Welcome to my very first Daring Baker’s Challenge! Grab a hot drink and get comfortable because this is no simple cake. I’ll wait. Ready? OK, let’s go.
Although not quite as difficult as it looks, this is no “you can’t believe how it easy it was” story.
I signed on for the Daring Baker’s Challenge to push my boundries. So when I logged on early in the month, I was feeling optimistic and ready to try something new. The challenge?… Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet. Oh no! French!
What is Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet? It is a filled cake, the exterior of which is wrapped with a strip of light almond sponge cake (that’s the “joconde” part) with a design (that’s the “imprime” part) baked right in. Intimidated? I certainly was. My desserts tend to be more rustic.
I spent over a week thinking about the challenge. I decided to keep the fillings simple to make my life easier. As I considered different taste combinations, I found myself thinking back to one of my favorite childhood desserts, Sarah Bernhardts. I love the flavor of almond and chocolate together. The chewy macaroon topped with whipped chocolate ganache is divine. And there is already almond in the joconde batter. Hmmmm. That sounds like a nice pairing, but perhaps overly simple. What can I add to it? I have a jar of ever-so-precious Johnson Berry Farm golden raspberry preserves from my trip to the NW last October. This may be just the occasion to use it, but the cake still needs something more. I also have some bars of white chocolate left over from my Xmas candy making. A layer of whipped white chocolate ganache over the raspberry? That would be pretty and delicious. Top the whole thing with a dark chocolate glaze. OK. I’ve got a plan.
Each particular step isn’t so difficult, but there are a ridiculous number of steps. So to make this project more manageable, I made a three-day plan.
Make white chocolate ganache
Make dark chocolate ganache
Make almond macaroon base and top
Make joconde cake imprime
Whip the ganaches
Assemble cake (minus the glaze)
Make white chocolate disks for decorating the top
Make and top with Chocolate Glaze & decorate with white chocolate disks
Now I don’t know about you, but this is significantly more work than I put into my average dessert. But I’m the one who wanted to be daring and challenged, so off we go.
- 6 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 cup heavy cream
Whipped Dark Chocolate Ganache
- 12 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 3 egg whites
- large pinch of kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 8 ounces blanched slivered almonds, very finely chopped in a food processor
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
- 14 tablespoons (200 grams) unsalted buter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups plus 1 1/2 tablespoons (200 grams) confectioners’ sugar
- 7 large egg whites (200 grams), room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (170 grams) cake flour
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder (60 grams), sifted
- 3/4 cup (85 grams) almond flour/meal (I bought mine at Trader Joe’s)
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (75 grams) confectioners’ sugar plus more for cutting
- 1/4 cup (25 grams) cake flour
- 3 large eggs (15o grams), room temperature
- 3 large egg whites (90 grams), room temperature
- 2 1/2 teaspoons (10 grams) sugar
- 2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter, melted
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 5 teaspoons water
- Raspberry Preserves (I used golden raspberry)
- Additional White Chocolate for decoration
- 8 inch pastry mold or ring from a springform pan
MAKING THE DARK CHOCOLATE GANACHE (Part I)
Place finely chopped semisweet chocolate in a bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan on the stovetop until it reaches a gentle boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until most of the chocolate is melted. There may still be little flecks of chocolate that don’t want to melt. Let the chocolate sit for about 15 minutes and then stir again until the ganache is creamy, smooth and a uniform color.
MAKING THE WHITE CHOCOLATE GANACHE (Part I)
Very similar to making the other ganache. Pour boiling hot cream over chopped white chocolate. Stir until all the chocolate is melted. Let it sit 5 minutes, stir again. Let the ganache come to room temperature and then cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the ganache and refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to 4 days.
OK, that was a Monday. Fast forward to Thursday (3 days later, aka DAY TWO)
MAKING THE ALMOND MACAROON BASE & TOP
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites until foamy. Add the sugar and pinch of salt. Beat until the mixture holds soft peaks. This took about 10 minutes in my standing mixer with the whisk attachment. Fold in the very finely chopped almonds, cornstarch, and almond extract. Draw two circles on parchment equal to the size of the cake mold, turn the parchment over so that the lines are on the bottom (you can still see the lines through the paper, but you won’t get pencil marks on your almond macaroon base) and place each on a heavy-duty cookie sheet. Spread the batter so that it fills each circle and then goes over the line by about 1/2 inch. It’s OK if it’s not perfectly round. Your goal is to have a disks larger than you need because later you are going to cut off the crispy edges. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 13-14 minutes until the tops are dry and just starting to brown. Remove the parchment to a rack to cool your macaroons completely.
