Since this is my third month as a Daring Baker, I did not panic quite as bad when I read the recipe. I also felt more comfortable playing around with the options. I choose to go with almonds since I still have bunches of those in the freezer. I also choose raspberry preserves in place of apricot. My next decision was in regards to the buttercream. I knew from the opera cake challenge that no one in my family is a fan of sweet buttercream on a cake of this type. Instead I found a French buttercream recipe from a Wilton Cake Book my MIL gave me. I have wanted to try it but never had a good enough reason. A Daring Bakers' Challenge is definitely a good enough reason.
I was most terrified about the praline. I love brittle but have always been too scared to make one. I jumped right in though. I used a cast iron frying pan and found the sugar melted very quickly in it. Surprisingly this was not as difficult as I had imagined. I would not call it perfect, but it was a great first try. The most important thing to me was it did not turn out bitter. It was good, and we ate the leftovers as a snack.
The almond mixture was no problem especially since my dh gave me my birthday present early. It was wonderful to not have to borrow a food processor. He did a great job of picking one out. I was happy to be able to give it a good test run.
I did use parchment paper in the bottom of my pans. I used three six inch ones since I also know I am horrible at cutting cakes. I know it is supposed to be a challenge, but I made praline. Baby steps, people! The layers came out great. I was in the zone at this point and picture taking fell to the wayside. I mixed up the French buttercream, which was rich, yummy, and not too sweet. I did not get the praline to a complete paste, but it was very fine. I could have used a few minutes more to get it to that point. Patience is not one of my strong suits. I did put a layer of unsweetened whipped cream on top of the buttercream. It was hot here and the whipped cream did not hold very well. It did make it from the counter into the fridge. I will take the small victories.
I will admit that it took a while to get this cake together. I was coming along okay until the ganache. After conquering the praline, I had a new fear..... ganache. It came together well, but I am horrible at pouring it. My cake will definitely not win a beauty contest. I am reminded that my dad says the best tasting cakes are the ugly ones. At this point it is starting to storm. I live in an area when the lights are subject to go out on a clear, sunny, windless, perfect day so the storm made me nervous. I got the buttercream to the point where I could pipe it as the lights start flickering. It was still hot, and I was imagining trying to pipe buttercream with no air. I started out with a rosette, which was melting as fast as I piped it, when the power went out. At this point I had buttercream on the top of the cake, called it done, and threw it back in the fridge.
The next morning dh is eyeing the cake. I snapped the above picture right before he cut into it. The picture below was right before he attacked it with a fork.
Now I should add that my dh hates cake. There is a running joke in my family that he will not eat cake except his mother's, but honestly he does not even eat her cakes. I am happy to say over the course of our marriage I have found a cake or two he doesn't hate, but those are few and far between. Before he took a bite, I was thinking that this was a time consuming cake to make, and I was glad to have it finished and never have to make it again. He took a bite and said, "This is really good. I like this cake." After I picked myself up off the floor, I said I supposed I would be making it again. Even my anti-sweet cake parents liked it. Yes, even I liked it. I think the less sweet buttercream was the key at least for my picky bunch.I would add the raspberry preserves in between each layer and probably leave out the whipped cream next time. I would also spread it out over a couple of days rather than making it in one afternoon.
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