(The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.)

I’m never good at artistic Daring Bakers recipes, so I put this one off until the end of the month.  The idea was simple – make a decorated sponge cake to wrap around a filling.  The recipe called for almond flour in the cake, so I figured a cherry mousse would be the perfect filling. 

And if the center was going to be cherry, then the design on the cake should also be cherries. 

I started by mixing up a half batch of the Joconde Paste.  It was very simple – some butter, some sugar, a lot of eggs, and a bit of flour.  I used my good gel candy colors to get a bright red and green:

Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet

Piping it was fun and easy.  I laid out two long rows of cherries for the “wrappers”, and a few more because I had more room left. 

They went in the freezer for 15 minutes to solidify, so they wouldn’t get distorted when I poured the cake over them.

Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet

The sponge cake was easy, too.  Cake and almond flour, more eggs (the entire recipe took 13 eggs, 10 of them whites only, so I have 10 egg yolks in the fridge waiting for a use), a bit of sugar.

The eggs got beaten into a foam, then folded back into the batter.   I was careful not to deflate the eggs, but my sponge came out a bit thick.  A bit more melted butter would have helped, but I didn’t realize it was too thick until it was baked – and by then, I was out of eggs.

My pretty piped cherries flatted a bit after baking, and Mike thought they looked more like Christmas tree lights.  I just don’t have the artistic gene.

Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet

I used some small Corning Ware bowls for molds.  My sponge was thick enough that a biscuit-sized version wouldn’t have had enough room for filling, but I thought a springform-pan sized one might lack structural stability.

I cut the wrapper too short on the first one:

Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet

But I got the second one right.  I think if the sponge had been warmer, the ends would have stuck together better, but they did okay even cold.  I should have used a ruler and pizza cutter to get the edges more straight.

Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet

I filled the center with a basic cherry mousse – some whipped cream and a bag of chopped frozen cherries.  It would have been improved with a bit of almond extract.   You can see that the wrapper came a bit unstuck, but it held together. 

Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet

This wasn’t really part of the challenge, but I took some of the random bits and make little “sandwich cakes” with them.  These little ones would have made great finger food for a party, maybe with a very firm pastry cream inside.

Daring Bakers: Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet

All in all, it was a fun challenge.  Next time I’ll make sure to spread the sponge thinner, and think more carefully about how the backside of the decorations will come out.

Or maybe I’ll just wait for the holidays, and then the Christmas tree light design will be perfect!

( see the cake recipes )

( see the mousse recipe )

I had people over for Christmas treats last weekend, and my next few posts are going to be about all the cookies and pies I made. 

Today, though, is about fruitcake.

I make fruitcake every year, using the Good Eats Free Range Fruitcake recipe.  It’s really very good, but it’s a little alcoholic for my friends with kids, and sometimes it just doesn’t feel like fruitcake without terrifyingly-red candied cherries:

Cherries

But I’m also not a fan of fruitcakes that contain nothing but raisins and Scary Candied Fruit.  So I was going to skip making fruitcake altogether this year.  Then I saw this Chocolate Cherry Fruitcake from King Arthur.  It looked like the solution to all my issues – it had real fruit and nuts, it had candied cherries, and who can complain about the addition of chocolate?  My only worry was the "Jammy Bits", but they had a free-shipping special, and I figured it was worth a try.

When I got the box, they turned out to be just like little tiny fruit-flavored gumdrops.  I have a good recipe for fruit-flavored gumdrops, so next time I’ll just make my own. 

The fruitcake went together easy enough.  It said to soak the dried cherries in brandy, rum, or water, but apple cider would have worked just as well and added more flavor then water.  Once the dried cherries were soaked, the rest of the batter ingredients went in the stand mixer – butter, sugar, baking powder, salt, and vanilla and almond extract first, then 3 eggs. 

Then the flour got mixed in, alternating with the milk.  Once the batter was done, I mixed in the fruit, nuts, and chocolate by hand.  I’ve had trouble in the past with the mixer being too violent and breaking up chocolate chips, and I wanted them whole.

I used two baking pans – a 8×4 and a 10xsomething loaf pan, because that’s what I had.  They both took about the same time to bake – just over an hour.

I had some trouble getting them out of the pans – next time I’ll line them with parchment paper, at least on the bottoms, to make it easier.

Once they were cool, I brushed them with simple syrup (one part water, one part sugar, cook until the sugar is dissolved, then cool).  I brushed them with one more coat just before serving.

P1040434

I was impressed.  The chocolate made it different enough to be interesting, and I thought the ratio of real fruit to candied fruit was just right.  It had just enough batter to hold all the fruit together.  I had been tempted to toss some cinnamon in the batter, but it didn’t need it – the fruit carried it just fine on it’s own.

I’ll make it again. Next time, in the little paper pans so I can give them out as last-minute gifts.  Because fruitcake doesn’t have to be awful!

( see the recipe )