmly together with a luscious chocolate buttercream and stacked up until it forms a mountainous shape. The entire top of the cake is enveloped in a dark shiny glaze and for the finishing touch, a dusting of cocoa powder. And every one of those components I changed to make my own matcha version of the cake.

I was all game to follow the recipe initially until I realised that the cake required almond paste which I didn't have. I had to change the cake recipe, so why not change everything else? Instead of the chocolate cake I baked a matcha almond cake, in place of the chocolate buttercream I made a salted honey buttercream and I changed the chocolate glaze to a matcha white chocolate ganache. My very own chocolate-pyramid-inspired cake.

I didn't really have a hard time assembling the cake although it was my first time making one in such a shape, but the slicing on a diagonal really had me worried. I was never good at slicing cakes length-wise in the first place and this cake was all out to expose my weakness. The cut ended up a bit crooked but after covering up all the defects with buttercream nobody would notice. I hope.

This is definitely one of those conversation-starter show-stopper cakes. The moment you slice into it with a serrated knife and gently nudge away the corner piece, your breath would be taken away by pattern that lies beneath. When I saw the insides, the first thought that came to me was that all that hard work slicing the layers was one hundred percent worth it.

Like what I did, you don't have to follow my recipe here and choose your own flavours of cake and buttercream and mould it into a pyramid. I think this is a great design and I can't wait to make more variants of the pyramid cake!

Matcha Pyramid Cake

For the matcha almond cake:
1 cup + 2 tbsp cake flour
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp table salt
2 tbsp matcha powder
3/4 stick unsalted butter, cubed and softened
1/2 cup milk
3 large egg whites
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9 x 13 inch sheet pan with parchment paper.

Whisk the milk, egg whites and extracts together.

Mix the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and matcha powder in the bowl of a mixer on low speed. Add the cubes of butter and continue beating on low speed until the mixture resembles moist crumbs.

Add all but 1/4 cup of the milk mixture and beat on medium speed for about 1 minute. Add the remaining milk mixture and beat until incorporated.

Pour batter into pan and bake for about 20 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Cool completely.

For the salted honey buttercream:
6 tbsp butter
3/4 cup icing sugar
2 tbsp honey
large pinch of salt

Cream the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy. Add the honey and salt and beat until combined.

For the matcha white chocolate ganache:
100g white chocolate, chopped
100g heavy cream
1 tbsp matcha powder

Place the matcha power and white chocolate in a heatproof bowl.

Bring the heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan and pour over the white chocolate mixture. Let the mixture stand for about 2 minutes then stir until smooth. Refrigerate until slightly thickened.

Assemble the cake: Slice the cooled cake into four equal rectangles. Trim away any uneven edges. Spread a thin layer of buttercream on top of a rectangle and top with another piece of cake. Repeat until all the rectangles are used up (don't use all the buttercream) then place the cake in the freezer for about 1 hour or until very firm.

Slice the cake on the diagonal and rotate one of the triangles to form a pyramid. Spread the remaining buttercream on the sides of the triangles that are to be joined together. If you have any excess, frost the rest of the cake. Refrigerate until the buttercream is firm.

Glaze the entire cake in the ganache and refrigerate the cake again for it to solidify.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

pancake stacks.

Hello! I'm popping in today to introduce you all to four glorious pancake stacks I've made some time ago; no new recipe today I'm afraid because I'm trying to direct, albeit with great reluctance, all my energy towards exam preparation. It's not that I'm studying to the extent that I don't have time to bake (I highly doubt that I have the capacity to do so anyway), but just the knowledge that they are imminent triggers my sense of guilt if I take time off to fiddle with flour instead of explaining the impact of globalisation on economies, and causes enough stress that my creativity is suppressed - even if I wanted to bake, I wouldn't know what to. It is the most horrible feeling, wanting yet not being able to come up with anything. I've never really had any difficulties conjuring up my next creation except yes, in times of stress; it's not new but it's upsetting all the same. The day my mind truly and permanently draws a blank would be the day my soul is as barren and vacuous. Or something like that.

