Cake of the week for the Heavenly Cake Bake-along is the Chocolate Feather Bed, made of thin flourless chocolate cake layers with whipped ganache, or in my case, the suggested alternative of stabilized whipped cream. I was short on baking time again this weekend, again because of an upcoming business trip, this time to Albuquerque, NM.
I again did a half-size version (I think I've done half sizes for nearly half the cakes--must count up some time), which is very nice for this cake. The thin layers are baked in a half sheet pan, and for those of us with a single, regular sized oven, that would mean two rounds of baking to make the full cake. Granted, the thin layer bakes quickly, but I was glad to only have to do one round of melting chocolate, beating egg yolks with sugar until fluffy, mixing in the chocolate, then making a meringue in a separate bowl to be folded in.
The stabilized whipped cream actually gave me more problems, though less than dealing with the tricky temperature requirements of the ganache, I think. The stabilization is done with gelatin, so the first step is heating part of the cream with powdered sugar and the gelatin. That mixture is then cooled to room temperature. The rest of the cream is whipped to soft peaks, then the gelatin mixture is dribbled in and the mixture taken to stiff peaks. Well, my gelatin mixture set up past the 'dribble-able' stage very quickly, and I had to re-warm it to melt the gelatin again. Then the whole mixture also set up very quickly once the gelatin was added. At first I thought I had lumps of gelatin, or maybe butter, in my mixture, but no. It was just very stiff, and less fluffy. As I started composing the cake, I quickly found out that I had a good bit less yield than the expected 2 cups and I had to cut back on the amount spread on each layer. The texture was noticeably different than plain whipped cream--both my brother and sister-in-law asked about it, unprompted.
One more thing on the whipped cream: here's another place where I miss the "why" parts from other of Rose's cookbooks. Why bring the cream/sugar/gelatin to a boil? Is it to melt the gelatin? Some other reaction? That would have helped me decide when to take it off the heat, instead of waiting for a clear boil and perhaps overdoing it. I should have pulled out one of those other books...looks like all that's needed is to melt the gelatin.
As my timing worked out, I refrigerated the cake overnight before composing the cake. I also popped it into the freezer for a few minutes before I started, warned by the recipe of the fragility of the cake. All that must have helped, as I really didn't have problems trimming the cake into 4 rectangles, then spreading each with a thin layer of the stabilized whipped cream before stacking the next layer on top.
The last step was to make chocolate curls for the top, a process that covered my hands in 62% Scharffen Berger chocolate (oh, horror!) but gave a very nice finish to the cake.
Tasting comments: Everyone liked this one--that's two unanimous hits in a row. Sister-in-law went straight to "can this be a Passover cake, as it's flourless?", and loved the light texture and good chocolate flavor. Older niece, who always answers the question "would you like some cake of the week?" with "is it chocolate?", said "It's good". I asked "Chocolate equals good?", and got back "Pretty much." Younger niece wanted the ganache version (more chocolate...), but still liked it with the whipped cream. She thought the chocolate curls were a distraction from the light texture and would have left them off, though. Nephew liked it, but joined his sister's dislike of the chocolate curls. My brother and I both felt it was good, but not a knock-out. I couldn't help making a comparison to the classic "zebra pie", made of Famous Chocolate Wafers spread with sweetened whipped cream. A cut above, certainly, but the thin layers of chocolate and whipped cream brought back memories of zebra pie in my grandmother's kitchen.