great British blog off

Great British Blog Off: Tiramisu Cake

After a much needed full day of rest, I came into this weekend feeling… well, still not that excited to bake, if I’m honest.

Waiting to find answers with health stuff is always exhausting, and I feel drained and irritated as I monitor my body’s symptoms for any minor change. I both want to be able to run again and want to just nap on the couch until I have answers.

Baking, though, always turns into a joy once I get myself started. And so, I pushed through my ambivalence and tackled this week’s showstopper.

This Week’s Recipe: Tiramisu Cake

The Prep

Nothing like an early morning trip to Fresh Market to get the weekend started on the right track. As much as I grumbled to myself about putting on pants so early on a Saturday, once I walked through the double doors, my irritation faded away. I actually thought to myself, Ah, my happy place, as I wandered the shelves.

On those shelves, I found something I’d never noticed before–English double dream! I’d been substituting heavy cream for the entire challenge, thinking that I wouldn’t be able to get double dream here in the US. And then, while checking around the cream cheese for mascarpone, I spotted the little jar with a British flag, labeled double cream.

Excitedly, I seized it and loaded my basket with the other things I’d need this week–mascarpone, more “plain flour” (all-purpose), and a few other odds and ends. Not to mention my weekly chicken pot pie, of course.

From there, it was a quick trip to the liquor store for brandy.

I confess I’ve never precisely known what brandy is, and was surprised to find an entire section dedicated to it. Empty spots on the shelves held tags directing the shopper to ask for the good stuff at the counter. I ignored these and bent down to grab a plastic bottle from the bottom shelf, as is my long-standing habit thanks to AmeriCorps and graduate school budgeting.

With that, I was ready to begin.

The Bake

I went in knowing this would be a two-day bake, since it requires resting up in the fridge overnight. As a result, I think I approached the bake more leisurely, letting myself draw out the process because there was no quick finish in sight.

This is another cake which relies on whipped egg whites for its volume, so I approached the task with trepidation. There are many skills I feel more confident in through the process of baking so many cakes, but getting volume into a cake using egg whites doesn’t seem to have clicked for me, yet.

I did get to play around with our new prep bowls, measuring out the flour, sugar, and instant coffee granules ahead of time and setting them up on the counter. The sight of clear bowls with perfectly measured ingredients is incredibly satisfying, and I smiled at them while waiting to see if my eggs planned to cooperate.

As I folded the egg whites into the ribbon-stage yolks, I could see them deflating, and it got much worse as I sifted in the flour as instructed. I struggled because the flour didn’t seem interested in incorporating, so as much as I tried to fold gently, it took a lot of messing about to get the flour chunks out.

After weighing them to divide evenly into tins, I realized that they’d already lost enough volume that my third tin didn’t quite meet 1/3 of the prior total weight.

Needless to say, the cakes came out fairly flat, though they did have a bit of rise and shrunk away from the edges of the tins as the recipe indicated they would. I felt defeated nevertheless, but pressed on ahead with making the mascarpone cream for the middle.

This bit went well enough, as you primarily just combine the mascarpone and double cream, then whip them together. The results then get added in with an egg yolk, coffee, and brandy combo to make the filling, which, like most components of the bake, gets chilled in the fridge.

From there, I had to grate 60g of chocolate for the sides and filling. I don’t know if you’ve ever grated bar chocolate, but let me tell you, it sucks. Maybe it would be easier if we had a box grater, but we don’t, and my arms ached by the time I had grated out 60 full grams of chocolate. On the bright side, this took me long enough that I felt confident my mascarpone filling had chilled well enough in the fridge to proceed directly to the next step.

This meant once more to the stove top to create the brandy coffee syrup for the cakes. I’ve never eaten traditional tiramisu, but have watched people make it on TV, so it felt quite authentic to go to brandy and coffee at every stage like this.

Assembling the cake was easier than I expected, and actually kind of fun. The filling is thick, but not so thick you can’t easily spread it, and you toss the grated chocolate between each layer. The part I dreaded most for day one was pressing the grated chocolate to the sides, but it actually wasn’t nearly as hard as I expected. It did, however, make a mess, and nothing says stressful like having grated chocolate everywhere when you also have a curious puppy in the other room.

That was it for day one. I wrapped the cake, put her in the fridge, and then proceeded to make some Irish cheddar soda bread.

This morning, I got up and lazed around for a bit before turning myself to the final task–the white chocolate ribbons. I’ve never used a chocolate transfer sheet before, and in fact didn’t even know what it was.

Cutting up strips of acetate and spreading them with white chocolate before laying them into a muffin tin to curl did not sound like it’d be fun. Weirdly, though, it kind of was? The paper cut fairly easily and spreading the chocolate overtop wasn’t as hard as I imagined. My main mistake was trying to do them at all once before transferring them into the muffin tin to cool, which of course meant they’d solidified too much to be bent into their ribbony shapes.

For some reason, I immediately knew that a blow dryer was the answer. I gently reheated the white chocolate strips and bent them into their curled shapes. Mine didn’t come out as delicate as the ones in the book because I cannot eyeball a measurement to save my life and cut them a bit thicker.

Neverthless, the little shamrock pattern on the chocolate came out really cute, and I’m quite pleased with the overall effect of the cake! In spite of the thinness of the layers, there are three of them, so it’s quite a cute little cake.

In all, this week’s recipe was a lot of fun, and I think a good way to prepare myself for what is to come. The next and final two cakes in the chapter both utilize a mirror glaze, for which I am incredibly nervous. So, it felt good to have another relative win on the road to what I think may be the biggest and most spectacular failed bakes to date. Here’s hoping I pull it off!

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