On to happier things!

Firstly I must profess that all pancakes you see here are made using hotcake mixes that are Japanese brands of course. I have absolute faith and trust in their products as biased as that may seem. I'm fully aware that anything made-from-scratch is seen as superior to something that originated partially from a box but, and I underline, bold and italicise, pancakes that are made using Japanese hotcake mixes can triumph your treasured traditional family pancake recipe that has been passed down for generations and generations if you like 'em thick, fluffy and a little sweet. Please please take special note of the last clause because I wouldn't want to generate any false expectations.

P.S. I think watching the rounds of pancake batter slowly firm up around the edges, looking on as large bubbles emerge from the center before flipping them over to see them rise as if they are balloons that have been gently inflated with air is incredibly therapeutic. Definitely worth having to wash up all the utensils later on. (Of course it would be even better if I didn't have to though.)

And without further ado, in chronological order:

1. Alternately layered with custard cream and cream cheese, topped with a smattering of chocolate chips and adorned with strawberries.

2. Half of the batter had two generous spoonfuls of green tea powder stirred in to make green tea pancakes. The entire ensemble sounds something like, from bottom up: plain pancake, red bean paste, green tea pancake, marmalade, plain pancake, red bean paste, green tea pancake and more marmalade and red bean paste as embellishments.

3. Because I've always secretly desired to drown a tall stack of fluffy pancakes in chocolate sauce, I made a chocolate cinnamon one to douse my pancakes in, but not before propping up layers of pancakes with some black bean brownie squares. I added to my art piece a handful of blueberries and a strawberry for colour (and also because I really really love blueberries).

4. The most recent one which consists of so many components, two of which were leftovers from a cake I made. Sandwiched in between the bottommost and the middle pancakes are slices of banana and some homemade black sesame paste, and between the middle and topmost pancakes Pierre Herme's lemon curd with strawberries and blueberries. The garnishes at the top are a repetition of what that were already included with the addition of tiny clouds of white chocolate cream.

So there you have it! I think it is evident that I have a thing for over-the-top pancake stacks. Believe me, it's really hard to go back to just pancakes and maple syrup. Even with the salted butter.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

matcha cake with black sesame crumble.

Why hello! It's been a while since I've clicked on that orange pencil icon. Judging from my absence from blogging you may think that I've not been baking recently but it's actually quite the opposite, somewhat. I've been digging up old recipes and remaking them in my kitchen so I couldn't post anything since they've already been written about. I've also taken to making pancakes in the past month or so using Japanese hotcake mixes (I know, but they're magical I swear) and technically they're not classified as baking so I reserved the pictures for my Instagram instead of posting them here. I might dedicate a post to all my past pancake adventures though, they're just too pretty not to share!

So yes I've not stopped causing chaos in the kitchen but admittedly less. My life has just been a flurry of activities lately I just can't find time to sit down and enjoy a piece of cake. Not that I'm complaining though, some of them are pretty rewarding like this bake sale I was invited to contribute to! I was just thinking of dabbling in a bit of baking and selling after my major exam this year when the opportunity landed on my doorstep like a Christmas present came early, wrapped in shiny paper of festive colours, ribbon, glitter and all. And thus, I was faced with the task of baking three different (large) cakes in just a few days, one of which includes this cake.

Clockwise from top left: Chocolate chip cookie dough cake, matcha cake with black sesame crumble, lemon, white chocolate and strawberry cake

Over the past three days flour was flying, sugar was spilt, the oven constantly whirring, the dish rack endlessly loaded with dishes dripping in water; the kitchen has probably seen a mess like never before. After each batch of cake batter was sent pass the door of the oven I could do no more than to collapse on my bed and mindlessly browse my Instagram feed while waiting for the aroma of cake to surface - a sure sign that the cake is nearly done - not wanting, not being able, to face the towering stack of dirty plates, mixing bowls and spoons that had to be washed.

