Baking Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Polish Princess
When I received my review copy of The Baking Bible and perused the recipes, choosing one to make first, my mind settled on creating The Polish Princess. Rose’s response was, “Of course you did!” This was a somewhat serious, somewhat humorous response to my penchant for making her most involved cakes, which she likes to tease me about, but I chose it for other reasons as well. First of all, it is unique: the flavors of black tea and vodka, dark chocolate and walnuts, a layer of sponge cake, a dreamy pastry cream based buttercream in two contrasting layers and a shower of tiny chocolate curls was an enticing proposition. Her image is above. But I also liked that it would highlight so many things that make a cake a Rose creation. Making a cake like this is rewarding and teaches many lessons. As with so many of Rose’s recipes there is length and detail, but every word is chosen carefully. Be open to the process. You can also read my full review of her book, The Baking Bible. Here, is my overview of creating this luscious cake. The images that follow are of my version:
- This cake has many components. Each component requires specific ingredients and techniques. Follow Rose exactly. For instance, the very first ingredient listed is bleached all-purpose flour. You might be tempted to use the un-bleached all-purpose that you have around. Don’t. Set your mind to EXACTITUDE. Same with the eggs. Break your eggs into a cup and measure the volume to see what your eggs add up to. Use what Rose calls for. Ditto superfine sugar. Don’t use regular granulated. There is a reason she calls for it. TRUST THE RECIPE. I went out and bought the high fat butter just for the pastry buttercream; so should you.
- Why is there that saying “the devil is in the details”? It should be Rose is in the details! See where it says do not bake the cake so long that it comes away from the sides of the pan? That’s because when you reassemble the cake in the springform pan with the two layers of buttercream you need it to fill up the space in the pan to make nice clean sides on your finished cake. You won’t know this until you make the cake, but Rose knows this and that’s why that sentence is there. Also, measure your springform pan. Many 9-inch pans are not 3-inches in height as called for. Again, there is a need for the 3-inch depth, which is why Rose has specified it as such.
- Note that Rose calls for a vanilla bean in the pastry cream. Yes, it is necessary. If she felt you could substitute extract, she would say so. Rose told me directly that if she feels there is an adequate substitution, it will be listed.
- Check out the instructions surrounding the walnuts. Years ago I learned a trick from a food stylist, which I have written about on Bakepedia. It involves chopping nuts, especially walnuts, and then sifting them before incorporating the larger pieces into your recipe. Until you have done this, you won’t believe how much skin and powdery bits are in there, which should be discarded, as they will not enhance your dish! Rose recommends rubbing and picking the skin off before slicing (more on that in a moment). I decided to call it “de-nuding” the nuts and you can see my process here, below.
- After I “de-nuded” them, I decided to out Rose Rose and sift in addition (seen below). Look at what comes away! Leave it to Rose to determine that the skins make up 4.5% of the nut! That’s significant. It is bitter and the texture detracts. De-nude your nuts!
- OK back to slicing the nuts. You probably think Rose meant to say chop. Nope. Slice, as in take each nut and use a small sharp paring knife and cut them into thin slices. Why? Because it matters. Here is what Rose told me: “when Ava (the inspiration for the cake) tasted my first version she said something was wrong and couldn’t put her finger on it. Then she realized it was the walnuts. She forgot to tell me they have to be sliced thinly. I said ‘you’ve got to be kidding!’ but wow–what a difference it made–an explosion of flavor.” When you think about it, it makes sense. A larger cross section of the nuts exposed = more flavor. Combined with the toasting, which also enhances flavor and texture, and the “de-nuding”, you will have a new walnut experience.
- When it comes time to “syrup” the cake you will think there is too much liquid. I thought this, too. But then I said to myself, Rose knows what she is talking about, keep adding the syrup! And I did. And the cake soaked it up. Guess what? It was the right call.
- Overall this cake was a joy to make. The components can be done in stages so that the process did not overwhelm. I completed it in one day. It might not be a cake for beginners, but with attention to Rose detail, success will prevail. The cake is very European and sophisticated, perfect for an elegant dinner party or adult birthday. The vodka does not overwhelm as you think it might; but it is detectable and since it is not cooked off should be served to those who are okay with and aware of its inclusion. The Polish Princess is a great project cake and one that will teach you the way of Rose. As usual, baking from Rose’s books was a pleasure.
- Tune in for Part 2, when I bake another cake from The Baking Bible, coming on 11/10 when I will make Rose’s favorite cake from the book – The Renée Fleming Golden Chiffon.
