Wednesday, November 16, 2011

“Golden Key” special occasion cake

          It was a kid’s sixth birthday and I was entrusted with an honorable task of making a cake. The theme of the party was Pinocchio, or, to be more precisely, the Russian version of this story in which a wooden boy with a big nose gets a magic key that opens a door to the secret room. So, I had a clear idea about the decoration of the cake right from the beginning and only had to make a decision about the cake itself. I didn’t want something ordinary: taking a time-tested recipe and simply making a good version of a traditional cake was not an option for me – I felt like coming up with something new, elaborate, specially created for the boy!

            With the strongest confidence in my creativity, I took a piece of paper and a pencil and started to draw a sketch of my cake. After looking through a few cookbooks and magazines (well, when it comes to pastry, you cannot merely rely on your own talent – you need a solid support of trustworthy selection of basic recipes) I got really inspired by Ispahan French Yule Log which is a multi-layered cake consisting of rose-scented dacquoise biscuit, lychee mousse, crème brulee, ganache, feuillete crisp insert and icing. Having taken it as a starting point, I gave full freedom to my imagination and pretty soon I got the draft of my future cake in front of me:

1)      Orange-scented sponge at the bottom
2)      Poached apples
3)      Bavarian cream
4)      Walnut meringue
5)      Orange curd
6)      Crème brulee insert
7)      White chocolate and walnut crisp
8)      Bavarian cream (a thin layer – instead of icing)
– and the very last element: a golden key made of an apple cake and topped with honey waffle to give it that beautiful golden shine.

            Seems like a lot, I know! To say true, I was a little bit concerned that it might not work well together – but it actually did! Since the core ingredients were the same (apple, orange and walnut – a rather predictable choice for a kid’s dessert), it was eventually just a play on different textures of the same flavours and the layers really complimented each other in a best possible way.

            As I headed to the party, with a huge box in my hands and a big smile on my face, I felt like Adriano Zumbo bringing one of his creations to the Masterchef kitchen: extremely proud of myself and excited about making even more stunning cakes in the future!


Orange-scented sponge
3 eggs
75 gm castor sugar
80 gm flour
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp orange zest

Chocolate tuile
45 gm flour
18 gm cocoa powder
60 gm butter
60 gm icing sugar
60 ml egg whites
½ tsp vanilla essence
Sponge cake
3 eggs
75 gm castor sugar
80 gm flour
1 tsp vanilla essence

Poached apples
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored
250 ml orange juice
2 tbsp orange zest
1 tbsp vanilla syrup

Bavarian cream
6 egg yolks
90 gm sugar
a pinch of salt
330 ml milk
3 tsp gelatin
75 ml apple juice
430 ml heavy cream
1 ½ tbsp icing sugar

Walnut meringue
2 egg whites
50 gm sugar
25 gm plain flour
50 gm walnuts, crushed

Orange curd
2 egg yolks
75 gm butter
40 gm castor sugar
80 ml orange juice
2 tbsp orange zest

Crème brulee
4 egg yolks
400 ml cream
50 gm sugar
1 tsp vanilla sugar

White Chocolate and Walnut Crisp
100 gm white chocolate, grated
10 gm rolled oats
1 tbsp honey
20 gm plain flour
20 gm brown sugar
20 gm walnuts, crushed
20 gm butter, melted

Golden key
Apple cake
1 Granny Smith apple
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 egg
40 gm castor sugar
40 gm butter, melted
85 gm plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼  tsp baking soda
½  tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp orange zest
Honey waffle
10 gm egg white
12,5 gm plain flour
25 gm castor sugar
15 gm butter
10 gm honey

