Wednesday, February 8, 2012

V8 Cake

        I guess every cook has a dish that is on top of his “wish-to-prepare” list. For me it has been V8 – a multi-layered cake created by an Australian pastry chef Adriano Zumbo. It stroke a chord in my heart once I saw it – more than a year ago – in Masterchef TV show. The following day I found the recipe in the Internet but had to admit that for me it was next to impossible to reproduce this pattisserie masterpiece. However, I kept opening the webpage with the recipe and kept studying it avidly – with the hope that one day I will eventually be able to make this cake at my kitchen. Pretty soon I found myself hooked to the idea: indeed, even when I saw a 20cm square tin in a shop half a year ago, I bought it only because I knew that V8 is assembled in such a tin and a few months ago I couldn’t but buy small silver balls as I realized that they would serve as a perfect decoration for my future cake! 

            Why is it called V8? Zumbo was asked to create a birthday cake for an Australian celebrity cookery writer Margaret Fulton. He found out that she is quite conservative in her taste and when it comes to desserts she prefers simple vanilla flavour, so he made a multi-layered gateau with eight textures of vanilla – that’s how it got its name. Now it is one of the most famous cakes in the world and it leaves almost no one indifferent to it: only those people who are not great fans of white chocolate or vanilla aroma, can’t understand the overall obsession with the cake.  


            The main obstacle on my way to the “dream-cake” was finding the ingredients. Needless to say, since this gateau is all about vanilla, one should use only real vanilla beans – and you need 11 of them to prepare the cake! It took me a while to collect such a number (some of them were even brought by a friend of mine from Delhi!). There are some other not so readily available ingredients as well and I had to make almond meal, almond paste and almond praline at home, together with the mirroir glaze. I couldn’t find titanium dioxide which is a colorant that would have made the cake look pure white but since it doesn’t affect the flavour, the use of it, I figured out, is optional. So, as I finally got the last bean in my possession, I made sure that I have a sufficient amount of white chocolate at home (for all the tiles and decorations) and double-checked that I have liquid glucose, canola oil and rice flour at the kitchen pantry (the recipe calls for only a small amount of them, but you can’t do without those ingredients anyway) – and finally choose a date for making my culinary dream come true.

            I booked the whole day for preparations and I woke up long before my alarm clock, feeling an urge to start the process as soon as possible. The only thing that I made right before I’d gone to bed a day before was vanilla water gel (as it needs time to set in the fridge) and I literally couldn’t stop sniffing my fingers after splitting the first bean and removing the seeds - no wonder, I’d been dreaming about the cake the whole night! Once I looked in the mirror in the morning, I saw black seeds all over my face! That was a great start of the massive vanilla-scented day!

            To say true, after having made a few elaborate gateaux during the last few months (like Golden key, Ispahan, Tanzanie and Chocolate Mousse Cake) I couldn’t label V8 as extremely difficult but subconsciously I still treated it as an “Everest of my culinary journey”. Of course, I was more than overwhelmed with delight when I put the last chocolate decorations on my cake – it was a victory, a huge kitchen victory! It’s difficult to find words to explain all the feelings that I had when I was looking at a serving plate with V8 – the most beautiful cake I’ve ever cooked in my life. And yes, it was delicious – the taste lived up to all the expectations!

            I intentionally prepared the cake (and the post about it) by this date – not only because it’s the 8th day of the month: today is also a birthday of a person who is very dear to me. (Happy birthday, bro! It’s a pity that you are far away and don’t have an opportunity to try a piece of this divine cake. I’ll cook you another one once I’m back home to Russia!)

Recipe adapted from the original one by Adriano Zumbo


Vanilla crème chantilly
4 gm gold gelatine leaves
590 gm thickened cream
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
175 gm caster sugar
24 gm cold water

Vanilla water gel
250 gm water
38 gm caster sugar
6 gm gelatine
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

Toasted vanilla brulee
66 gm egg yolks
50 gm dark brown sugar
250 gm thickened cream
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1 tsp vanilla extract

Vanilla glaze
10 gm gold gelatine leaves
60 gm cold water
40 gm glucose liquid
35 gm water, extra
250 gm caster sugar
400 gm thickened cream
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
150 gm miroir glaze (specialty cold-application patisserie glaze)

Vanilla ganache
300 gm white couverture chocolate, chopped
185 gm thickened cream
14 gm vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
95 gm unsalted butter, chopped and softened

Vanilla syrup
62 gm caster sugar
125 gm water
½ vanilla bean, seeds craped
3,5 gm vanilla extract

