Coffee and walnut praline cake

I didn’t bake last week.

Well, I didn’t bake for this blog. I did, however, bake for an early Mother’s Day dinner, and subsequently learned the hard way why you have to put angel food cake batter in a cold oven, not a preheated oven. Instead of a light sponge, it was more of a cakey marshmallow. Still good, just not what was expected.

Today I’m taking a huge departure from angel food cake by making coffee and walnut praline cake.

Okay, they’re both cakes and not that different, but I figured out a new system of working my way through this book: I’ve counted how many recipes are left in each section, and I’m going to bake until they all have the same amount left, then evenly work through each category until they’re all down to zero.

So it was either a pudding/dessert, bread or cake. Since I’ve been drowning in puddings and desserts recently and bread takes longer to rise than an evening after work, I’m trying this cake.

First up, base-lining the tins. I’m changing the base-lining system to avoid what happened last time I made sponges.

Instead of putting the circle first and then the sides, I did the sides first then the bottom circle.

I’m also attempting to be smarter with the splitting of the batter. To avoid complicated math problems like I had with the Battenberg cake, I first measured the empty bowl.

And wrote that amount down in a little notebook my niece gave me as a present. It has a dalmatian on it. That’s not relevant to this blog post, but I thought it was cute.

While the butter is mixing with the KitchenAid …

… I measured out the sugar (minus a little less):

Is this looking creamy?

I really don’t think the KitchenAid is the best mixer. It just never reaches things at the bottom and the butter always gets smushed to the side.

I also don’t think this batter is supposed to be this lumpy:

I mean that may have something to do with the fact that the butter was less “softened” and more “partially melted because I got sick of waiting for it to soften.” Or it may have to do with the step that I missed told me to add flour in between the last couple additions of egg. We may never know. I just hope it’ll still turn out okay.

Before sifting the flour into the butter, sugar and egg mixture, I had to dissolve instant coffee.

I’m not super organized with this bake. I had to dissolve it with boiled water and then wait for it to cool but I didn’t want to wait so I put it in the freezer and then took it out when it was warm. I really should have prepped this ingredient at the very beginning instead of when I got to the step. This is as bad as room temperature eggs.

Next up, folding everything together.

This just really doesn’t seem like cake mix to me.

I also really doubt that this would make three good cakes.

That’s how many this bake is supposed to make, by the way. Three 20.5 cm circle cake tins. I even bought two of the right size (to avoid the chocolate cake incident), but once I started scooping up the right amount (I attempted math in the little dalmatian notebook and ended up having to get my calculator), I realized this wasn’t going to work.

Mary and Paul say that if I only have two tins, I can bake two with the third equal amount of batter left to the side, and then bake that bit later after washing, drying and re-base-lining the tin. But I didn’t want pathetic cakes, so I just split it in two.

I really hope that’s okay.

But then I also don’t really care because the coffee makes it smell so good so I assume it will taste equally delicious.

The one thing I do care about is those lumps. But let’s hope those go away on their own.

*13 to 15 to 18 minutes later*

I think it worked.

There are massive holes but those will get covered up with icing. I assume the holes are from the lumps. Or maybe that’s what makes a sponge a sponge.

While those cool, I’m supposed to make the walnut praline.

“Put the nuts and sugar into a medium-sized heavy-based pan and set over fairly low heat.”

So here’s the thing. I didn’t so much put it on a “fairly low heat” as I did put it on “the highest heat possible.”

Needless to say, the sugar crystallized and didn’t melt at all.

After waiting for a miracle, I decided to scoop out the walnuts and start again.

And I waited, and waited, and waited. It was like that section of Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, but this time¬†nothing happened.

I went back to the chocolate bundt cake recipe that had the almond brittle to see what happened there, and with that one, I was told to add water.

So I made a decision.

I decided to force the sugar to melt instead of waiting forever. Maybe it’s because it’s Canadian granulated sugar and not British caster sugar? I don’t know. Now that the sugar melted, I turned up the heat and waited for it to turn a chestnut colour.

Nope, not yet.

Nope, still not yet. (Full disclosure: I started to realize I wasn’t 100% sure what “chestnut” looked like, so googled it. Then Google offered me photos of chestnuts. So I googled “chestnut stain” and I realized I was thinking of a different colour. Thank you, Google.)

I think that’s it. Time to put these on a baking sheet and wait for it to cool.

*some time later*

Okay guys. I’m scared to make the buttercream. I’m not good at it. I always overmix it and then it gets dull and matte and not good. Is this why it’s a three-spoon recipe? Will the buttercream be harder than the praline? Possibly.

*some more time later*

Did I do it? I don’t know. That was scary. Maybe not scary. Uncertain. ‘Twas a time of uncertainty.

First of all, I think the praline at least worked:

Then I had to put it in a food processor to make it “rubble” and in the process of processing I almost made my food processor “rubble.”

It was noisy.

Also I do not think that this sponge should be this small:

What is with these cakes? There was no way I could have gotten three sponges out of that batter.

Okay. Enough putting it off. Buttercream time.

I didn’t take a lot of photos of this part because I stress-read it over and over again, and had no time for progress photos.

I did take a photo of sifting the icing sugar:

The recipe called for 325 grams of the stuff and I had 317 grams left in the bag, so I figured that would have to do.

I also got a photo of the butter being melted:

I also got a photo of the sifted icing sugar:

So here’s what happened. I had to melt the softened butter (it was not softened, it was cold). And then I had to get it to bubble for a minute until it turned a light golden brown. I waited more than a minute. It did not turn a light golden brown.

Then I had to make the instant coffee again and instead of waiting for it to cool, again, I put it in the freezer, again.

Now this was when I read and re-read and re-re-read because I had to put the melted butter into the sifted icing sugar, immediately add the coffee and whipping cream and then mix it on low setting with the electric mixer until thick and smooth. But if it’s not thick enough to spread, I’m to put it in a cool place, so it’s like they know that this won’t be thick enough to spread. Because it was not.

I still don’t understand this recipe.

How was there supposed to be enough mix for three sponges? How was the sugar supposed to melt on its own? How was the butter supposed to brown? How am I supposed to spread this icing that’s basically liquid? How am I supposed to put the ground-up praline on the sides of a teeny tiny cake? I have so many questions, Mary and Paul.

So. Many. Questions.

But I power through and trust.

I did get a taste of this buttercream and BOY is it coffee-y. It’ll wake you up. I’ll make sure my co-workers have it right in the morning.

*some refrigerated time later*

The icing became spreadable, so I put the first sponge crust-side down, and added some icing with my new palette knife.

Then I added the second one and more icing.

That palette knife is amazing. It works so much better than a regular knife!

And then I added the “rubble” of the praline.

It doesn’t look terrible. Although it still is quite short.

But I’m glad I made the choices I did. Because this recipe was a little unreliable. From the failed KitchenAid mixing to the minimal amount of batter to the non-melting sugar to the runny buttercream, Mary and Paul didn’t ace this one.

They also tell me that I can store it in a cool place for a couple days, but not the fridge. But this has whipping cream in the icing. It seems odd that you wouldn’t refrigerate that.

I’m going to make another decision outside the law on this one and put it in the fridge overnight. I’d rather be safe than serve spoiled-cream cake to my co-workers.

*next day*

UPDATE: People liked it! I’m always worried they won’t. It’s a little stressful, actually. But everyone was pleased and the caffeine intake counteracted the sugar crash, so I would say this was a success! I mean other than all of the problems along the way. Maybe less a success and more a delicious passing grade.

Until next time. (There will be bread.)

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