Monday, May 11, 2009

family-approved mother's day cake

years ago, i was watching a special
on the food network -
which one, i would never be
able to tell you now.
they featured lady m confections
in nyc,
and more notably,

the cake was 
really just a stack of
whisper thin crepes,
cemented together
by cream,
but it looked gorgeous,
and extremely light,
like a cake i could 
actually make:
no filling to level
off while assembling, no
reason to perfectly sculpt
buttercream or ganache
around the outside
of a cake, dealing
with crumb coats, an
offset spatula or a twitchy hand.
and it looked like it would
be lovely.

so i set the cake in the back
of my mind, wondering
if there would ever be an 
occasion or time in my 
life in which i would rationalize
the $75 price tag of a 9" crepe cake.
yes, constructing the cake seemed
easy enough, but actually making 
the crepes?
i didn't know. i imagined a pile
of crepe pieces piling up on
my cutting board, me crying
alongside them.

but then, as always happens,
several years later,
the day came
that we had to make crepes
in school.
it was the same morning
that we had to make a perfect
waffle, two types of granola
and assemble a smoked salmon
platter, so luckily, i was
able to put all of my mental 
focus into these ultra thin

the first one was a bust.
it set before i was 
able to tilt the pan.
with the second, i tilted
fast enough,
but the flipping got me.
the third? was fine.
i made crepes all morning,
rolling brandied apples
into some, folding
sauteed veggies into
others, spreading them
with butter and sprinkling 
cinnamon sugar.
i could make crepes.
who knew?

four months after i graduated,
i insisted that we ask for a
crepe pan on
our wedding registry.
i would make crepes all the time.
with one quick click of the gun
it was maybe ours and months
later, my mom gave it to us
as part of a baking collection.

around the same time,
gourmet published a recipe 
i couldn't believe it and 
i immediately tried to dream
up reasons to make it myself.
then i started a new job,
we were in full-on wedding
mode and dinner parties
fell by the wayside.
before i knew it, fall and
winter were here and 
this cake really seemed
more like a spring or summer
type of dessert.

but two weeks ago, when my mom
told me her 
mother's day brunch menu
and asked for possibly a dessert
and salad,
i knew what i was bringing.

i reread the recipe and thought,
i really can do this. it will
be fine. i can flip.
still, i had to work the day 
before and so i made a decision
to leave the evening open,
just in case it took until
nightfall to really get enough
usable layers.

the batter was so easy -
i just put everything into a blender
and whirled it all together. 
then, i brushed the pan 
with butter,
turned the heat to medium-high
and counted to 10.
the first one went in fine, 
but flipping was a disaster.
same for the second.
my nightmare was coming true.

after that, i didn't have any problems.
sure, some would bubble slightly,
some set before they were able
to bridge the tiny holes in the 
center of the crepe and at times,
i thought i was going to lose more,
but i didn't.
i became more and more excited
as the finished crepes
stacked up in a pile,
blessedly not sticking together,
tearing or creating a ruckus.

the hard part was over. 
now i just had to make the filling.
the original recipe was orange-infused,
which i just didn't think
was really so us, as a family.
my original plan was to make the cake
almond-flavored, using almond extract
in the crepes 
and amaretto in the cream.
but, at the last minute,
i decided to keep the crepes themselves
unflavored. and as an even more
last minute decision,
when i was digging through the
liquor cabinet for the amaretto,
cream and confectioners' sugar already
in the bowl
(very bad mise en place, i know),
my eye caught the coffee liquor
from starbucks and i changed my
mind again.
i built the crepe confection
on the bottom of a cake carrier.
not pretty, but the sturdiest
solution for traveling (and i
had all these grand plans for
transfering the cake just
before serving the next day,
but that never happened. 
and no one complained 
about presentation).
at first i was worried that
the cake would be too short,
but as i spread and layered,
it built up nicely.

i love that this cake is best
made ahead of time.
i simply covered it
and let it be until
the next morning when
it was carefully held
for the hour-long
drive and then immediately
placed back in the fridge.

a couple hours after our
delicious and very fun brunch -
which i will tell you more about
later this week -
i carefully sliced the cake.
when i saw the perfectly
lined cake, i gasped a sort of weird sound
(it was a yes! aha! and ooh! all rolled together)
when i pulled out the first wedge, 
so exicted to see what it looked like inside.
but the best part was two seconds later,
when my family saw it 
and made the same sound.