Vanilla macaron
52 gm egg whites
50 gm pure icing sugar
75 gm pure icing sugar, extra, sifted
75 gm almond meal, sifted
½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped

Vanilla dacquoise
60 gm egg whites
42 gm caster sugar
65 gm almond meal
40 gm pure icing sugar, sifted
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1,5 gm vanilla extract
10 gm pure icing sugar, extra, for dusting

Vanilla chiffon cake
17.5 gm plain flour
2 vanilla beans, seeds scraped
22 gm egg yolks
5 gm dark brown sugar
17.5 gm water
15 gm canola oil
45 gm egg whites
22.5 gm caster sugar
2.5 gm rice flour

Vanilla almond crunch
Crushed vanilla beans
2 large vanilla beans

Brown sugar crumble
50 gm unsalted butter
50 gm plain flour
50 gm dark brown sugar
50 gm almond meal      
¼ vanilla bean, seeds scraped

45 gm milk couverture chocolate
90 gm almond praline paste
90 gm pure almond paste
18 gm unsalted butter
45 gm brown sugar crumble
45 gm pailette feuillitine (crunchy wheat flakes)
17 gm toasted diced almonds
2 crushed vanilla beans
2 gm sea salt
¼ vanilla bean, seeds scraped


White chocolate flower and tiles
500g white chocolate, finely chopped

1 chocolate flower
20 tiles
a few sugar spheres or silver drops


1. For vanilla crème chantilly, cut gelatine into small squares, soak in the cold water. Place cream, vanilla seeds and sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to 70-80°C, and then stir through the gelatine and water mixture until dissolved. Place in a container, cover the surface with cling wrap and place in the fridge.

2. For vanilla water gel, line 18cm square cake tin with plastic wrap. Soak gelatine in 20 gm cold water. Put the remaining ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat and whisk continuously until the mixture comes to boil. Allow to cool to 70C, then stir in the gelatine and any soaking liquid. Pour into the lined tin and place in the refrigerator to set. Once set, place in the freezer to set hard.

3. For toasted vanilla brulee, preheat oven to 160C. Mix yolks and sugar in a bowl by hand with a whisk until just combined. Add cream vanilla bean and seeds to a small saucepan and bring to the boil, pour a little over the eggs while stirring, then add the remaining liquid including vanilla bean. Puree with a hand blender until smooth and pour into a shallow baking tray about 25 x 38cm. Place into the oven and cook until just set,  about 10 minutes, then increase oven to 200°C and bake until it forms a golden brown crust,  about 5 minutes. It should look slightly split when removed from the oven. Scrape mixture into a blender, or small food processor and blend to a smooth paste. Cover the surface of the brulee with cling wrap so it doesn’t form a skin and place in the fridge until you need it..

4. For vanilla glaze, soak the gelatine leaves in cold water.  Boil glucose, water and sugar until 165°C, brushing around the sides of the saucepan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water as you go. Do not allow caramel to take on any colour. In another saucepan, bring cream and vanilla seeds to boil and then add to the sugar syrup. Mix through, then allow to cool to 70°C and add softened gelatine and any soaking liquid, stirring well. Add miroir glaze and blend well. Strain, then refrigerate until set.

5. For vanilla ganache, place chocolate in a bowl. Bring cream, together with vanilla seeds and vanilla extract, to a boil, pour over the chocolate. Set aside for 2 minutes, then stir until the mixture is smooth. Blitz in butter using a stick mixer.


6. For vanilla syrup, bring all ingredients to the boil, then allow to cool.

7. For vanilla macaron, draw an 18cm square on a piece of baking paper placed on a baking tray. Using an electric mixer or hand beaters, whisk egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form then slowly add pure icing sugar, checking it has dissolved in between additions until you have stiff glossy peaks. Stir through almond meal, the remaining icing sugar and vanilla seeds. Spoon mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 5mm nozzle. Pipe into the pencilled frame using a continuous snaking motion to fill the entire square. Set aside ay room temperature for 30 minutes or until a skin form and then bake for 10 minutes at 160°C until golden. Remove from oven, slide baking paper off tray and place on kitchen bench.

8. For vanilla dacquoise, preheat the oven 180C. Draw an 18cm square on a piece of baking paper placed on a baking tray. In an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form then slowly add caster sugar, beating until you have stiff glossy peaks.  Mix almond meal with icing sugar, vanilla seeds and extract, gently fold through egg whites. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a 5mm nozzle. Pipe into the pencilled frame using a continuous snaking motion to fill the entire square.  Dust with icing sugar, let sit 2 minutes then dust again. Bake at for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven, slide baking paper off tray and place on kitchen bench.