MAKING THE PATTERNED JACOND-DECOR PASTE
In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour and the cocoa powder. Set aside. In a standing mixture, using a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. PHOTO 1: Gradually add room temperature egg whites beating continuously. PHOTO 2: My dough looked a little separated at this point, I think because my egg whites were cool, but when I mixed mix in the sifted flour/cocoa mixture (PHOTO 3), beating just enough to incorporate, it came together.
Place a silicone mat on an upside down baking sheet. This is the time to make your design. The challenge suggested either spreading a sheet of the batter and then removing some in a pattern or piping the batter into a pattern on the sheet. I wanted to keep it simple, so I tried to pipe polka dots in various sizes, but I didn’t do it well and ended up using my fingers to make my circles more flat. As a result, my circles didn’t turn out as crisp as I wanted them, more like leopard spots than polka dots. See PHOTO 4. I also had a lot of chocolate batter left over, so I used it to pipe some letters onto parchment just for the heck of it. Turns out that the batter was really easy to control when piped thinly. Next time, I will try piping a thinner, more intricate design.
Place the baking sheet with the silicone mat in the freezer and freeze until the batter is hard, approximately 15 minutes.
While this is freezing, preheat the oven to 475 degree F and make the Joconde Sponge.
MAKING THE JOCONDE SPONGE
PHOTO 1: In a clean mixing bowl, whip the egg whites and white granulated sugar to firm, glossy peaks (mine may have been slightly overbeaten). Reserve in a separate clean bowl to use later. PHOTO 2: Sift the almond flour or meal, confectioner’s sugar and cake flour into the egg bowl. You will need fairly large holes on your sifter to get almond meal through. PHOTO 3: On medium speed, using the paddle attachment, add the eggs one at a time. Mix well after each addition. Mix until smooth and light. PHOTO 4: Fold in one third of the reserved egg whites to the almond mixture to lighten the batter. Then gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Lastly, fold in the melted butter.
BAKING THE JOCONDE IMPRIME
Remove the chocolate-patterned joconde on the silicone baking sheet from the freezer. Spread the joconde sponge batter over the design, covering it completely (PHOTO 1). Mine was about 1/4- to 1/8-inch thick. The recipe said this should make 2 half-sheet pans, but I only had enough batter for one (plus some extra in the bowl), perhaps because I didn’t use as much chocolate batter in the design as I could have.
Bake at 475 degrees F (you can bake it on the upside down cookie sheet) until the joconde bounces back when slightly pressed (PHOTO 2). The recipe said 15 minutes. Mine was done in only 7 minutes, so watch carefully.
LEARN FROM MY MISTAKE: My batter must not have been a uniform thickness because the edges were darker than the center. It didn’t look awful, just not perfect. Cool until just above room temperature.
Flip the cooled cake onto a piece of parchment paper covered in powdered sugar revealing the “good” side of the joconde that will be come the decorative edge of your cake. Remove the silicone mat (PHOTO 3). Cut off the crusty edges (PHOTO 4)
PREPARING CAKE TO BE FILLED
Use the mold to cut the macaroons like a big cookie cutter (PHOTO 1). Use a sharp knife to cut off the excess (the excess makes a nice snack).
Wrap the inside of your mold with foodsafe acetate or, in my case, I wrapped the whole thing in plastic wrap and lined the interior of the mold with a strip of parchment paper. Then, use plastic wrap to make a “bottom” to the mold. Simply stretch a piece so that it is suspended over the bottom of the mold. This will keep your cake from sliding out before you want it to.
Cut strips of cake to fit in the mold (PHOTOS 2 & 3). I used the parchment paper as a pattern guide for size. I also chose to make the cake strips come to the top of the mold which isn’t exactly traditional, but worked for my design. Make sure that your edges are very square so they come together neatly (PHOTO 4).
