5 April 2010

Easter Baking Part 2


The second thing I baked this Easter was the dessert to go with the Easter dinner and it was again from Susan's inspirational blog - the February 2010 Daring Bakers Challenge. Additionally I decided to try and replicate the cake shape itself and happily ordered the adjustable cake ring from Amazon.

First thing for the Tiramisu was to make the ladyfinger biscuits. Instead of using the recommended recipe for the challenge, I opted to make the one given in Lenotre's "Desserts and Pastries". This is the first recipe I try out.


5 eggs
150 g granulated sugar
125 g plain flour
icing sugar to sprinkle on top

  1. Pre-heat the oven at 180 degrees C.

  2. Separate whites and yolks of the eggs into separate bowls, making sure that the whites go into a metal or glass bowl, not plastic.

  3. Set aside a tablespoon and a half of sugar. These are to be used with the whites.

  4. Whisk the yolks with an electric mixer at medium speed, then gradually add the majority of the sugar. Keep whisking until the mixture turns pale yellow and reaches the so called ribbon stage - when (the stopped) whisk is taken out of the mixture and the mixture drizzles back in a continuous stream forming a ribbon folding on itself before dissolving into the rest of the mixture in a bowl.

  5. On lowest possible speed, mix in the flour just enough to incorporate it, no more.

  6. Wash and dry the whisks thoroughly, then add the saved sugar and whisk on high speed until stiff peaks stage.

  7. Carefully fold the whites into the batter.

  8. Line a couple of baking sheets with baking paper and pipe strips of the mixture. Then sprinkle generously with icing sugar and bake for 18 minutes. Turn the sheets around after 12 minutes, if the biscuits aren't browning evenly.

  9. Let cool a few minutes on the baking paper, then prise off and place on a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container

I made a double batch of the above, as it was just not quite enough for the cake. I followed Susan's instructions with drawing three circles on the baking parchment and piping in them, then the strips for the edge fairly close together so they'd flow together during baking and make easier to build the cake. The three circles were 15 cm diameter, the strips were 10 cm long. I only have a 1.5 cm round nozzle, which worked well for this, the batter was perhaps a bit on the runny side, so it flowed well.

Unfortunately I forgot to sprinkle the rings and some of the strips with icing sugar before baking and this is sort of fatal for these biscuits in that the icing sugar forms the typical crust of these. Instead what I had was a sticky sponge for Swiss roll. I rescued by sprinkling even more icing sugar afterwards, to prevent the circles sticking together in the cake box. I also didn't prise them off, but left to cool completely on the baking parchment, then cut around each shape before fitting into the cake box. It sort of worked OK. However, I now know the cake box is not airtight - the rings went a bit soggy, over the two days' storage, but no major harm was done.

With the leftover batter, I piped more ladyfinger strips, but this time well apart from each other and some of them I decorated with chopped mixed nuts and some with dessicated coconut, both very good combinations.

Next I made the two cooked creams - sabayon (zabaglione) and pastry cream. I've never made sabayon before and followed the instructions to the point, however, the instructions were incorrect, which lost me half an hour of constant stirring over a water bath - it should have been whisking, not stirring! I found that out when I looked in my Cordon Bleu book and once clarified, I whisked and the sabayon foamed up and thickened wonderfully. It was extremely tasty too.

Ingredients for sabayon

2 egg yolks
50 g granulated sugar
60 ml coffee
1.25 ml vanilla essence
0.5 tsp lemon zest - about half a lemon

  1. Bring some water to boil in a pot.

  2. In a heat-proof bowl, that fits over the above pot for a double boiler/bain marie, whisk together all the ingredients until everything is evenly blended and smooth.
  3. Place the bowl over the pot of boiling water and keep whisking for about 8 minutes until the mixture cooks through, foams up and thickens to the consistency of custard. It'll also go quite pale. Then allow to cool and chill in a fridge until needed.

Ingredients for pastry cream

55 g granulated sugar
8 g plain flour
0.5 tsp lemon zest - about half a lemon
2.5 ml vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
175 ml milk

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan until well blended, then place on low heat and cook for about 12 minutes, stirring continuously until the mixture thickens into a custard and bubbles.

  2. Take off the heat and transfer to a container, then cover the surface of the cream with cling film, making sure no air bubbles are trapped. Then let cool completely and refrigerate until needed.

Additionally 75 g mascarpone cheese and 235 ml whipping cream, whipped with 55 g granulated sugar and 2.5 ml vanilla essence, are required. Do the whipped cream just before putting the whole cake together and it should be whipped to "stiff peaks stage". The mascarpone should be whisked up too to soften it up and make easier to mix. Some further cold lightly sweetened coffee can be used to brush the ladyfinger circles and fresh raspberries - about 300 g work very nicely. I decided against making mascarpone, life was just too busy this past week anyway.

Note that the mascarpone and the two cooked creams above result in what seems very small amounts, however, it is perfectly sufficient for the Tiramisu cake.

I put this cake together just before beginning to cook the main dinner. My original plan was to make it on the day before, to allow the cake to firm up and the biscuits to soak up some of the wetness of the cream, however I decided against it, in case everything went too soggy and collapsed or went crackling dry and collapsed. Especially since I noticed that the cake box wasn't airtight.

I adjusted the cake ring to 17.5 cm diameter and lined it with baking paper, placing everything on a cake plate. Then I placed one biscuit circle in the bottom, followed by the conjoined biscuit strips along the sides. There was some deformity during baking, but things were soft and fitted together anyway. I then mixed all the creams and the mascarpone together. I hadn't whipped the cream sufficiently hard and the end cream was a bit too soft. Still I scooped some of it into the cake ring to form a 2 cm thick layer, and pushed in some raspberries. Then biscuit ring number two went in and I took off the baking parchment as I needed it, so I had to run and wash my hands several times while building the cake.

When I put in the final circle, I realised that I'd got the dimensions a bit wrong or the cream was just too runny to hold things up, so the edge biscuits stuck out a bit more than in Susan's photos.

I grated some dark chocolate over the cake and put it in the fridge for the few hours while dinner was cooked and eaten. Along with the cake ring for support. I took it off just before taking the cake out to the table.


As soon as my Brother-in-law stuck a knife into my creation the whole thing collapsed and he rushed to cut pieces and quickly slosh them onto people's plates. Although a shapeless mess, it tasted fabulously and there was one little piece left, which Lundulph and I shared for dessert today.

I think next time, I'll do a different pastry cream, possibly also use some liqueur as is more traditional. This time I had to take into account my two nieces who are too young for alcohol and my Brother-in-law's girlfriend who doesn't drink alcohol. Maybe I should be a little cheeky and add some gelatin to the cream to force it to keep its shape too.

I'm very glad I invested in the cake ring though, it's a brilliant tool and I look forward to using it more as I refine my skills at cake making.

I also compared this recipe to the two I've done on previous occasions and noticed that neither of them involves any sort of creams, but just stirring in some egg yolks into the mascarpone and that's about it more or less. Given the dangers of eating raw eggs, this recipe seems a lot better, if a bit on the fiddly side. I certainly thought it was well worth doing.

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