Sunday, March 01, 2009

Daring Bakers: Fashionably Late Valentino Cake

Yes, it's March, and I'm just now posting the February Daring Bakers challenge. I could make excuses about my busy schedule, but I prefer to blame the tardiness on the month of February itself. Only 28 days! Two days less than every other month! HOW can I be expected to keep on top of everything in such a short month?

And the really ridiculous part is that I finished this challenge on February 2nd, the earliest I've ever completed one. I've been waiting a whole month to post about it, and then I can't get my stuff together at the last minute.

Ah well, this Valentino cake is definitely worth the wait. The cake itself is a simple flourless chocolate cake, with an additional requirement that we make our own ice cream to go along with it. My valentine loves all things caramel, so I decided to make David Lebovitz's salted butter caramel ice cream, and some caramel sauce, to accompany it.

The cake was lovely, as most flourless chocolate cakes are. I can't say that it was the most amazing flourless chocolate cake ever, but it had all the hallmarks of a good one: a dense, moist, fudgy interior, and a deep, true chocolate taste unfiltered by other ingredients or flavors.

The real showstopper, though, was the ice cream. The ice cream base consisted of a caramel, cooked to a very dark amber, so the cream was intensely flavored, with a good dose of salt to balance it out. The recipe also called for a salted caramel praline that was made and ground fine, then added to the ice cream at the end. Once it was freshly churned, the bits of crunchy, sweet and salty caramel burst in the mouth in between ice cream bites. As it sat longer, they started to dissolve and leave gooey caramel patches in the ice cream. Both sensations were amazing. This was, without question, the best homemade ice cream I've ever made, and probably in the Top 5 ice creams I've ever eaten. So. Good. Make it immediately.

The whole dessert was kind of a heart attack on a plate, but in the best way possible. It was incredibly rich, and try as I might, I couldn't finish my serving in one go. (And I did try mightily.) I loved how the warm, fudgy cake melted the soft caramel ice cream and the whole thing dissolved into a puddle of the caramel sauce. It was definitely a dessert worth of the month of love.

Official Boilerplate: The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.
We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

Recipe under the cut!

Valentino Flourless Chocolate Cake
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.
2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).
5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.
7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. {link of folding demonstration}
8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C
9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.
10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream from David Lebovitz

One generous quart (liter)

For the caramel praline (mix-in)

½ cup (100 gr) sugar
¾ teaspoon sea salt, such as fleur de sel

For the ice cream custard

2 cups (500 ml) whole milk, divided
1½ cups (300 gr) sugar
4 tablespoons (60 gr) salted butter
scant ½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cups (250 ml) heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

1. To make the caramel praline, spread the ½ cup (100 gr) of sugar in an even layer in a medium-sized, unlined heavy duty saucepan: I use a 6 quart/liter pan. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or brush it sparingly with unflavored oil.

2. Heat the sugar over moderate heat until the edges begin to melt. Use a heatproof utensil to gently stir the liquefied sugar from the bottom and edges towards the center, stirring, until all the sugar is dissolved. (Or most of it—there may be some lumps, which will melt later.)

Continue to cook stirring infrequently until the caramel starts smoking and begins to smell like it's just about to burn. It won't take long.

3. Without hesitation, sprinkle in the ¾ teaspoon salt without stirring (don't even pause to scratch your nose), then pour the caramel onto the prepared baking sheet and lift up the baking sheet immediately, tilting and swirling it almost vertically to encourage the caramel to form as thin a layer as possible. Set aside to harden and cool.

4. To make the ice cream, make an ice bath by filling a large bowl about a third full with ice cubes and adding a cup or so of water so they're floating. Nest a smaller metal bowl (at least 2 quarts/liters) over the ice, pour 1 cup (250 ml) of the milk into the inner bowl, and rest a mesh strainer on top of it.

5. Spread 1½ cups (300 gr) sugar in the saucepan in an even layer. Cook over moderate heat, until caramelized, using the same method described in Step #2.

6. Once caramelized, remove from heat and stir in the butter and salt, until butter is melted, then gradually whisk in the cream, stirring as you go. The caramel may harden and seize, but return it to the heat and continue to stir over low heat until any hard caramel is melted. Stir in 1 cup (250 ml) of the milk.

7. Whisk the yolks in a small bowl and gradually pour some of the warm caramel mixture over the yolks, stirring constantly. Scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan and cook the custard using a heatproof utensil, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture thickens. If using an instant-read thermometer, it should read 160-170 F (71-77 C).

8. Pour the custard through the strainer into the milk set over the ice bath, add the vanilla, then stir frequently until the mixture is cooled down. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or until thoroughly chilled.

9. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

10. While the ice cream is churning, crumble the hardened caramel praline into very little bits, about the size of very large confetti (about ½-inch, or 1 cm). I use a mortar and pestle, although you can make your own kind of music using your hands or a rolling pin.

11. Once your caramel ice cream is churned, quickly stir in the crushed caramel, then chill in the freezer until firm.

Note: As the ice cream sits, the little bits of caramel may liquefy and get runny and gooey, which is what they're intended to do.


  1. The cake looks fabulous, but you have me especially intrigued by this ice cream. It sounds so delicious--anything described as "burst of flavor" must be fabulous! Can't wait to try it for myself!

  2. I was wondering what had happened to you since I remember seeing your cake so early in the DBers forum. I know that ice cream is the bomb! I've made it once before too.

  3. So rich and divine!! Great job on this one!

  4. Anonymous2:17 PM

    Your cakes are gorgeous, as always. I've got to try that ice cream. Everyone is always blogging about it.

  5. God I really want to taste this one. I don't want to try baking it because I simply don't know how to. God I'm a sweets monster and by seeing this it makes me crave for more sweets.

  6. yumm.. your salted butter caramel ice cream... delish!! Love your chocolate decorations too

  7. I would take the cake or the ice cream and both very happily. I love all of the presentations, from the fleur d' lis to the quenelle of ice cream with the arc of chocolate. Everything looks beautiful!

  8. Oh yummy with caramel on top and the pretty swirl of chocolate. It was really rich wasn't it!

    Well done on this month's challenge.

  9. Absolutely fabulously decadent, Liz!

    The flavor combination, caramel and chocolate must have been divine! WOW! ...and all those nice ways to present it! I'm amazed!

  10. O.M.G. That is fantastic. The ice cream. The caramel. The melted puddles . Your presentations are incredible.