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Cake showmanship.

Stop the show with these special-occassion cakes. Elegantly tiered or sleekly cloaked in chocolate, each will serve 30 to 50 guests at a reception or other party.

These grand-scale cakes are inspirations of two professional California bakers. Ann Kathleen (of Rose et Le Favour in St. Helena) created the tiered gateau St.-Honore, Louisa Beers (of Gayle's in Capitola) the chocolate-filbert extravaganza. Their results can be duplicated at home. Both desserts are easy to manage if you break them down into make-ahead steps. Some preparation can be completed up to a month ahead, some several days ahead, and the cakes can be assembled at least 6 hours before serving. Remembering to keep them cold as long as possible and serve them in a cool place; sun may melt them.

The St-Honore cake uses buttery pastry circles as bases. The pastry is set on corrugated cardboard rounds that you cut yourself or buy from a bakery. Cream puffs anchored to the pastry with caramelized sugar form a rim , and the center is filled with a whipped cream-custard. The rounds are stacked, using small plastic cups as supports. Each tier is garnished with whipped cream and strawberries.

The chocolate dessert uses two kinds of cake--filbert sponge and mousse-textured chocolate--baked in 6- and 10-unch cake pans (look for the pans at confectioners' supply stores and at some cookware shops). The layers are filled with a filbert cream, then cloaked with two coats of chocolate ganache--a bakers' term for chocolate melted in cream. Gateau St.-Honore Butter pastry (recipe follows))

5 cups whipping cream Custard sauce (recipe follows) Cream puffs (recipe follows)

1 cup granulated sugar

4 quarts strawberries

1/4 cup kirsch (optional)

1 to 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

On a 14- by 17-inch rimless baking sheet, roll about half of the butter pastry 3/16 inch thick. Place a 12-inch corrugated cardboard circle on pastry and cut around it with a knife. On 12- by 15-inch rimless baking sheets, roll remaining butter pastry, including trimmings. Repeat rolling and cutting, using 6-, 8-, and 10-inch cardboard rounds as patterns; cut 1 pastry of each size.

Bake pastries in a 300[deg.] oven until pale gold all over, 35 to 40 minutes for 12-inch round, about 35 for 10-inch round, 30 for 8-inch, and 25 for 6-inch. Cool until lukewarm, then carefully transfer back to cardboard rounds. (If made ahead, wrap airtight and store at room temperature up to 1 day or freeze up to 1 month.)

Whip 4 cups of the cream until it holds stiff peaks. Transfer 2-1/2 cups to a small bowl and fold in 1/3 cup custard sauce to make cream-puff filling; set aside.

Fold remaining custard sauce into remaining whipped cream to make the pastry filling. Stirring occassionally, chill the pastry filling until cool and thick, 45 minutes to 1-1/2 hours. Watch closely: it must be soft enough to pour. If if becomes too firm, the filling will look lumpy.

Meanwhile, put the cream-puff filling in a pastry bag fitted with a narrow tip; pipe into each puff to fill

Pour 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar in a 8- to 10-inch frying pan. Place over medium heat, shakingpan frequently, until sugar liquefies and turns amber. Keep pan over very low heat to keep sugar liquid (or reheat to thin as needed). Dip the bottom of each filled puff in caramelized sugar and set puffs snugly aroung the edge of each pastry round.

Spoon pastry filling onto pastry base, to about 1 inch deep. Chill until firm, then cover and chill as long as overnight.

Wash and remove stems from 2 quarts of the strawberries. Puree a portion at a time in a food processor or blender; add 1/2 cup granulated sugar and the kirsch, if used. (If made ahead, cover and chill as long as overnight.)

Up to 6 hours before serving, wash, dry, and remove stems from remaining berries.

To assemble cake, place 12-inch layer on a flat serving platter and build upwards. Set 3 clear plastic cups (2 to 3 in. tall) upsidedown in center of this layer, pushing them gently down through filling until they rest on pastry base. Place berries stem side down in a ring inside each circle of puffs, as pictured at left. Fix a piece of double-sided tape on top of each cup to prevent next layer from shifting. Repeat with 10-and 8-inch layers, using 2 or 3 cups. Set 6-inch layer on top.

Whip remaining 1 cup cream until stiff and sweeten to taste with powdered sugar. Put cream in a pastry bag with a star tip, and pipe rosetted around each round. Keep the cake cool.

To serve, carefully lift each layer off as it is to be cut and place it on a platter; remove cups. Cut 4 wedges from the 6-inch layer, 6 to 8 from the 8-inch, 10 from the 10-inch, and 12 from the 12-inch. Wipe knife often. Pour strawberry sauce over each piece (sauce also conceals marks in filling made by cups). Makes 32 to 34 servings.

