photo by Jennifer Chan/@foodpr0n
Being dramatic can be a good thing given the right context. A dramatic person who is animated and lively can bring the most mundane story to life. A dramatic outfit that demands attention the minute you step into the room can be the best icebreaker. A dramatic cake that is a feast to the eyes and the taste buds can be just the right thing to make at a baking party involving 19 different cakes. Surely I wanted a cake that can hold its own among this bevy of beauties.
This teetering tower was my Mont Blanc and certainly dramatic in the best possible way. It was made with layers of crispy meringue, ethereal ricotta chestnut cream, delicate dark chocolate drizzle, billowy Chantilly cream, and toothsome marrons glacés. She was a classic beauty yet not my first choice for Cake Day. There must be a lapse in judgement somewhere.
When we first started polling baking ideas for Cake Day, I immediately honed in on BAKED’s Root Beer Bundt Cake. After a year of wild goose chase, I finally assembled all the specialty ingredients for a recipe that haunted me since 2010 when I purchased the cookbook. While my friends toyed around with different recipes and test runs, I remained undeterred with my original choice. I made my decision and was busy with, well, everything else in life.
About a week before the big day, something strange happened. I took a good look at the round up of recipes and suddenly dawned on me that my brown on brown Bundt cake would look rather homely. Every cake would be the subject of countless camera lenses at the party. I really ought to choose a flashier cake to bake. My heart was still set on the elusive root beer Bundt though so naturally I needed to come up with a second selection.
I spent one long evening flipping through many cookbooks. Le Grand Livre De Cuisine d'Alain Ducasse: Desserts et Patisserie, Patisserie of Pierre Hermé, Ph 10 : Pâtisserie Pierre Hermé, Larousse Des Desserts, and Momofuku Milk Bar all but doused my ambition in one fell swoop with their complexity. Discouraged, I absentmindedly opened the cake chapter of Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet. There was truth in advertising. Even the fancier cake recipes were short and sweet. With renewed energy, I combed through Lepard’s weekly column at The Guardian.
photo by Bonita Mok/@boneats
When my eyes landed on the Mont Blanc recipe, I knew I found it. The cake had just enough drama to demand attention, incredible taste, and easy to make. As long as I baked the meringue discs ahead of time, my biggest challenge on Cake Day would be the simple task of assembling the cake without tipping over!
Sourcing ingredients was a breeze. For reasons unknown, I purchased a frozen block of chestnut puree and a box of Italian marrons glacés not long ago. Day before the party, I stopped by my favourite cheese maker to pick up a tub of fresh whole milk ricotta. I wiggled my way up to the counter crowded with nonnas when the ladies behind the glass case announced “No ricotta, you want something else?”. The whole room went silent and the panic was palpable. With trembling voice, one nonna exclaimed “No rrrrrricotta?”. It was a tense moment. Thankfully, a new batch came out in five minutes. All of us let out sighs of relief and I happily coddled my warm tub of fresh cheese back home.
photos by Edythe Yee, JoAnne Wang
On Cake Day, I procrastinated. A lot. I wanted to delay my Mont Blanc assembly as much as possible to keep the meringue crispy. Once I got the sense that Jen’s Mondrian Cake was the last one on the docket, I kept my eyes peeled on her every move. When Jen started working, I took my place in the kitchen at the same time. The ricotta chestnut cream was flavoured with dark rum and whipped until it was unctuous. I filled a pastry bag with melted dark chocolate to make fine drizzles. I broke apart nuggets of candied chestnuts and studded them all over the filling. Last but not least, I ditched my treasured Mont Blanc pastry tip when making the signature squiggly pile of chestnut cream since it clogged in no time.
photo by Jennifer Chan/@foodpr0n
I was very pleased with the finished cake. It was the embodiment of decadence and totally satisfied my penchant for earthy chestnuts. It was visually stunning and fittingly played props to my new profile photo. So it crumbled to a sorry mess once we sliced the cake for everyone to take home. But who’s keeping score? It was delicious and we were done with taking photos anyway!
More behind-the-scene look at Cake Day 2013:
- Bon Eats' Chocolate Cake with Toasted Marshmallow Filling and Malted Chocolate Buttercream
- Foodpr0n's Rum Cake and Mondrian Cake
photo by Cindy La