Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Raspberry Hazelnut Torte for a Birthday Cake

Today I was driving in my car listening to some great songs on the radio. And that lovely feeling hit me. The feeling that you are one with everything around you. Total peace and tranquility overtakes your psyche and bathes you in this warmth. Of course, I did not have my children with me. (So much easier without the kids). One was at school and the other at my Mom's. These feelings, at least for me, are not possible with screaming children in the car. If the feeling does hit you are usually too busy listening to them sing or fight or something. What made it extra special today was that it was my birthday! How nice of a gift was that!

I even had a lovely treat of meeting my husband at his work and having a little picnic by the river and a nice leisurely stroll along the path. It was truly a beautiful day! A fantastic birthday.

And you know you are a foodie when... you make your own birthday cake. I thought and thought about this cake. Some components I borrowed from the DB July challenge with the praline paste. Other components I made myself. My piping wasn't perfect because my tip kept getting clogged with praline bits. Next time I will process it much longer.

So you know you made a good cake when your super picky brother says this tastes like it came from a bakery. This is the guy that drove to NYC last Thanksgiving for a Juniors Cheesecake (he use to live in NYC). How nice was that complement?

Swiss Buttercream4 lg. egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
2 tablespoons amaretto
2/3 cup praline paste

Place the egg whites in a large bowl of a electric mixer and whisk in the sugar. Place over a saucepan with simmering water. Whisk and heat the egg white mixture until it is hot to the touch. Remove from pan and with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. Drop in the butter a half of a stick at a time. It may seem curdled for a period of time when beating but keep beating and it will smooth out. Add the amaretto and the praline.

Praline Paste1 cup (4 ½ oz.) cashews, toasted/skinless
2/3 cup sugar

Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and lightly butter. Put the sugar in a heavy 10-inch skillet. Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals. If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly. When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble. Then onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle. Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor. Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder. To make paste, process for several minutes. Store in an airtight container and store in a cool dry place. Do not refrigerate.

The cake was a recipe for dacquoise from Gourmet magazine, which was the whole inspiration for this cake in the first place.

1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked
1 cup sifted all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon instant coffee crystals
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line three 9-inch diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides with parchment. Butter and flour parchment. Combine nuts, flour, 1/4 cup sugar, coffee crystals and salt in processor. Blend until nuts are finely ground.

Using electric mixer, beat yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in large bowl until very thick, about 5 minutes. Beat in water and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar, beating until stiff but not dry. Fold into yolk mixture in 3 additions.

Transfer batter to prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks. Cut around pan sides to loosen cakes. Turn cakes out; peel off parchment.

Raspberry Mousse

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup of raspberries, run through a sieve to remove the seeds
1/4 cup raspberry jelly (no seeds)

Whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold in jelly and strained raspberries.


kat said...

What a beautiful cake. i hope you had a great birthday!

Grace said...

i totally prefer to make my own birthday cake, and i have to say that your creation is a doozy! i'm very impressed--it looks and sounds absolutely delicious. happy happy birthday! :)

The Blonde Duck said...

It sounds like a wonderful birthday. That cake looks divine. I hope your warm and fuzzy feelings continue throughout the year! Happy Birthday to a fellow Virgo!

bee said...

a belated happy birthday to you. have a great year ahead.

Laura @ Hungry and Frozen said...

Hey, happy birthday! I like to make my own cake too. Like, weekly ;) That praline stuff sounds delish!

giz said...

What a great cake - I love it ...and that one with the universe stuff - give me some of what you're smoking.