Masterchef Challenge: Black Forest Cake
This cake – a version of one by Gary Mehigan – was a Masterchef Pressure Test - the one that saw Dom go home when he couldn’t get the right number of layers. Unfortunately the detestable Joanne came out on top (although from memory she hadn’t revealed her true colours yet, so my dislike of her was yet to come).
The contestants had an hour and forty-five minutes to recreate this dish … it took me four days! I made the various components on Thursday and Friday nights after work, baked the actual cake on Saturday, and assembled it Sunday morning. The split timings were a necessity, because we had a huge cooking weekend planned – a special Birthday dinner for my Dad on Saturday night, then a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party for my niece’s birthday on Sunday. She’d requested a chocolate birthday cake, which I have to admit I find boring to bake, so I decided this could serve as a shared birthday cake for both her and my Dad.
For those who didn’t see the Masterchef episode, everyone struggled. My god, there are 27 ingredients! And the way I break it down, 53 steps! To be honest, I’d have to ask myself if the time invested was worth the result – sure, it tasted good, but I’m not sure it was good enough. A dish would have to be pretty damn special to be worth 27 ingredients and 53 steps, in my opinion, and I’m just not sure this one is.
The one thing I was proud of was that I did actually manage to get the full five layers … unlike poor old Dom, who could only manage three and was sent home as a result. Like the purse-lipped Joanne, mine didn’t look as nicely neat as Gary’s version – probably because I used all the layer praline and marscapone, when I should have been more restrained. But at least I got it done … and in the process, reminded myself why Masterchef is a show to watch, not replicate. The recipe – and a picture of what the cake should look like – follows after the jump.
Masterchef Black Forest Cake
For the chocolate sponge
- 7 eggs
- 250g caster sugar
- 200g plain flour
- 50g cocoa powder
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the candied cherries
- ½ cup pitted cherries
- ¼ cup juice reserved
- ¼ cup caster sugar
For the cherry compote
- 1/3 cup caster sugar
- 600g pitted fresh cherries, halved
- 1 tbs brandy
For the cherry sugar syrup
- 90g caster sugar
- ¼ cup cherry juice
For the chocolate hazelnut praline mousse
- ½ cup caster sugar
- ½ cup hazelnuts, toasted lightly and skinned
- 300g chopped dark chocolate
- 3 egg yolks
- 300ml thickened cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the mascarpone cream
- 500g mascarpone
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 2 tbs icing sugar
For the dark chocolate ganache
- 150ml cream
- 200g chopped dark chocolate
- shaved chocolate (optional – I figured there was more than enough chocolate on this cake and left this off)
- fresh cherries
- 1. For the chocolate sponge, preheat oven to 160°C fan forced. Grease and line 2 x 20cm springform cake pans.
- Add eggs and sugar to a heatproof bowl of an electric mixer, and set over a saucepan of simmering water over very low heat. Whisk the mixture until 37°C.
- Remove the bowl from the heat and beat with an electric mixer on a medium-low speed for 5-8 minutes or until the mixture has cooled and thickened to a mousse-like consistency.
- Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together twice.
- Using a large metal spoon, fold the dry mixture into the egg mixture in 3 batches until combined, adding the vanilla extract with the first dry batch.
- Pour the mixture into the lined cake pans and smooth surface.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until sponge springs back when lightly touched.
- Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then turn out onto wire racks.
- Place in the fridge until cake has cooled completely.
- For the candied cherries, preheat oven to 120°C.
- Place cherries on a lined baking tray. Lightly dust with the sugar and place in the oven for 50-60 minutes.
- Remove and cool.
- Coat with remaining sugar and set aside.
- For the cherry compote, add the sugar to a non-stick saucepan and place over medium heat.
- Once the sugar begins to dissolve add the cherries and cook until they start to release their juices.
- Add the brandy and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the liquid has reduced and thickened.
- Strain, reserving liquor.
- For the cherry syrup, heat 170ml water and the sugar in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring constantly.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the reserved cherry juice and compote liquor. Allow to cool.
- For the chocolate hazelnut praline mousse, line a baking sheet.
- In a dry heavy-based saucepan, cook sugar over medium heat, stirring, until melted.
- Once melted, cook without stirring, swirling pan, until lightly golden.
- Add hazelnuts, stirring until well coated.
- Immediately pour mixture onto the baking sheet and cool completely, in freezer until hard.
- Break praline into pieces, place into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Set aside.
- Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.
- Whisk the egg yolks in a small heatproof bowl.
- Heat 250ml of the cream in a small saucepan over low heat.
- Stir through half of the hot cream into the egg yolks.
- Return the mixture to the saucepan over low heat and stir until thickened.
- Strain into a clean bowl.
- Stir the melted chocolate into the hot custard.
- Add the vanilla and allow to cool.
- Whisk the remaining cream until stiff peaks form.
- Fold into the chocolate mixture with the praline, until just combined. Set aside.
- For the mascarpone cream, beat the mascarpone, vanilla and sugar in a bowl until smooth and slightly thicker in volume.
- For the chocolate ganache, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Set aside.
- Bring the cream to just below boiling point in a small saucepan.
- Remove from the heat, then add the melted chocolate and stir until smooth.
- Allow to cool until thick but still pouring consistency.
- To assemble the cake, slice both cakes into thirds. (I only got two slices out of one of my sponges, but that’s okay, as three from both means one slice left over)
- Place the base of 1 cake onto a serving plate and brush with some of the cherry syrup.
- Spread over half of the chocolate praline mousse.
- Place the next layer of cake onto a board, and brush with cherry syrup.
- Spread over half of the mascarpone cream.
- Divide the cherries into two parts for two separate layers.
- Place cherries around the border of the cake, 5mm from its edge and scatter remaining in the middle.
- Carefully remove layer from the board and place on top of the first layer.
- Repeat each layering process on the board (if you got three slices out of both sponges you will have 1 spare slice of cake), starting with the praline mousse and ending with the cherries on the mascarpone cream.
- Place the final layer of the cake on a wire rack sitting over a baking tray.
- Evenly pour the ganache over the cake, ensuring it is completely coated.
- When the ganache has set, place on top of the layered cake.
- Decorate with shaved chocolate, fresh cherries and candied cherries.