Excerpted from The Baking Bible © 2014 by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Serves 12 to 14
Oven Temperature 350°F/175°C
Baking Time 20 to 30 minutes
This extraordinary cake is named for Ava Wilder-Zhan, the incomparable production editor of Rose’s Heavenly Cakes. Its original name in Polish was The Ambassador, and it is a contemporary, not a traditional cake. The cake came into popularity in the early 1990s, after the fall of communism when there was an influx of quality chocolate, alkalized cocoa, and raisins from abroad. When Ava described it to me and offered to help me re-create it, I was sufficiently intrigued to give it a try. As she described it, the cake has one simple baked layer, a sponge cake. It is then topped with two layers of vanilla pudding, one enhanced with cocoa and walnuts, and the other studded with chopped chocolate and raisins. After finally perfecting the cake, I made it as a wedding present for Ava and her husband, Luke.
Plan Ahead The cake component can be made 1 day before assembling with the pastry buttercreams. Assemble the cake at least 8 hours before serving.
Special Equipment One 9 by 3 inch springform pan, encircled with a cake strip, coated with baking spray with flour, then topped with a parchment round.
|bleached all-purpose flour||1¼ cups (sifted into the cup andleveled off) plus 1 tablespoon||5.3 ounces||150 grams|
|baking powder||1 teaspoon||.||4.4 grams|
|4 (to 6) large eggs, separated:yolkswhites (about 3)||¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons (69 ml)6 tablespoons (89 ml)||2.6 ounces3.2 ounces||74 grams90 grams|
|superfine sugar||¾ cup||5.3 ounces||150 grams|
|warm water||3 tablespoons (44 ml)||1.6 ounces||44 grams|
Preheat the Oven Twenty minutes or longer before baking, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.
Mix the Dry Ingredients In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.
Beat the Egg Whites into a Stiff Meringue In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater, beat the egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Raise the speed to medium-high. Gradually add the sugar and beat until the mixture is very glossy and stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly.
Make the Batter Continuing on medium-high speed, add the egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating for about 20 seconds between each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Sift the flour mixture over the egg mixture, and with a slotted skimmer or silicone spatula, fold gently until all traces of flour have disappeared. With a silicone spatula, reach to the bottom of the bowl to be sure to moisten all of the flour. Gently fold in the water until incorporated. This will deflate the batter slightly. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Use a small offset spatula to smooth the surface evenly. The pan will be only about one-third full.
Bake the Cake Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. (An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read 193°F/90°C.) The cake should not start to come away from the sides of the pan. The cake’s sides will have risen to a little more than halfway up the sides of the pan.
Cool and Unmold the Cake Set the pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pan and the cake, pressing firmly against the pan, and remove the sides of the pan. Let the cake cool completely. Invert the cake onto a wire rack that has been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray and remove the bottom of the pan and parchment.
Tea Vodka Syrup
Makes 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon/222 ml/7.8 ounces/222 grams
|water||¾ cup (177 ml)||6.2 ounces||177 grams|
|black tea||1 tea bag||.||.|
|granulated sugar||1 tablespoon||.5 ounces||13 grams|
|lemon juice, freshly squeezed||½ tablespoon (7.5 ml)||.||8 grams|
|vodka, preferably Ultimat Polish vodka||¼ cup (59 ml)||2 ounces||57 grams|
Make the Tea Vodka Syrup In a small saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat, bring the water to a rolling boil. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the tea bag, cover, and let it steep for 2 minutes. Discard the tea bag. Pour the tea into a glass measure and stir in the sugar, lemon juice, and vodka until the sugar is dissolved. Cover it tightly and let it cool just until warm or room temperature.
Syrup the Cake Poke the cake all over with a thin skewer. Brush one-third of the syrup onto the bottom of the cake. Set the bottom of the springform pan on top of the cake and reinvert the cake (see Notes). Poke the cake’s top all over with the skewer. Brush the top of the cake evenly with the remaining syrup. Attach the sides of the springform pan to the bottom. If composing the cake the next day, cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap.
Notes A 9 by 2¾ inch springform pan can be used for baking the cake. However, for composing the cake, a collar made from heavy-duty aluminum foil will need to be attached with shortening to the inside of the springform pan’s sides to give a total height of 3 inches to accommodate the top layer of pastry buttercream.
It is best to set the cake on the base of the springform pan before syruping, and then reattach the sides as described in the recipe, because the cake is more fragile after syruping and would break when lowering it into the pan.
If you prefer to compose the cake directly on a serving plate, carefully reinvert the cake onto the serving plate. Slide the springform pan’s sides around the cake and lock them in position.
Pastry Buttercream Base for the Two Buttercream Layers
Makes 5½ cups/37.4 ounces/1060 grams
|Milk||2⅓ cups (551 ml), divided||19.9 ounces||564 grams|
|Cornstarch||3 tablespoons||1 ounce||28 grams|
|4 large egg yolks||¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons (69 ml)||2.6 ounces||74 grams|
|1 vanilla bean (½ bean if Tahitian)||.||.||.|
|granulated sugar||1 cup||7 ounces||200 grams|
|unsalted butter, preferably high fat (65° to 70°F/18° to 21°C)||3 sticks||12 ounces||340 grams|
Prepare the Egg Mixture Have ready a fine-mesh strainer suspended over the bowl of a stand mixer. In a medium bowl, whisk together ½ cup/118 ml/4.3 ounces/121 grams of the milk and the cornstarch until smooth. Whisk in the egg yolks until completely blended.
