Monday, 17 September 2012

Decadent Pear and Chocolate Birthday Cake

A little while ago I mentioned this cake, and this one which I made in response.  My good friend made a beautiful-looking pear and dark chocolate version, although much like me she struggled with unripe fruit and getting the curd to set.  I was sorry I didn't get to taste it, as it has really inspired my second try.
I really wanted to get this right.  It is high time I had a proper show-stopping torte on my resumé which I can whip out for other people's birthdays as well as my own.  This time I made sure to buy my pears a week in advance, so that they would be juicy and flavoursome by the time it came to making the cake.  Thankfully, it is by far the best cake I have ever made!

This is an expensive confection as it involves buying hazelnuts (peeled nuts are a luxury in this country for shame) and a bottle of decent sweet wine.  Thankfully fruit and chocolate are both cheap!  It is also a multi-stage bastard.  As I have said, usually I avoid multi-stage anything like the plague, being of the 'screw it we'll have stew' school of culinary excellence, but for one's birthday as a known baker one has to go the extra mile.

One benefit of these sorts of cakes is that almost any of the stages stands alone.  The praline is a great peanut brittle substitute, the cake is obviously pleasant, the poached pears are a great pudding in and of themselves and the ganache could be used to make truffles.  If you've been paying attention, you'll realise that I made all of these things one at a time over the past few days, to avoid a nine-hour baking binge on the night of the party.

For shopping lists: Total chocolate used overall 500g, total cream used overall 300ml, total hazelnuts 400g

Spiced Pear and Chocolate Cake with Indulgent Pears and Hazelnut Praline

You Will Need:
Hazelnut Praline, one batch - three decorative pieces, the rest powdered
Chocolate Ganache, one batch
Pears Poached in Sweet Wine, - 4 pears' worth including three pear fans to decorate
100g hazelnuts, to decorate

Spiced Pear And Chocolate Cakes
You Will Need: scales, 2 tins, greaseproof paper, wooden spoon, large bowl, chopping board and knife, (small grater),potato peeler, teaspoon, whisk, 2 medium bowls, cup, small saucepan, cooling rack

100g chocolate
200g butter
200g sugar
5 eggs
2 small pears
1/2tsp nutmeg, or 1/2 a nutmeg grated
1/2tsp cinnamon
100g hazelnuts
200g self-raising flour

1) Preheat the oven to 180degC.  Line and grease your tins.
2) Peel, core and chop the pears into small pieces.
3) Separate your eggs, with the whites going into one medium bowl and the yolks a cup.  Cut the butter into small pieces, and break up the chocolate.  Set the second medium bowl over a pan of boiling water, and melt the chocolate, sugar and butter together.  When the mixture is all mixed with no lumps, transfer to the large bowl and whisk in the egg yolks gradually.
4) Grind the hazelnuts, and mix with the flour and spices on the scales.  Wash the whisk; whisk the egg whites to soft-peak stage; fold spoonfuls into the mixture alternately with flour, whisking the whites back up to peaks again between spoonfuls.
5) Pour equally into the tins and bake 30-35 minutes, until risen and clean-skewer.
6) Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for 10 minutes.  Remove from the tins and allow to cool on a rack.

You Will Need: Serving dish, breadboard, breadknife, spoon, medium bowl, small bowl, small saucepan, teaspoons, dinner knife

200ml thick cream
200g dark chocolate

1) Allow your ganache to come back to room temperature so that you can work with it.
2) Cut your cakes.  Very gently turn out the first cake onto the serving dish.  Now cut it in two carefully, and shuffle the top half onto the breadboard. 
3) Spread a thick ring of ganache all the way around the edge of the cake on the serving dish, using your teaspoons and dinnerknife to manipulate it.
4) Mix the hazelnut praline powder powder gently with the thick cream only until mixed.  Spoon a round of this mixture inside the ganache ring.  Top with the next round of cake.
5) Turn out the second cake onto the breadboard and cut it in two.
5) For the central filling layer, arrange the poached pear slices in an overlapping layer.  Top with a third round of cake.
6) Use the remaining ganache and hazelnut cream to fill the third round, as before.  Top with the final cake.
7) Melt the last chocolate in the small bowl over the small pan.  Pour this melted chocolate all over the cake, first spreading a layer to catch all the crumbs, then allowing it to dribble over the sides organically.  Allow to cool slightly.  Fan out the poached pear halves in a trio; wedge the chunks of praline in between the pears.  Place hazelnuts evenly around the edge to mark portion sizes.

Fin! Serve to no fewer than a dozen people at once!

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