the cake was just sweet enough
and very light,
the perfect end to a not so light brunch.
the coffee flavor came through
just enough to make the couple
of tablespoons worth it,
and the fresh strawberries
that my mother served
alongside were the perfect
juicy foil.
while i had been worried that 
the cake would be too small,
it took just half  
a cake to serve
six of us.

when we were driving
home later in the day,
a slice in my mom's fridge,
a large wedge heading back
to college with my sister,
i bravely said something
that i've said before,
but this time, i think i mean it:
i'm ready to make more crepes.

coffee cream crepe cake
adapted from gourmet magazine
my two favorite things about this cake are: you can make this up to a day ahead of time and you can really change the flavor profile to better suit your own style. i think lemon zest would be lovely in the crepe batter and the cream, i'd still love to try the almond and i bet you could turn the filling to a chocolate one. in the end, my cake was 14 crepes tall (i forgot to count every time there was a counting opportunity. luckily, my family obliged and each person counted their slices before eating), but i also lost the first two and i'm convinced that had i not overpoured on one, the last crepe could have been a full round and i would have had 17. regardless, i'd make the full amount of whipped cream and serve extra on the side.

6 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
3 cups chilled heavy cream, divided
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup confectioners' sugar, divided
1 large pinch salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons coffee liqueur, like starbucks

in blender, blend eggs, milk, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, flour, 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar and salt.

brush a 10" nonstick pan or crepe pan with melted butter (i used a 9 1/2" crepe pan). turn heat to medium-high and heat pan until hot (i found that somewhere between medium and medium-high was a better heat - play until you find what works well for your stove). pour in a scant 1/4 cup crepe batter, turning and tilting pan to coat (if it sets too quickly, turn it down for the next crepe). cook 15 to 45 seconds, or until the crepe is golden and the underside is just set. use spatula to loosen edges and using the spatula and your fingertips, carefully flip crepe. cook 15 to 45 seconds more, or until golden brown and set. place crepe on plate. repeat with remaining crepes, using melted butter as necessary and stacking finished crepes on top of each other as you go.

(while i usually don't measure when i don't have to, i did use a 1/4 cup batter each time to make sure that i maximized the amount of crepes i was able to make from one batch. pouring the batter from the blender into a dry (crazy, i know) measuring cup, was very easy and surprisingly unmessy.)

in large bowl, use electric beaters to beat together remaining heavy cream, vanilla extract, confectioners' sugar and coffee liqueur. beat for several minutes or until peaks form when you lift the beater out of the whipped cream.

place on crepe on a serving plate. carefully spread crepe with about 1/4 cup whipped cream (here, i didn't measure). top with second crepe and repeat with whipped cream. repeat stacking and spreading, finishing with a crepe layer. carefully cover cake; chill 4 hours or up to 24 hours. sprinkle with confectioners' sugar before serving. serve with fruit, if desired.


Lisa said...

Wow--so beautiful! I am very impressed.

The Bean said...

Stephanie had been thinking of making this cake forever, and she finally did it for Easter. It was soooo good, and everyone ate it up. We thought it would make a cool wedding cake, and then she found someone who made it as a wedding cake.

Anonymous said...

Looks like it turned out great! Very delicious looking. I like that it's so versatile too.

brooke said...

lisa - thank you!
lauren - did she make this cake using the orange, or another recipe? it's a great cake.
col - thanks! you really could turn this into any flavor you want, i think.

Stephanie said...

It was a recipe from the NY times that someone created b/c Lady M wouldn't give it away. They were special crepes with browned butter and the cream had real vanilla bean (I never used it b/f) and was a 2 day process. It wasn't a 1-2-3 recipe, some twists and turns in there, but it was delish! The best part was it had caramelized sugar on top so I got to use my torch! It made for a fun demonstration on Easter...and then it was all gone!
The newest Martha Stewart Weddings has a wedding cake made out of it.

brooke said...

wow, stephanie, i think i made the cheater version of your cake. this one took about an hour (10 minutes of which were spent trying to find the cake carrier) - and next time would probably take less. yours sounds delicious, though.