50 ml heavy cream
½ cup walnuts, crushed


  1. For an orange-scented sponge (base of the cake), preheat the oven to 180C. Line and grease 26-cm round cake tin. Place eggs with sugar and vanilla in a bowl and beat till pale and creamy (start at low speed and gradually increase it); stir in the orange zest. Sift flour over the egg mixture and fold it with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into a prepared tin and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and quite firm to touch.
  2. For the sides of the cake, combine all the ingredients for the chocolate tuile and make a smooth paste. Let it rest in the fridge for half an hour. Lightly grease a rectangle piece of baking paper (about 30x25cm). Place a template onto it, spread the tuile mixture over it and carefully remove the template. Repeat to make 4 more patterns (parallel to each other), some distance apart, on your baking tray. Put into freezer for 15 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180 C. Make batter for your sponge. Place eggs with sugar and vanilla in a bowl and beat till pale and creamy. Sift flour over the egg mixture and fold it with a rubber spatula. Take the chocolate tuile patterns out of the freezer and pour the prepared batter over them. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes or until golden brown. Flip on the board, and then cut 4 even rectangles out of it (approximately 20,5x6 cm each, with the chocolate patterns in the middle of each rectangle).
  4. Take a 26 spring-form tin and place the round sponge on the bottom of it. Place the rectangles at the sides of the tin, the chocolate patterns facing the sides of the tin. Cover and refrigerate till you start to assemble the cake.
  5. For white chocolate and walnut crisp (feuillete), preheat the oven to 200C. Make a crumble: combine flour, sugar and walnuts, pour melted butter over them and mix till it resembles breadcrumbs. Spread in a thin layer on a baking tray and put in the oven for 10 minutes. Transfer the crumble to a bowl, add rolled oats, honey and white chocolate, mix briskly to combine. Spread a mixture in a thin layer in a lined and greased 24 cm round cake tin and leave aside. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 160C.
  6. For crème brulee, mix egg yolks with sugar and vanilla sugar till pale and thick. Bring cream almost to a boil, pour over the yolk mixture, whisking vigorously. Strain through a sieve and pour the mixture over the feuillete layer. Bake in bain-marine for 30 – 35 minutes (it should still be wobbly in the middle). Let it cool, then cover and transfer to a fridge till it sets completely (if you are planning to assemble the cake the same day, put it into a freezer).
  7. For walnut meringue, preheat the oven to 140C. Whisk egg whites till soft peaks are formed, add sugar, 1 tsp at a time, increase the speed and beat till firm peaks. Sift flour over the mixture and fold it gently, together with the crushed walnuts, into the meringue. Spread onto a baking tray into 24 cm circle and bake for 1 hour or until golden brown.
  8. For orange curd, place a bowl with butter, sugar and orange juice over a pan of simmering water and stir till the sugar dissolves. Add egg yolks and zest and cook, whisking continuously, for a few minutes till the mixture thickens. Let it cool, cover and refrigerate.
  9. For poached apples, slice the apples thinly and place them into a pan with the orange juice and orange zest. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat to low and let them simmer for about 10 minutes or until soft but not mushy. Strain the poaching liquid and add vanilla syrup to it.
  10. For Bavarian cream, soak gelatin in cold apple juice for 10 minutes. In a bowl, whisk egg yolks with sugar and a pinch of salt. Heat milk and pour it over the egg mixture, stirring vigorously. Cook in a double boiler, stirring, till it is thick enough to cover the back of the spoon. Heat your gelatin gently till it dissolves completely (don’t let it boil) and pour it in a steady stream in your custard. Whisk cream till soft peaks, add icing sugar and whisk till stiff peaks are formed. Fold it into the cooled custard mixture.
  11. To assemble, brush the bottom sponge with the reserved poaching liquid. Arrange the apple slices on top and pour 2/3 of the Bavarian cream. Cover and refrigerate for half and hour or until the Bavarian cream starts to set. Place meringue on top of it. Spread orange curd, reserving 2 tbsp for the golden key. Remove your cream brulee with white chocolate feuillete from the mould, invert it (so that brulee layer is on the bottom) and place into the tin where you assemble the cake. Top with the remaining Bavarian cream, cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
  12. For the golden key, start with making an apple cake, preheat the oven to 180C; line and grease 13x23cm tin. Peel, core and grate the apples; toss with lemon juice. Whisk the eggs with sugar and vanilla until pale and thick; add melted butter and flour, sifted together with baking powder, baking soda and salt. If the batter is thick, add milk. Stir in the grated apples and orange zest. Pour into prepared tin and bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Using a stencil, cut a key out of it.
  13. For honey waffle, preheat the oven to 180C. Process all the ingredients until smooth, spread a layer of the mixture onto a baking sheet and put in the oven for 10 minutes. While still hot, cut a silhouette of a key out of it (use the same stencil as for the apple cake).
  14.  For final decoration, whip cream and add 1 tbsp crushed walnuts to it. Spread a thin layer of it onto the edges of the key. Put into freezer for 30 minutes. Take your cake out of the spring form. Using a spatula, transfer a key from a plate to the top of your cake. Spread a thin layer of reserved orange curd on the key and top it with a honey waffle. Garnish the cake with the remaining walnuts.


  1. You can make all the baked elements on one day, prepare your poached apples and Bavarian cream, and assemble the cake on the following day and decorate it just before serving.
  2. While making chocolate tuile, make sure you place the baking paper with freezed chocolate patterns on a cold tray. Otherwise, the tuile will melt when you start spreading the batter over it.
  3. Unfortunately, I didn’t have an opportunity to take a photo of a sliced cake at the party. Well, I’ll have a reason to make it again! Although, I should admit that as a friend of mine asked me today what was the most difficult dish I’ve ever cooked so far, I couldn’t think of anything more massive than this cake!


  1. Какая же это БЫЛА вкуснятина! Потрясающий сюрприз для моего сына! Спасибо огромное!

  2. I am just imaging the taste of each of the layers. This is stunning and no doubt delicious. I am sure that this took a lot of time and dedication as well as creativity to come up with this. Your passion for baking does shine through and the birthday boy is a lucky recipient indeed! Very impressive!

  3. You should be proud of yourself Tina in making this cake, gosh!!! For sure I will get lost but you did such a brilliant job, love the decos, esp the sides of the cakes.

  4. Firstly, what a fascinating Russian twist on the Pinocchio story - and what an incredible birthday cake! This looks and sounds absolutely fantastic, with each layer just as good as the next. French pastry chefs, look out.

  5. Wow, what an impressive cake! I can't believe all the different components, and what a beautiful presentation too! You are quite talented.

  6. Wow!!! You are one determined woman. After the stencil, I would have been done.

  7. What a wonderful sophisticated cake, lucky child, all those flavoursome layers and textures, wonderful job!


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