Thursday, March 24, 2011

Foray Into The Black Forest...

It's one of those things that are done badly sooooo often. And I don't pretend to know what I'm doing either - I've never made one, simply because frankly I'm not all that keen. Granted I've never eaten one in Germany, and I've probably never eaten a good one, but the ones I have had (ie commercially made in Australian bakeries) taste, in my opinion, mostly like cream. And I actually hate cake with lots of cream layers.

But here's the thing: my mother loves Black Forest Cake. So when I saw Gary Mehigan make his interpretation of a Black Forest Cake on Masterchef last year, I knew exactly what I was going to make for mum's birthday.

Firstly, I would like to say right now that I have no intention of entering the fiery online argument that ensued after this episode - ie. Is This Cake Really A Black Forest Cake? My answer to this is: I don't care. Like I said, I'm not big on what I have previously experienced as Black Forest Cake. But this thing looked all kinds of awesome. Four kinds of cherry action (real ones, not glace or tinned - I put maraschino cherries on the top of mine purely because I couldn't get fresh ones out of season. I used real frozen ones for everything else). A lot of chocolate (which can't possibly be a bad thing, right?). Mascarpone cheese (no, not a German ingredient, but again - who cares).

Anyway. I got a bit snap-happy making this cake, so if you want the actual recipe, go to the Masterchef site. But if you just want some idea of what a palaver it is to make, and a bit of food porn, keep scrolling...

I didn't actually take any photos of the actual sponge being made. Oversight. Sorry. But I'm sure we've all seen sponge cake before, right?

Hazelnuts coated in cooked sugar, otherwise known as the beginning of the hazelnut praline:

Hazelnut praline begins to be chopped in the processor:

Hazelnut praline ready to use:

Hazelnut praline, plus a bit of egg custard business, plus this....

...equals this:
...possibly. Actually I'm not at all confident that I got this element 100% right. My custard had juuuust started to split, and I decided to go with it anyway. So it looked kind of funny, but I have to say it tasted fantastic. Really.

Cherry compote just in the pan:

Cherry compote about five minutes in:

Once the cherry compote is all boiled down and reduced, it gets separated into two elements: the cooked cherries, and, with a little extra work, the cherry syrup:

Which looks unassuming, but is awesome. The flavour punch is incredible.

So, onto the mascarpone cream - ie. mascarpone cheese, icing sugar & vanilla:

Mixed into deliciousness (which I may or may not have eaten several spoonsful of on its own):

And once all the (seven!) components are sorted, the layers of chocolate sponge, cherry syrup, chocolate hazelnut praline mousse, mascarpone cream, and cherry compote are stacked up:

The last layer is covered in a poured ganache, before being transferred to the top of the cake:

And finally, the cake is topped with the candied cherries that I also didn't take photos of the making of, chocolate curls, and fresh (or in my case, maraschino) cherries:

And with any luck, it makes it to the picnic in one piece! (Yes, insanity, I know. But I had my heart set on doing it, and when mum said "picnic", I thought "hmmm. Sure, no problem...")

So, The Big Question: Is It Worth It?

In a word, no. Probably not. Don't get me wrong - this cake is good. It's really good. It is also incredibly rich - almost (I hesitate to say it) almost too rich. For me. Which has to be some kind of record. However, everyone who tasted it liked it, and my daughter says it is her favourite chocolate cake ever. But it is an awful lot of work, and there are other cakes that I like just as much or more, that are a lot less of a palaver. So no, I probably won't make it again.
What I will make again is several of its elements, on their own. The chocolate hazelnut praline mousse would make a fantastic filling for a chocolate cupcake, and I can see myself using the cherry compote and the cherry syrup for a lot of things. To me, the cherries were a little lost in this cake - you could taste them, but really they deserved centre stage. I intend to give it to them someday.
So what do you think? Have you tried this cake (or something similar) out? Would you bother again?


jojoebi said...

that looks Soooo good, please come and make one for me!

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