Not easy to get Smooth
Some time back, I had attempted my second Pierre Herme creation from his famous Chocolate Desserts - the Faubourg Pave, which should actually be baked in a loaf pan and shaped like a brick or paving stone (i.e. 'pave' in French), since the Faubourg Pave is named after the paving stones in rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, a very posh street in Paris teeming with top fashion-houses, Guy Laroche, Christian Dior, Lanvin, Hermes, Yves Saint-Laurent... you can practically smell the money on the street! But I digress...A cake that is named after such an exclusive neighbourhood will no doubt look sophisticated, luxurious, stylish and ever-so inviting. If you have a copy of Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme, turn to page 16 and you will see this beautiful sleek oblong cake covered in glistening thick chocolate ganache garnished stylishly at one top end of the cake with a moist dried apricot (isn't that an oxymoron? - moist and dried, but that's what the pic in the book shows) topped with a sliver of gold flake (ultimate luxury). The most incredible part to me was the super-silky smoothness and evenness of the top layer ganache.
Turning to my own creation, it looked more like it's been styled after rue du 'country', a huge slab of uneven cobblestone. First and obviously, I had used a 20-cm round pan instead of a loaf pan. Second, I didn't have at hand any gold flake slivers and also didn't think anyone in my family is into gold consumption. Third, Pierre Herme's recipe for the chocolate ganache is beautiful and perfect but I do believe skill with a palette knife requires years of practice (shaky hands spell doom for smoothly even ganache topping). Not to mention, I read later on with much regret that Monsieur Herme had recommended the use of a metal spatula (provides a larger flat surface area compared to a narrow palette knife) - this is the reason why you must always read your recipes twice over with time to digest and reflect AND not at the kitchen countertop while juggling between tasks!
The exterior of the cake I baked was not great-looking, but when the slices were served, the beautiful alternating layers of cake and golden apricot-specked ganache looked fantastic.
- the chocolate cake made with Valrhona cocoa powder, cake flour, a bit of potato flour, butter, eggs yolks, whipped egg whites and sugar was light and very airy - it also produced a cocoa-dark cake - unfortunately, my photograph using flash and overhead lights depicts a much lighter-colored cake
- the baked cake is sliced into 3 horizontal sections and each section is brushed with a layer of caramel sauce imparting moistness, apart from that caramel flavor, to the cake
- using a mixture of Valrhona Manjari (dark bittersweet chocolate) and Valrhona Jivara (milk chocolate), sugar, unsalted butter, heavy cream and a bit of salted butter, a lovely creamy ganache frosting is created, and spread over each layer of cake and on the sides
- in between the layers, dried apricots which have been moistened (i.e. simmered with water in a pan for a few minutes) and diced, tossed with lemon juice and ground black pepper (yes, you read right, a touch of spiciness to the sweetness is a brilliant idea from Monsieur Herme) are pressed gently into the ganache layers within the cake
Last words - "Never judge a cake by its cover."