Mix the Vanilla Bean with the Sugar With a small sharp knife, split the vanilla bean pod lengthwise in half. In a medium heavy saucepan, add the sugar. Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the sugar and rub them in with your fingers. Add the vanilla pod.
Complete the Pastry Cream Add the remaining milk to the sugar and vanilla mixture, and scald it over medium heat, stirring often (heat it to the boiling point; small bubbles will form around the periphery). Whisk vigorously while adding ¼ cup of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture. Quickly add all of the egg mixture into the remaining hot milk mixture, whisking rapidly. Continue whisking rapidly over medium heat for about 30 seconds, or until the mixture is very thick and beginning to bubble.
Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it into the bowl. Use the back of a spoon or a silicone spatula to scrape any thickened cream from the bottom of the pan and press it through the strainer. Whisk it slightly. Coat a piece of plastic wrap with nonstick cooking spray and set it directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Set the cream aside to cool for 1 hour.
Refrigerate the pastry cream until cooled to 65° to 70°F/19° to 21°C, very gently folding it every 15 minutes. Between foldings, place plastic wrap coated with nonstick cooking spray directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. This will take about 2 hours. For faster cooling (under 1 hour), you can set the bowl in an ice water bath (see page 538) immediately after straining the pastry cream, folding every several minutes.
Add the Pastry Cream to the Butter In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater, beat the butter on medium speed until light and creamy.
Add the cooled pastry cream to the butter, a large spoonful at a time, beating a medium-high speed for several seconds after each addition until smoothly incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Remove 2¾ cups/18.7 ounces/530 grams of the pastry buttercream base to a medium bowl. Cover both bowls with plastic wrap until ready to complete the pastry buttercreams.
Cocoa and Walnut Pastry Buttercream Layer
|walnut halves||1 cup||3.5 ounces||100 grams|
|Pastry Buttercream Base||2¾ cups||18.7 ounces||530 grams|
|unsweetened (alkalized) cocoa powder||3 tablespoons (sifted before measuring)||0.5 ounce||14 grams|
Preheat the Oven Twenty minutes or longer before baking, set an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.
Toast the Walnuts Spread the walnuts evenly on a baking sheet and bake for about 7 minutes to enhance their flavor. Stir once or twice to ensure even toasting and avoid overbrowning. Turn them out onto a clean dish towel. With a small sharp knife and your fingers, scrape off and discard as much skin as possible. Cool completely. Cut each walnut into thin slices.
Complete the Cocoa and Walnut Pastry Buttercream Set the mixer bowl containing the pastry buttercream in the stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater. Add the cocoa and beat on low speed until smoothly incorporated. With a silicone spatula, fold in the walnuts.
Chocolate and Raisin Pastry Buttercream Layer
|Raisins||½ cup||2.5 ounces||72 grams|
|bittersweet chocolate, preferably70% cacao, coarsely chopped||.||2 ounces||56 grams|
|Pastry Buttercream Base (page 128)||2¾ cups||18.7 ounces||530 grams|
|Décor: bittersweet chocolate for grating, 60% to 63% cacao||a small thick block||1 ounce||28 grams|
Soften the Raisins In a small bowl, place the raisins and add hot water just to cover. Let them sit for 10 minutes. Drain the raisins and dry them well on paper towels.
Complete the Chocolate and Raisin Buttercream With a silicone spatula, fold the coarsely chopped chocolate and the raisins into the pastry buttercream base. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Compose the Cake Scrape the cocoa and walnut buttercream onto the cake in the springform pan and, with a small offset spatula, spread it evenly, taking care not to get any of the buttercream on the sides of the pan above the layer of the buttercream. Cover the top of the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour, or until firm. Then spread the chocolate and raisin buttercream layer evenly on top.
Set the pan on a sheet of parchment to catch any falling grated chocolate. Using a coarse shredder, grate the chocolate on top of the cake to cover the buttercream completely. Lift the pan from the parchment and use the parchment to transfer any of the fallen grated chocolate onto the cake. Cover the cake with a large bowl or cake carrier dome. To meld the flavors of the components, chill the composed cake overnight in the refrigerator.
Unmold the Cake Use a small torch or a dish towel run under hot water and wrung dry of excess water to heat the sides of the pan. Release the sides of the pan. Place a heated straight-edge knife flush with the buttercream and the cake. Circle the knife around the cake to create a smooth and glossy finish on the sides of the buttercreams.
Let the cake sit for about 20 minutes to soften before serving. To cut cleanly through the cake, run the knife blade under hot water and wipe it off between each slice.
Store Airtight: refrigerated, 3 days. Do not freeze, because the texture of the buttercreams will become less smooth.