Probably the most enjoyable section of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” is CAKES. Is it any wonder Marie Anntonete said: “Let them eat cake!” (Although insermountably out of context it was.)
The five French cakes: BISCUIT AU BEURRE [Butter Spongecake], GATEAU A L’ORANGE [Orange Spongecake], GATEAU A L’ORANGE ET AUX AMANDES
[Orange and Almond Spongecake], REINE DE SABA [Chocolate and Almond Cake], LE MARQUIS [Chocolate Spongecake].
The first one I made was l’orange et aux amandes with “CREME AU BEURRE, MENAGERE [Butter Cream I -with powdered sugar]” in which I used peach brandy. Although not the biggest almond fan but, the cake was a beautiful subtle orange flavor that was complimented by the peach brandy buttercream icing which in itself was mind blowing. Honestly the best buttercream I have EVER had.
Next I made Le Marquis with “GLAÇAGE AU CHOCOLAT”
[Chocolate-butter Icing]” and brushed Almonds. Although not a typical moist chocolate cake this French chocolate sponge cake is a perfect compliment to a fresh cup of French pressed coffee. I actually ate it up quicker than the orange-almond sponge cake. It was less sweet than the orange-almond with buttercream, perhaps because the buttercream was rich and almost overwhelming in comparison to the suductive buttery chocolate icing.
There are numerous combinations of the five cakes and icings/fillings that are in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” it’s almost incalculable as you can use any type of flavored alcohol to enhance any buttercream icing. Personally I’m not a fan of custards and their are a number custard fillings or custard base icings. A good way to work your way through all the variations if you were so inclined is to make 1.5″ mini cakes almost like petit fours (although not the same concept in French baking) [or even cupcakes.]
I wanted to make the butter sponge cake, with another buttercream with powder sugar but lack of ingredients (butter) led me to go ahead and make “Gâteau Fourré á la crème d’Orange”. Ironically I had to go out and get more butter anyway for the crème after making the cake; Go figure eh. The sponge cake turned out great, yet again following the same basic steps as the previous two. The “crème” part was a little odd and I’m not sure I really made it correctly, it’s like a milk-less custard. I looked up similar recipes and it seems that that’s exactly what it is, which kind of disappointed me as I really hate custard. I finished icing the cake the following morning once it had thickened in the fridge. I tried a piece and I just couldn’t do it, its was just too eggy for my preference. Caspian seemed to enjoy it, although the sugar was probably a little more than he needed. Jules hadn’t tried any of the previous cakes either so it was highly doubtful that he would have tried this one either; he’s not really one for sweets.
REINE DE SABA … after being disappointed in the orange crème cake I didn’t want to wait a week for it to be eaten up before making another cake, so I went ahead and made the almond chocolate sponge cake. These cakes are so easy, despite the individual steps with each part of the egg. This cake was to be baked slightly underdone, which I managed to do, I let it cool 15 minutes before attempting to flip it on the plate, and it fell apart. *cry* I put the pieces back into the pan and attempted to reshape it, putting it back to bake and meld together again. After all Julia says it happens sometimes, and many a time foiled attempt so flip food on her show. I was worried it was going to dry out too much, and it looked like it was but when it had cooled and flipped, the underside was still oily and moist like it was supposed to be.
Last but not least, BISCUIT AU BEURRE [Butter Spongecake]. This one was probably the simplest of the five, which is probably why its listed first. Uh Duh. This cake is a great quick simple coffee cake. Its light buttery flavor makes it a very versatile cake and can be paired with literally any icing, fruit, filling… anything, or nothing, its also great on its own with powder sugar; There really isn’t much more to say about it, its a simple butter, egg, sugar, vanilla, flour sponge cake, nothing fancy or complicated.
All in all, this was an enjoyable project, but who is really going to complain about cake? My favorites in order were, orange almond, chocolate marquis, butter spongecake, reine de saba, and in last place, the crème orange.
Have you tried any of the five French cakes? Which was your favorite.
My next baking project will be either macaroons or petite flours, that is, if my landlord ever gives me my new oven, it is becoming increasingly difficult to bake in the toaster oven, although it does hold full sized bakeware.