These few days have been days of firsts - my first time having to bake so many cakes in such a short period of time, my first time having to wash so many dishes, and the first time my fridge has housed so many cakes. Rewinding a bit further back to my holiday to Japan last week I appeared on TV for the first time as well, and today I attended my first bake sale! It's as if all the excitement my life was lacking at the start of this year is being amassed right now. And I hope there's more to come!

Matcha Cake with Black Sesame Crumble
makes a 9 inch square cake

This cake is an adaptation from Rose Levy Beranbaum's white velvet butter cake, one of my favorite cakes of all time.

For the cake:
4 1/2 large egg whites
1 cup milk, divided
3 cups cake flour, sifted
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
2 heaping tbsp matcha powder
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter

For the crumble:
80g black sesame seeds, toasted
80g sugar
160g flour
pinch of salt
1 stick butter, cold and cubed

Make the crumble: Combine the black sesame seeds, sugar, flour and salt into a food processor and process until homogeneously combined and black sesame seeds are ground into a powder. Add in the cubes of butter and process until the mixture starts to clump together. Refrigerate while you make the cake batter.

Bake the cake: Preheat the oven to 180C. Prepare a 9 inch square cake pan.

Whisk the egg whites and 1/4 cup of milk together.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, matcha powder and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low speed until combined. Add the remaining milk and butter and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Raise the speed and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Add the egg mixture in 3 additions, incorporating each fully before adding the next.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Crumble over the black sesame dough. Bake for about 30 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out mostly clean, with only a few moist crumbs attached.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

caramel macadamia carousel.

Ever since I started baking six years ago, I've gone through many crazes - bread, cookie, cake - and have consequently amassed a considerable number of cookbooks. Thank goodness libraries exist or my house would become one itself.

I have a cookbook to turn to for almost every mood I'm in; when I feel like making something relatively simple I can always rely on one of my Baked books to give me suitable recipe, when I feel making something challenging I turn to this book called Bake It Like You Mean It, and I think the title explains why. Unfortunately this book has been sorely underutilised ever since it was bought because of my busy schedule these days and I am rarely able to gather more than enough energy to make pancakes, which, I must emphasise, doesn't even engage the use of the oven and therefore cannot count as baking. However, I flipped open the book once again this week - the time spent away from intensive baking must have been long enough for me to naturally feel like taking on a project again.

The last time I used this book was to make its Mocha Ricotta Tower recipe, some 8 months ago or so. Today, I picked this caramel macadamia carousel cake to bake. The recipe was laborious to type out but the baking process was ten times more so. It consists of a disk of meringue to serve as the base of the cake, chocolate sponge cake that functions as the walls enclosing the buttery caramel cream, ganache to cover up all the imperfections and act as glue to adhere all the components together and finally a crown of nutty, buttery, caramelly macadamia florentine to top it all off. I had to divide the work across three days. School days, of course. I bet it could actually be finished in two days if you're on a roll.

I made a fraction of the recipe for a 7 inch cake and created only two circles of chocolate sponge, hence the cake you see here looks slightly different from the picture in the book if you have seen it. I'm not sure if my adjustment of the quantities has resulted in a sponge thicker than it was supposed to be but I found it slightly dry. Perhaps brushing the sponge with some syrup, which the recipe didn't call for, would be good. Apart from this issue I think this recipe is worth a try especially for its visual appeal. It also satisfies those who like crunch in their cake - the meringue and the florentine provide plenty of that.

Thankfully after making this cake I don't feel like I would abandon all thought of using recipes from this book in the near future. In fact I think another cake is in my plans for the coming week. I hope that you would make this cake a part of your plans too.

Caramel Macadamia Carousel
makes a 10 inch cake
adapted from Bake It Like You Mean It

For the meringue bottom:
2 ounces blanched slivered almonds
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup egg whites
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 300F. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper. Draw a 10 inch circle on the parchment and flip it over onto the pan so that the circle is visible but will not transfer onto the meringue.

