Monday, April 20, 2015
BB: Polish Princess
The Polish Princess is a composed cake made up of a genoise base that's brushed with a tea-vodka-lemon syrup, then topped with two layers of pastry cream-based buttercream. One layer is blended with cocoa and has sliced walnuts (or pecans, for me) folded in, and the other has chopped raisins (I substituted dried cherries) and chopped dark chocolate folded into a vanilla base.
I made a half-sized version with my 6-inch springform. With binder clips (almost as useful around the house as duct tape), I got my silicone Rose-branded cake strip to work on the little pan.
On the advice of another Alpha Baker, I made the pastry cream first so it could cool--it needs to be the same temperature as the cool room temp butter to make the buttercream. Then I turned to the genoise.
The meringue, base of the genoise, gave me some trouble. With the half recipe, the KitchenAid stand mixer wasn't doing well with beating the egg whites, though they eventually got to soft peaks. I slowly added the sugar...and the mixture never got to stiff peaks. It was glossy, sure, but lifting the beater just got me white strings. I started over, having excess egg whites around (the pastry cream uses yolks only), and the hand mixer. Same problem. I quickly googled to verify that once you've added all the sugar it's pretty hard to overheat a meringue, so I just kept beating. Eventually some amount of body developed in the meringue that might have held a peak, and I moved ahead with the rest of the genoise, beating in egg yolks, folding in the flour mixture, and then folding in a small amount of water. The resulting cake looked just fine.
Sponge cakes generally get brushed with syrup to keep them moist, and the syrup here is a strong tea mixed with a little lemon juice and a healthy slug of vodka. The cake got skewered to help this soak in as it was brushed on the top and bottom.
The pastry cream became buttercream by beating it into softened butter, then was divided in half and the flavoring were added. The cocoa-pecan layer got spread on the cake, now back in the springform ring to support the buttercream layers and with a parchment collar to give it a bit more height. Into the fridge to chill and firm up, while the other half of the buttercream stayed at room temperature so it would remain spreadable. Once the cocoa layer was firm, the cherry-chocolate chip mixture went on top with only a slight bit of unevenness in the layers, and a little rim where I pushed up against the parchment collar. I grated chocolate on top with some spillover on the serving plate for artistic effect, and the whole thing went back in the fridge to chill overnight and meld the flavors. After careful removal of the springform ring and paper collar, then some smoothing of the parchment wrinkles with a hot spatula, I had the completed Princess.
Taste testing comments: I couldn't find any of the flavors I knew were in the syrup for the cake: no tea, vodka, or lemon came through. Sister-in-law and nephew agreed, no particular flavor to the cake. Overall I thought it didn't meld together as a cake--it was hard to get a bite with all three layers, and when I did, I still tasted mostly the chocolate-pecan buttercream. The butter creams independently were fine and not excessively buttery as I'd feared, but it was rather a mish-mash of components.
Sister-in-law and nephew found the cake too sweet but good. She liked the chocolate layer, but hit a large piece of cherry in the first bite of the vanilla buttercream and that dominated the flavors there. I took the remainder of the cake to the office but didn't have time to pass it around in person, so feedback was limited to the one co-worker who stopped by my office to say it was wonderful. She especially liked the cherries. [Later edit] Another co-worker stopped by my office Wednesday evening to ask if I'd made that cake he'd had on Monday. Two pieces, it turns out--he'd gotten one and taken it to his office, then came back. He loved the flavors, agreed there was no tea/lemon/vodka taste in the genoise, and did find it a bit top-heavy with the ratio of cake to buttercream. Clearly he still enjoyed the cake. [end edit]
One further note is that I never got a clean slice, even using a hot, clean knife blade. Perhaps the combination of the cherry, chocolate, and pecan bits in the buttercream, and the 6" cake, made slicing more difficult.