Tuesday, August 26, 2008

One Year in the Making.

This weekend I made a cake that has taken me close to year to develop. I came up with the idea back when there was a cupcake roundup based on reinvention, coming up with a cupcake based upon something else. I tossed some ideas around, and came up with the idea of a Snickers cupcake. Of course, this became immediately problematic, seeing as at the time I didn’t know how to make nougat, or caramel. As it turns out, it doesn’t seem like many people know how to make nougat, it’s not a very common thing. As my cooking skills developed, I tried making my own snickers bars a couple of times. At first I tried the recipe from Chow.com. The bars came out ok, but I thought both the nougat and the caramel turned out too hard though (sort of tooth brakingly hard). A made a second attempt based on the recipe from Recipe Gullet. The nougat from this recipe was way too soft and crumbly, it wouldn’t hold together. What I did learn from both of these attempts is that nougat sets fast. This ultimately convinced me that cupcakes might be impossible, because the nougat would harden before it could be divided into individual cupcakes.

That led me to the idea of a snickers cake. The cake is comprised of a layer of flourless chocolate cake, a layer of nougat, and a layer of caramel mousse, all topped off with chocolate ganache. The result was delicious. I found it was best to treat the cake as if it were an ice cream cake. When it came to room temperature, the mousse was too soft to stay together. I’ve included a number of suggestions on the assembly learned from my mistakes. Unfortunately I haven’t tried them myself, so I can’t swear that they will help. Unfortunately the pictures of this didn't end up super appetizing, because I was taking them while trying to serve the cake at a party. Trust me that it was good.

I should add that this cake was inspired by my mother, whose favorite candy bar is the Snickers.

Snickers Cake

Makes 1 ten inch cake

Flourless Chocolate Cake

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into pieces
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
6 large eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a ten inch spring-form pan and line the bottom with parchment. Melt the butter and chocolate over low heat in a saucepan. Once it is melted, put it aside.

2. Sift together the sugar and the cocoa powder. Whisk in the eggs until fully combined.

3. Pour the Chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Whisk to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.

4. Bake the cake for 40-45 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

5. Let the cake cool completely. Run a knife around the edge of the cake, and remove the outside of the pan.

6. I removed the top third of the cake which I found was a little crusty. I was hoping to use this layer for the top of the cake, but it promptly fell apart. I still thought that this left the better part of the cake for the base, so I recommend it. DO NOT REMOVE THE CAKE FROM THE BASE OF THE SPRINGFORM PAN.

7. Butter the ring of the springform pan (I didn’t do this part, and the nougat stuck, even to my non-stick pan), and put the ring back around the cake. Set aside.


This didn’t end up quite like a nougat because it wasn’t aerated enough. I don’t know if this was because I increased the number of egg whites, the decreased temperature of the sugar, (both attempts to make the nougat softer), or because I didn’t whip it enough after the sugar went in (trying to use it before the nougat set and couldn’t be spread without destroying the cake). Either way, it still tasted like it should have, just not quite the right texture.

¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
¼ cup water
2 large egg whites
½ cup crunchy peanut butter
½ tsp vanilla

1. Mix the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Begin heating the mixture over medium high heat.

2. The goal is to get the egg whites to stiff peaks at around the same time the sugar reaches 266 degrees. I would start whipping the egg whites when the sugar shows around 200 degrees on the candy thermometer.

3. Once the egg whites are at stiff peaks, and the sugar syrup is at 266 degrees, with the mixer still on high speed, pour the sugar into the egg white mixture in a thin stream. Continue beating on high speed to aerate.

4. Add the peanut butter and vanilla with the mixer still on. Once combined, turn off the mixer and pour the nougat onto the cake in the spring-form pan. Spread the nougat very gently, or you will risk tearing the cake apart. Set aside. Once the nougat is cool, run a knife around the inside edge to make sure it hasn’t stuck to the sides of the pan.

Caramel Mousse

1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
4 Tbs ( ½ stick) salted butter
2 cups heavy cream, divided
1 cup lightly salted peanuts.

1. Put ½ cup of the heavy cream into a small saucepan or a microwave safe bowl. Reserve the remaining cream in the fridge to whip later. Heat the cream, but do not boil it. This will help prevent the caramel from bubbling up later.

2. Combine the sugar and water in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Heat over medium high heat until the caramel reaches a uniform dark brown color.

3. Remove the caramel from the heat and pour in the heated cream, and the butter. Mix with a wooden spoon to prevent clumping. Set aside and allow the caramel to come to room temperature.

4. Whip the remaining 1 ½ cups of cream to stiff peaks. Mix 1/3 of the whipped cream into the caramel to lighten it. Pour the caramel into the remaining cream and fold to combine until it is uniform. Fold in the peanuts.

5. Pour the mousse over the nougat. Level with an offset spatula. Place the cake in the freezer to set, at least 30 minutes.

Chocolate Ganache

1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate

1 cup heavy cream

1. Combine the chocolate and the heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on medium power for 30 seconds, then let the mixture stand for 10 seconds before attempting to mix. Repeat until you are able to mix the cream and chocolate into a smooth and uniform mixture.

2. Let the ganache cool for ten minutes. While you are doing this remove the cake from the fridge and unmold it. Before removing the edges of the spring-form pan, you may want to run a knife along the inside to make sure nothing sticks, because if something does stick, you again risk tearing your cake apart.

3. Place the cake on a cooling rack set over a cookie sheet. Begin pouring the ganache over the cake. The ganache hardens pretty quickly once it hits the freezing cake, so work quickly, smoothing with an offset spatula as you go. To cover the sides of the cake, just pour some ganache near the edges and use your spatula to encourage the ganache to run down the sides (this is why the cookie sheet is there).

4. Put the whole thing back into the freezer until you are ready to serve.

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