I’ve been thinking about tackling French style cakes for a while and a very special boy’s birthday cake wish was the perfect excuse for the project. These delectable cakes are usually constructed from a base (classical cake base, meringue base, cookie base, etc.), at least one light mousse cream and at least one insert which can be fruit-based, chocolate-based or other. The combination of flavors and textures is what makes French cakes so special. Personally, I love the combination of sweet and tangy-fruity flavors, for example a white chocolate-vanilla and/or tonka bean mousse with a fruity insert, made from raspberries, mango, passion fruit or similar. There must be at least two to three textures – the lightness of the mousse cream, the softness or firmness of the cake base and the must-needed crunch factor. There are so many possible combinations and so many beautiful forms to choose from! And the best part is that it is so easy to create a gluten-free version!
For this very special birthday boy, who requested a light chocolate cake with raspberries, I chose a meringue-based hazelnut-cocoa daquoise cake for the base, topped with a crunchy chocolate and praliné layer (feulletine). The light chocolate mousse is whipped cream-based with no added sugar and the tanginess comes from a layer of raspberry puree, inserted in the middle. I did make a few technical rookie mistakes though – that’s why I needed to make a last minute quick fix to hide the uneven sides of the cakes where the chocolate mousse did not distribute well and left empty spaces on the sides where the raspberry disk was inserted. I ran to the store to buy the colorful macaron shells that I placed on the sides with the help of some melted chocolate…. But, I learned a lot and I know exactly what to improve in the technique of assembling the cake next time not to make the same mistakes. And to be honest, this type of cake is easier to make than a classical layer cake with buttercream. The trick is to make it perfect and beautiful, almost a piece of art, and that’s what the French are experts at doing :-).
This type of cake can be made in all shapes and sizes.
The recipe was adapted for an 20 cm cake, about 4 cm tall.
Technical equipment needed: 18 cm and 20 cm cake rings
For the hazelnut-cocoa daquoise cake base
2 egg whites
a pinch of salt
50g of finely ground hazelnuts, lightly toasted (hazelnut meal)
50g powdered sugar
15g corn starch
1 tablespoon good quality cocoa powder (I used Valhrona cocoa powder)
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
- Prepare a 20 cm cake ring: line it with parchment paper or butter it and dust it with gluten-free flower to avoid sticking. Place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Mix together the ground hazelnuts, powdered sugar, corn starch and cocoa powder and sift the mixture to avoid any kind of lumps in the batter.
- Beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt, progressively increasing the speed of the mixer. When the egg whites start to foam, add the 15g of sugar and beat until stiff peaks forms.
- Add the dry ingredients to the egg whites and fold them in delicately with a rubber spatula until well incorporated.
- Transfer the batter into the prepared cake ring and distribute it evenly. An alternative technique which I prefer is to transfer the batter into a piping bag with a wider round nozzle and simply pipe it into the ring, starting from the center in a snail pattern.
- Bake for 18 minutes at 180ºC. The daquoise must still be soft in the middle when done, do not over bake. Leave to cool down on a wire rack.
- Take an 18 cm cake ring and use it to cut out an 18 cm daquoise cake base. This way, you’ll eliminate the dryer outer end of the cake.
- Clean the cake ring and line it with plastic foil, especially designed for mousse cakes (available in specialized baking equipment stores). Place it on a tray or baking sheet lined with a fresh sheet of parchment paper (no need for baking anymore, but you will need to use the refrigerator and freezer during the assembling of the cake, so make sure that your tray fits inside). Place the 18 cm daquoise base in the cake ring and set aside.
For the crunchy chocolate-praliné feulletine
100g of praliné chocolate for baking (I used Nestle chocolate)
50g of milk chocolate for baking
50g of French biscuits, made from very thin and crunchy layers, named “gavottes” (for a gluten-free version simply avoid this ingredient)
20g of toasted hazelnuts, finely chopped
- In a bain-marie, melt together both types of chocolate. Let cool.
- In a small bowl, using your fingers, crumble the thin-layered biscuits.
- Add the crumbled biscuits and finely chopped hazelnuts to the mixture of melted chocolates and mix well.
- Transfer the crunchy chocolate feulletine mixture onto the daquoise cake base and spread it evenly all over the cake. Refrigerate while preparing the raspberry purée and chocolate mousse.
For the raspberry purée insert
200g frozen raspberries (yields about 180g of raspberry purée)
5g gelatin (I used 2,5 Vaihné sheets, 2 grams each)
- Line an 18 cm cake ring with plastic wrap and place it on a small tray, also lined with plastic wrap.
- Place the frozen raspberries in a non-stick casserole and place it on medium heat. Add the sugar and cook until the raspberries are practically dissolved, about 5 minutes.
- In the meantime, place the gelatin sheets in a bowl of cold water to soak.
- Remove from heat and use a hand mixer to purée the raspberry mixture.
- Pass the pureed mixture through a sieve to eliminate all the seeds and transfer it to a small casserole.
- Reheat the puree and add the gelatin (take it out of the water and squeeze out the water first), mix until completely dissolved.
- Transfer the raspberry purée into the prepared cake ring and place in the freezer.
For the chocolate mousse
120g dark chocolate
100g milk, full fat
2g gelatin (I used 1 Vaihné sheet)
200g whole fat cream, whipped
- In a bain-marie, melt the dark chocolate.
- Bring the milk to boil and add the gelatin that you’ve soaked in a bowl of cold water before for a few minutes.
- Add the hot milk mixture to the melted chocolate in 3 additions, mixing thoroughly each time to create an emulsion.
- Whip the cream and add the cooled chocolate mixture to it, folding it in very gently with a spatula.
To assemble the cake
- Place a 20 cm cake ring on a tray lined with parchment paper.
- Place the daquoise cake base in the center of the ring.
- Pipe half of the chocolate mousse in the cake ring to evenly cover the daquoise base. Make sure to pipe carefully around the rim of the cake ring to fill in all the little spaces.
- Place the frozen raspberry insert in the center of the chocolate mousse layer.
- Pipe the rest of the chocolate mousse to evenly cover the raspberry insert, once again, filling very carefully the part around the rim of the circle not to leave any empty spaces.
- Level out the surface of the cake with a long spatula – the cake should be leveled exactly at the hight of the cake ring and the surface should be completely smooth.
- Place the tray with the cake into the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour.
- Take the cake out of the freezer and remove the cake ring. The sides and top of the cake should be completely smooth.
- To finish off the cake, you can either glaze it or spray it with an edible cocoa butter-based food spray to give out a velvety finish – I chose the latter. Decorate as desired, ideally using the ingredients of the cake – raspberries, chocolate & whipped cream :-).
This cake was a birthday cake wish so I couldn’t cut into it and take a picture of the inside but i definitely plan to make it again soon and I can’t wait to share the pictures on the blog :-)!