Sunday, November 27, 2011

{DBC} sans rival

I feel like it's been months since I've done a DBC. Which is, well, true, since I've missed the last two. I just did not have the copious amounts of time necessary to spend baking croissants and breads.

Not that November has been any less busy, but now that papers, end-of-term assignments, and thesis proposals are established and underway, a large part of my mind has been freed up for things totally unrelated to academics.

[Things aside from BBC television, anyway, which, as it were, I've finished all of save for Merlin, and even then weekly airings keep me from spending hours upon hours in front of the TV.  I've even had time to read actual literature and finally got around to finishing The Things They Carried (a four-year long endeavor, not because my capabilities of reading a 200-page novel are deficient, but because I've never just sat down and read it all the way through), which is a feat in and of itself and quite possibly my biggest intellectual accomplishment of the semester. Some might say I lead a sad existence. They would probably be right.]

But I saw this month's challenge and knew I had to participate. Not only was it something that didn't have yeast or gelatin in it, but was something I could finish up in one afternoon and looked gorgeous to boot.

Filipino Sans Rival, originally a French dessert comprised of layers of dacquoise and a rich buttercream frosting. Admittedly, Tommy and my version is pretty much the farthest thing from the traditional as you can get while still cheating your way by calling it a "Sans Rival," but it made for a really delicious dessert.

I'll give you the recipe for ours, but if you want to go the traditional route, omit the cocoa in the cake and chocolate in the buttercream, and use cashews instead of almonds.

Baking and Super Smash Bros seems to be the established norm whenever Tommy comes over for DBC. It makes we wish DBCs were a weekly occurrence, if it wouldn't mean that I would probably end up having to drop out of university.

Filipino "Sans Rival"
Adapted from the November Daring Baker's Challenge

For the dacquoise, you'll need:
  • 10 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups almonds, finely ground
For the French buttercream, you'll need:
  • 5 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 1/2 sticks [20 tbsp] butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 2 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted

To prepare the cake:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and grease and flour four 9-inch pans (or two 9-inch pans, keeping in mind that you'll have to bake an additional two batches). Make sure you grease and flour them very well, as the dacquoise becomes quite sticky. Set aside.

In a clean and dry stainless steel bowl, whisk the egg whites on high speed until frothy, about two minutes. Sprinkle with cream of tartar. Gradually add sugar and cocoa powder, a couple of tablespoons at a time, until stiff peaks form, 7-10 minutes. Fold in 1 3/4 cups of the ground almonds, reserving about 1/4 cup to garnish. Divide the batter equally among the four pans (or divide half of the batter equally among the two pans, reserving the other half of the batter for when the first two cakes are done). Bake for 25-30 minutes, until set. Now is a good time to make the buttercream. Once cakes are down, allow the them to cool for a couple of minutes in the pan, but then overturn quite soon onto cooling racks.

To prepare the frosting:
Whisk the egg yolks on high speed in a large bowl until they've turned a pale yellow and have doubled in volume. In a medium saucepan, whisk the water and sugar over medium flame until a syrup has formed. The sugar should be a very pale amber color, but make sure to remove from the heat before it caramelizes. With the whisk still running on high speed, very carefully pour the syrup down the sides of the bowl. Continue beating on high until the mixture comes to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Still on high speed, add butter, one tablespoon at a time, until fully incorporated. Add in melted chocolate and whisk for another 30-60 minutes, until uniform. Refrigerate the buttercream for at least one hour before using, and whip it smooth before frosting.

To assemble the cake:
Place one layer of dacquoise on a serving plate. Frost the top with about 2 heaping tablespoons of the buttercream. Place a second layer on top and frost. Repeat with the remaining two layers. Using the remaining buttercream, frost the top and sides of the cake. Press the reserved ground almonds along the sides or top of the cake. Garnish with whole almonds, if desired.

I very much loved the look of this cake. Images flashed before my eyes bringing back memories, visions of small patisseries in Italy, with layers of homemade cakes piled high with thick, creamy frostings, imperfect in their presentation but beautiful in their simplicity, rustic in a very comforting, understated way.

Those are always the cakes that taste the best, after all.

I myself am not partial to meringue, for the most part, and really detest buttercream frostings, so I didn't have very high expectations for this cake. Not that I doubted it would be tasty; rather, I didn't expect to like it as much as Tommy or Noosh might. I was gravely [fortunately?] mistaken, and really just had to drive the thing over to Shea to give to Matt for fear that I would spend the rest of the afternoon and evening with my head in the fridge, cutting slices and eating them with a fork straight off of the serving plate.

It was tantalizingly good.

In fact, I so loved the soft, chewiness of the dacqouise that it was the inspiration for one of my Thanksgiving desserts [and a huge hit with the fam, so clearly dacquoise is the ticket].

And now, another month is gone, and there's only December standing between me and 2012. It's the point in the semester where I'm so, dangerously close to being done that making myself study for finals and finish up term papers is actually physically painful.

I just want to be home, snuggled up under covers, finishing up Assassins Creed: Revelations, and eating enough home-cooked meals to rival a bear preparing for hibernation. Is that too much to ask?


  1. That first picture of your Sans Rival was one of those that jumped out at me on the DB forum. It looks gorgeous! I too thought the taste would be too much for me, but ended up with huge forkfuls of it in my mouth. Definitely a cake for many occasions. Great job!

  2. Wow, This Sans Rival looks so good! I love the ground nut addition on top of the cake!

  3. @Jane: Thank you so much! And I agree - it was such a pleasant surprise; I was expecting it to be quite rich and heavy, but it was so hard to stop myself from eating the entire thing!

    @Toasted Pecan: Thanks a lot :)

  4. Your Sans Rival is gorgeous!Great work!

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