Layer cakes are one of my favorite desserts to make, perhaps because they’re more like craft projects than most baked goods. Always a crafter at heart, I can’t help but see the plane-jane cake rounds as being like the sewn lining to a jacket; the frosting and filling make up the outside, to be displayed for all to see; the careful piping closely mimic elaborate embroidery; dragees and sprinkles themselves could almost pass for beads and buttons. Every cake is its own masterpiece and work of art… And that’s not even saying anything about the fun of demolishing and eating it! That’s why I was quite happy to see that the next Daring Baker challenge was to be another intricate layer cake, with plenty of bold flavor to boot.
Three layers of hazelnut cake, multiple glazes and syrups, praline buttercream, and did I mention chocolate? Yep, it’s got pretty much everything you could ask for in one cake! There wasn’t a ton of wiggle room for variations on this one, but I did opt to remove the rum syrup. My cakes were plenty moist, and it was going to a birthday party with kids who would be mighty disappointed if they couldn’t have a slice. Lightening up this hefty assembly was top priority beyond choosing the glaze, so I kept the buttercream on the outside and sandwiched some conservatively sweetened cooked frosting between the layers. That would have been one tooth-achingly sweet cake otherwise! Homemade lemon jam took the place of apricot, which brought in a wonderful citrus bite that seemed to perk up the whole flavor profile just a bit. Most notable, however, is probably how I decided to ultimately finish off my cake.
No, I didn’t misread the instructions, I know that the cake is supposed to be fully covered in ganache… But damn it, I didn’t want to! The original picture didn’t really catch my eye in terms of design so I threw cation to the wind and went for the “dipped” look. My only disappointment in this whole challenge was my shortcomings on the decorations… I had my heart set on caramel-dipped hazelnuts, with long, graceful stems of glass-like cooked sugar, but the humidity had other ideas.
Another winning recipe, if I do say so myself! My favorite part of this one was the hazelnut praline buttercream- Ridiculously addictive, and stupidly easy to make. Essentially a caramelized and whipped peanut butter, it was tempting to just spread it on toast and bag the cake! But really, you wouldn’t want to forget about that moist, tender filbert gateau. Like all the other individual components, it’s very simple to whip up, but presented all together, it becomes a show-stopping grand finale.