Combine the almonds, a third of the sugar and cornstarch into a food processor and pulse until the mixture is fine.

Whisk the egg whites and salt until foamy. Slowly add in the remaining sugar while whisking constantly until stiff peaks form. Fold the almond mixture into the egg whites until combined.

Transfer batter into a large pastry bag with a large open round tip. Pipe mixture onto the parchment in a spiral starting from the centre of the circle.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until golden brown. Set aside to cool completely.

For the sponge cake:
7 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup cake flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup dutch-process cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 400F. Line the bottom of a 10 inch cake pan and a half sheet pan with parchment paper. Do not grease them.

In a heatproof bowl of a stand mixer, combine the eggs, sugar and salt. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk constantly until the sugar has completely dissolved.

Transfer bowl to the stand mixer and whisk on high speed until the eggs have quadrupled in volume and bowl is cool to touch.

Sift the flour, cornstarch and cocoa powder over the egg mixture. Fold the flour mixture into the eggs.

Spread one-third of the batter into the cake pan and the remaining into the half sheet pan. Bake the cakes for 15 to 20 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Cool completely.

For the caramel cream:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp lemon juice (I omitted)
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups heavy cream

Combine the sugar, 1/4 cup of water, lemon juice and salt in a large saucepan. Stir over low heat until the sugar has completely melted. Stop stirring, raise the heat to medium high and cook the syrup until it turns a light amber. Remove the pan from heat and add 1/2 cup of the cream and stir until smooth. Refrigerate until cool.

Whip the remaining cream to stiff peaks. Fold one-third of the cream into the caramel to lighten it. Transfer the caramel mixture into the bowl with the remaining cream and gently fold until evenly incorporated. Refrigerate until needed.

For the ganache:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp butter

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl.

Combine the cream and butter in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate and allow the mixture to stand for a few minutes before whisking till smooth.

For the macadamia florentine:
1/2 cup butter, browned and set aside to cool
1 cup finely chopped macadamia nuts
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 10 inch cake ring with nonstick baking spray and place it on a parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Combine the macadamia nuts, brown sugar, egg, vanilla bean paste and salt and pulse until a slightly chunky paste forms. Still pulsing, pour in the butter until combined.

Spread the batter evenly inside the cake ring and bake until just golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove the cake ring and score the florentine into 12 even wedges while still warm.

Assemble the cake:
Spread one-third of the ganache evenly over the meringue layer. Chill the remaining ganache.

Place a 10 inch cake ring atop the meringue layer. Cut the cake in the sheet pan lengthwise into strips 2 inches wide. Line the inside of the cake ring by pressing a cake strip around the outer edge. You may need to use more than once strip to go all the way around, trimming the strips as necessary to fit.

Make four more concentric rings of cake strips, starting slightly in from the outside ring and working your way towards the centre. Leave enough space between rings for the filling to be piped.

Transfer the caramel cream to a large pastry bag fitted with a large open tip. Pipe the cream in between the standing cake rings. Spread any extra cream on the top in an even layer.

Place the round sponge layer atop the cream and press gently to adhere. Refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.

Warm the reserved ganache until spreadable consistency.

Remove the cake ring by gently heating it with a blow dryer or letting it remain at room temperature for about half an hour. Trim the excess meringue layer such that it is flush with the cake layers.

Frost the entire cake with ganache (but leave some for the florentine). Allow to set for about 20 minutes.

Spread a thin layer of the remaining ganache over the scored florentine. Place it on top of the cake.

To slice, use the lines on the florentine as a guide. You should be able to cut through both the florentine and cake in one stroke with a serrated knife if you'd scored the florentine deeply enough. If you're worried that the florentine might be too hard, slice it into wedges and arrange them on top of the cake in a circle instead.



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