French Cakes! Week 10, both days, was the production and assembly of five different French cakes:
TRIOMPHE (caramel walnut)
CHARLOTTE HELENA (pear chocolate)
SPRING PASSION (strawberry lime)
French cakes were the first multi-day production along with the first time we were using components that had been made in prior weeks including meringues and cakes (sponges & biscuits) from the whirlwind Weeks 4 – 8. I didn’t talk much about the Biscuits & Sponges day as it was the last class of Week 8 and I left partway through class after hurting my shoulder (improperly) lifting a very large mixing bowl. Some things are best left in the past! Luckily for me my partner more than stepped up and completed the last of our tasks after I left.
For Week 10 we had almost all of the cakes we needed so there there was very little actual baking time. There was however a tremendous amount of work! They were two very long days. We made mousses, buttercreams, meringues, glazes, poached pears and whipped cream, lots of whipped cream, to fold into mousse bases and meringues. We also did some chocolate work and sugar work for decorations including the chocolate shavings for the Charlotte Helena, caramel hazelnuts for the Success and colored hard crack sugar for the Spring Passion. The Success is lined with Pate Decor, a chocolate cookie-like batter that is stenciled or spread thinly on a Silpat in a decorative fashion, frozen, covered with light biscuit (cake) batter, baked and cut into thin strips. Very frustrating to make well but the effect is (IMHO) pretty spectacular. Each of the cakes was assembled in a cake ring that was lined with either mousse or cake (Lady Fingers, Pate Decor) and then filled with mousse and/or cake andmeringues. There was a lot of getting cakes out the rings they were baked in, trimming cakes to fit in the assembly rings, lining rings and taking in/out of the freezer between each step. While I often (selfishly) wish it was a little less crowded in the kitchen, on these two days it was all-hands-on-deck and each person was needed, in fact we could have used a few more sets of hands!
At home, I sampled the Triomphe & Success and then they were sent to work with Sam (who is BTW super popular on Tuesdays & Wednesdays when treats arrive at the office). The Spring Passion, Charlotte Helena and Citron were all frozen for Easter. Most cakes freeze very well. The Spring Passion was a hit and the Citron was good. The Charlotte Helena’s chocolate mousse was fabulous but the freezing didn’t do any favors for the canned pears that were layered inside and on the top. It looked wonderful though. If I made it again I would either exclude the pears entirely, replace with strawberries or use fresh, poached pears.
Getting five cakes assembled, decorated and boxed for 11 people (9 students, 1 Assistant Chef, 1 Chef) in two days is quite a feat. A lot of it is divide and conquer, not everyone does everything. Chef will demonstrate how to trim the cake properly and two people will trim all the cakes while other people make mousses, glazes, prep rings, etc. You learn how to do everything through demonstration (ton of starting/stopping and multitasking) but your hands-on time will cover several things, not all. Some days you feel like you hit the jackpot (making chocolate mousse and learning how to glaze a cake) and others you feel like you won the Irish lottery (trimming over 3 dozen cake rounds or making chocolate shavings for an hour). Then there’s teamwork. My class works well together, most days we’re like a well oiled machine, but there are those days when we’re more like an old Ford Pinto. Overall I’d say it feels like the workload is spread pretty evenly and that we’ve settled into a nice routine where we’re utilizing each others strengths, helping out where there are some weaknesses and giving some leeway on preferences for certain kitchen and cleanup tasks. Our Chefs and Chef Assistant are great too. In fact, everyone at the school has been wonderful from the admissions and career folks to the cleaning staff and procurement team. To a skeptic like myself this was a very pleasant surprise. As I near the time when I need to decide whether to continue through the Professional Program or graduate with a Certificate there are so many factors to consider, but it’s hard to think that I’d be done so soon. Having way too much fun and definitely becoming attached to the school…..