MAKING THE DARK CHOCOLATE GANACHE (Part II)
Whip the ganache until it is stiff enough to hold its shape and is spreadable. Take care not to overwhip. In an electric mixer, ganache goes from perfect to overdone and grainy in a second. When you think its close to being done, take it off the mixer and whip the rest by hand.
LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES
- Think carefully about the order of your layers. I put the cardboard round in the cake, then glued the macaroon to it with a little whipped ganache and then lined the mold with the strips of cake. My mistake? When I unmolded it, I could see the edge of the macaroon along the bottom of the cake. It would have been better to trim the macaroon so that it fit inside of the cake and then to wrap the cake around it. I hid my mistake later by whipping up leftover glaze and piping it along the exposed edge.
- Make sure that your cake fits very snugly in the mold. When you remove the mold, it may sag a little from the weight of the fillings exaggerating any space at the seems.
Place a cardboard round in the bottom of the cake. Line the sides of the mold with the strips of cake. Trim the first macaroon so that it fits in the bottom of the mold inside the strips of cake. Put 2 tablespoons of whipped chocolate ganache on top of the cardboard and top with the first macaroon. Spread the rest of the whipped dark chocolate ganache over the macaroon (PHOTO 1). Cover the whipped dark chocolate ganache with a layer of the raspberry preserves (PHOTO 2). Place the cake in the refrigerator while you make the next layer.
MAKING THE WHITE CHOCOLATE GANACHE (Part II)
Just like the last ganache, whip, but don’t overwhip and then immediately spread over the raspberry layer (PHOTO 3). This will come almost to the top of the cake.
Trim the remaining macaroon so that it fits just inside the cake on top of the whipped white chocolate ganache and then invert it onto the cake. Now the cake should have a flat flush top. (PHOTO 4)
And you should need a nap. So wrap the cake, still in the mold in tight plastic wrap and store in the fridge while you make yourself a cocktail then off to bed.
Sleep well because tomorrow it’s on to…
MAKING WHITE CHOCOLATE DISKS
Melt additional white chocolate. Pipe the white chocolate in to disks of various sizes on a nonstick mat or parchment paper. To make them round and flat, thwack the pan a couple of times to get the chocolate to settle. Allow to cool and harden to room temperature.
(Apparently, at this point I was too tired to lift my camera anymore because I failed to take any pictures of making the glaze.)
FINALLY, THE GLAZE
Put all of the ingredients in a small heatproof bowl suspended over barely simmering water (aka double boiler). Stir frequently until the chocolate is almost completely melted. Remove from the heat and set aside to finish melting. Stir until perfectly smooth. Cool the glaze to 88 to 90 degrees F, pour over the top of the cake spreading to the edge, but not beyond. You don’t want glaze dripping down the sides of the cake.
Top with the white chocolate disks placed here and there. I inverted the disks so they were very flat on top, but you can place them as you like.
Refrigerate the entire cake, still in the mold for at least 1 hour or until ready to serve. Then unmold, slice with a hot dry knife and serve.
TASTING NOTES: This cake is light, but very rich. The flavors are lovely, if not particularly complex. I love chocolate and almond together, but I’m very glad that I also added the raspberry to brighten the flavor. Fresh raspberries would probably be even better (in both taste and appearance).
I find it ironic, although not particularly surprising, that the least interesting flavor in the cake was the decorative joconde imprime. Don’t get me wrong, it’s edible, but compared to everything else, it’s boring from a taste perspective.
WHAT I LEARNED
- Although definitely not an everyday endeavor, joconde imprime isn’t as difficult as it looks. Next time, I will try a more intricate design. A pattern, monogram or special sentiment baked right into the sponge is an 11 on the 1-10 “TA DA” scale. Just remember that everything is reversed like writing in a mirror.
- This cake lends itself to different fillings and taste combinations. Adding flavorings or liquor to the chocolate or fresh fruit would make a beautiful and delicious presentation. I’m also intrigued by the idea of adding more texture in the form of crushed cookies, praline or toasted nuts.
- Near the end photography, the cake was beginning to sag and develop small cracks. For best presentation, I recommend that you keep this cake cold and in the mold (hey, that rhymes) until right before you serve it.