Butter pastry. In a large bowl, mix together 5-1/3 cups all-purpose flour and 1 cup sugar. Cut in 2 cups (1 lb.) butter or margarine until small crumbs form. Then mix in 8 egg yolks (1/2 cup). Work with you hands until dough sticks together in a ball; or whirl, a portion at a time, in food processor until dough sticks together.

Custard sauce. In the top of a double boiler, mix 2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin with 1 cup sugar. Stir un 1 quart milk and add 1 vanilla bean (or 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla); bring to scalding over medium heat. Beat 8 egg yolks (1/2 cup) to blend; stir in 1 cup of the hot milk, then return egg mixture to milk. Place top of double boiler over simmerring water. Stir with a wire whip until custard thickens and thickly coats a metal spoon, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add 1/4 cup kirsch (optional). Stir over ice water to cool quickly. (If made ahead, cover and chill. To soften, place custard sauce directly over low heat and stir constantly with a wire ship until smooth and fluid but still thick. If it gets too hot, chill briefly; stir occassionally.)

Cream puffs. In a 3- to 4-quart pan, bring 1 cup water, 1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) butter or margarine (in chunks), and 1 teaspoon sugar to boil. When butter melts, add 1 cup all-purpose flour all at once and beat with a wooden spoon until blended. Reduce heat to medium and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until mixture forms a ball and leaves sides of pan. Remove from heat. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating mixture after each addition until smooth (or whirl eggs into dough in a food processor). Let cool 10 minutes.

Put cream puff dough in a pastry bag with a plain 1/2-inch tip. Pipe or spoon dough in 1-inch mounds (each a level teaspoonful) on lightly greased baking sheetes, spacing them about 1-1/2 inches apart.

Bake puffs in a 425[deg] oven until golden, about 15 minutes. (Unbaked puffs can wait, if you have only 1 oven.) Reduce heat to 375[deg] and bake 5 minutes longer. Remove from oven, cut a small slash in lower side of each puff, and continue baking until puffs are firm and dry to touch and golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes longer. Cool on racks. (If made ahead, wrap airtight and store at room temperature up to 1 day, or freeze up to 1 month.)

For Louisa's Celebration Cake, you make two batches pf ganache. The first is cooled until thick, then spread on the cake to seal the surface. The second batch is used lukewarm and liquid; pour it over the cake for a smooth, sleek finish. To get professional-looking results, you must have enough to use freely; we suggest uses for leftovers.

Ganache also goes into the filbert filling and makes the decorative borders. If you're familiar with the technique, you could also use the butter-textured ganache to make chocolate roses with a pastry bag. Chill the roses until you're ready to garnish. Fresh flowers, however, will also finish the cake beatifully.

You can cover and store left-over ganache indefinitely in the refrigerator. Form small balls of the firm ganache and roll in cocoa to make truffles. Or let it come to room temperature and use it to frost other cakes, or heat slightly and pour over ice cream. Louisa's Celebration Cake Cinderella gateau (recipe follows) Filbert sponge cake (recipe follows) Chocolate leaves (directions follow) chocolate ganache (recipe follows) Filbert cream filling (recipe follows) Fresh flowers

From 2 days to 1 month before the party, bake cinderella gateau and filbert sponge cake; make chocolate leaves as directed.

Up to 4 days before serving, make 1 or 2 batches chocolate ganache and let stand at room temperature (60[deg] to 70[deg]) at least 6 hours or as long as 2 days (cover when cool). To use, texture should be like that of whipped butter. Do not refrigerate (texture can become uneven if chilled).

Up to 2 days before serving, make the filbert cream filling.

Split filbert layers in half horizontally. Place one 10-inch layer, cut side up, on a 10-inch round of corrugated cardboard. Spread with about 1 cup filbert cream filling. Place the 10-inch Cinderella gateau on top. Spread with another 1 cup filbert cream filling, then top with remaining 10-inch filbert layer, placing cut side down.

On a 6-inch corrugated round, duplicate the arrangement of the 10-inch layers, using the small cakes and about 1/2 cup filbert filling between each layer. Trim tops of layers to level; use ganache if necessary to level out any dips. With a long spatula, spread thickened ganache smoothly over cake sides and top. (Set cake on a turnable, if available; it will be easier to frost evenly.)

This base coat of ganche should be smooth and thin but should cover completely. Chill cake until ganache is firm, at least 1 hour or up to overnight; cover when surface is firm. Store remaining ganache, covered, t room temperature. About 30 minutes before cakes assembly time, make the second batched of the chocolate ganache. Stirring occassionally, let it cool to body temperature (100[deg]), 30 to 45 minutes; it should have the consistency of heavy cream.

Set each cake on a rack placed in a rimmed pan. With a steady continuous pour, cover completely with the liquid ganache, starting in center and working out. Pop any bubbles with the tip of a knife. Repeat with other cake. Let cakes cool at room temperature at least 1 hour (or chill until ganache is set). Remove from racks; place 10-inch cake on a platter and center 6-inch cake on top. Save excess ganache; let cool and use for decorative borders if needed.

Put the cool, thick reserved ganache in a pastry bag with a shell or rosette tip. Pipe a border around the base of each cake.

Garnish cake with chocolate leaves, anchoring them with thick ganache. If made ahead, chill until firm, cover lightly, and chill up to 24 hours. Decorate with flowers just before serving.

To serve, cut as in drawing (page 187), wiping knife clean frequently. Serves about 50.

Cinderella gateau. Butter and flour bottom and sides of a 6-inch and a 10-inch round cake pan. Line pan bottoms with waxed paper; set aside.

In a 2- to 3-quart pan, stir 1/2 pound semisweet chocolate and 1-1/2 cups (3/4 lb.) unsalted butter or margarine over very low heat until chocolate is melted. Stir in 1-1/2 cups sugar (mixture will be slightly grainy); remove from heat. Transfer to a large bowl. Cool about 5 minutes, then stir in 12 egg yolks (almost 1 cup) and 4 teaspoons vanilla. Add 1/2 cup all-purpose flour; stir just until smooth.

In a large bowl, whip 12 egg whites (1-1/2 cups) to hold stiff, moist peaks. Fold chocolate mixture into whites just until blended.

Pour batter into prepared pans, filling them to equal levels. Set each in a larger pan holding about 1-1/2 inches hot water. Bake in a 350[deg] oven until center is firm to touch, about 40 minutes for the small cake, 1 hour for the large. Remove pans from water; set on racks. Cool thoroughly, at least 2 hours.

Invert cakes onto 6- and 10-inch cardboard rounds and carefully remove paper. If cakes do not come out easily, move pan bottoms over low heat on a burner just until warm enough to loosen them, then invert. Wrap airtight and chill until firm, at least 2 hours, or freeze as long as 1 month.

Filbert sponge cake. Put 1-1/2 cup filberts in a 9- or 10-inch cake pan and plce in a 350[deg] oven until pale gold under skins, 10 to 15 minutes. Pour hot nuts onto a clean towel and fold to enclose. Rub gently to remove as much of skin as possible. Let nuts cool, then lift from cloth; finely grind in a blender or food processor.

Butter and flour bottom and sides of a 6-inch and a 10-inch round cake pan. Line pan bottoms with waxed pper; set aside.

Separate 9 eggs; you need 3/4 cup yolks and 1-1/3 cups whites. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks and 2 whole eggs with 3/4 cup sugar until thick and light yellow in color. Add 1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs and the ground nuts and beat until blended.

In another large bowl, whip egg whites until foamy; then gradually beat in 6 tablespoons sugar until whites hold stiff peaks. With a spatula, mix 1/4 of the egg whites into the filbert batter. Fold in remaining whites until completely blended.

Fill prepared cake pans to equal levels with the batter. Bake in a 325[deg] oven until tops spring back when gently touched in center, about 45 minutes for small cake, 55 minutes for large. Let cool on racks 15 to 20 minutes, then invert onto racks; remove paper. Cool thoroughly (cake may settle slightly). If made ahead, wrap and chill as long as overnight or freeze up to 1 month.

Chocolate leaves. Rinse and pat dry 10 to 15 small, sturdy, nontoxic leaves such as rose, citrus, or camellia. In the top of a double boiler, stir 4 ounces semisweet chocolate over simmering water until melted. With a small brush, paint a thick layer over the backs of the leaves (not over edges). Set leaves on a flat pan and chill or freeze until chocolate is firm, then peel leaves away. If made ahead, wrap airtight and freeze up to 1 month.

Chocolate ganache. Place 1-1/4 pounds coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate in a large mixing bowl. In a 5- to 6-quart pan, bring 2-3/4 cups whipping cream to a rolling boil; at once, pour it over chocolate. Stir until chocolate is completely melted and smooth. (if necessary, stir over low heat just until melted.) Let cool as directed for assembling cake.

Filbert cream filling. Roast and grind 3/4 cup filbert as directed in filbert sponge recipe. Beat 2 cups whipping cream to hold soft peaks. Fold in 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, filberts, and 1/2 cup cooled thick chocolte ganache (recipe precedes). If made ahead, cover and chill as long as overnight.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Jun 1, 1984
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