9. For vanilla chiffon cake, preheat the oven to 160C. Draw a 18cm square on a piece of baking paper placed on a baking tray. Put flour, roasted vanilla seeds, egg yolks, brown sugar, water and oil in a bowl and mix well. Whisk egg whites in an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form then slowly add the sugar and rice flour, beating until you have stiff, glossy peaks. Fold the meringue through the batter gently. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a 5mm nozzle. Pipe into the pencilled frame using a continuous snaking motion to fill the entire square.  Bake in the oven until golden, about 15 – 20 minutes.

10. For roasted vanilla beans, preheat the oven to 200C. Put the beans on a baking tray and bake for 30 minutes or until they look burnt and are dry and crisp. Cool, then grind to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.


11. For brown sugar crumble, preheat the oven to 180C. Place all ingredients in an electric mixer and beat mix until dough forms. ‘Grate’ through  a cooling rack with a lined baking tray sitting underneath to catch the crumble then bake in the oven for about 10 minutes until golden

12. For vanilla almond crunch, melt milk chocolate, add almond praline and the pure almond paste and mix well. Melt butter in a small saucepan, then cook it until it is browm and nutty. . Add crumble and fueilletine flakes and mix through praline mixture, then fold through burnt butter, followed by toasted almonds, crushed vanilla beans, sea salt and scraped vanilla seeds.  Smooth a 5mm layer over vanilla dacquoise.

13. To assemble the cake, line a 18cm square tin with a non-sticking baking paper. Place the vanilla dacquoise covered with vanilla and almond crunch inside the frame. Spread with a 1 cm thick layer of vanilla ganache, smoothing it with palette knife. Place in the freezer until firm. Lay the vanilla chiffon cake over the ganache and press down gently. Use a pastry brush to brush some vanilla syrup over the cake. Spread the toasted vanilla brulee over the cake. Place the vanilla macaron over the brulee, gently pressing down. Place the vanilla water gel over the macaron. place in the freezer for 3 hours, until firm.

14. Line a square 20 cm tin with acetate. Using a mixer, whisk vanilla crème chantilly on medium speed until soft peaks form. Spread a 5 – 10 mm layer of chantilly on the bottom of the tin. Place in the freezer until it sets slightly. Remove the assembled cake from the 18cm tin and place it on top of the chantilly layer, with water gel at the bottom and dacquoise on the top. Use a piping bag to fill the gap between the cake and the sides of the tin. Freeze for 3 – 4 hours.

15. For white chocolate tiles and flower, melt a chocolate in a double boiler and temper it. Spread a thin layer, about 2-3mm thick on 2 pieces of acetate (30 x 40cm) using a large palette knife. Once the chocolate has almost set, on one sheet of acetate carefully mark 3 strips lengthways on the strips, about 7-9cm-wide. Mark thin triangles in each strip. These form the flower petals. Place a piece of baking paper over the top, and wrap around a rolling pin or similar cylinder and allow to completely harden. On the other sheet use a ruler to mark out 5 cm squares. Place a piece of baking paper over the top and invert onto a board or clean work surface to completely harden. To assemble the flower spread a small amount of melted tempered chocolate onto a small piece of baking paper and use this as a base to stick the petals, starting in the centre, working outwards to create a flower.

16. Place a wire rack over a large sheet of plastic wrap. Remove the cake from the freezer and invert it onto wire rack. Remove the tin and acetate. Heat the vanilla glaze gently till it reaches 30-35C and pour it over the cake, allowing to run down the sides. Smooth the surface with a palette  knife. Set aside for a few minutes, then slide a large knife under the cake and transfer it to a serving plate.

17. For decoration, press four prepared tiles on each side of the cake, pressing them gently till they stick. Place the chocolate flower, together with edible sugar drops, on top of the cake. Allow the cake to defrost for 3 hours in the refrigerator before serving.


1. The recipe of the cake can be found on Masterchef Australia official website. However, I made some changes using the recipe from Adrano Zumbo’s book. The major ones are the following:

a) in the book both roasted vanilla beans go to the almond crunch while in the Masterchef version one of it is added to chiffon cake;

b) the contestants of the show assembled the cake upside-down, using one tin. Setting the central part of the cake in a smaller tin first (as the book suggests) is quite helpful: it gives an opportunity to trim the edges before putting it in a bigger tin, thus, making the layers eventually look perfect.

 2. You will end up having some vanilla syrup and brown sugar crumble left (as Zumbo says, it’s just not practical to reduce the quantities as it may compromise the result). I would, however, recommend increasing the amount of chantilly cream, especially if you decide to trim the edges of all the seven layers that go inside the cake – you will have wider gaps to fill in this case.


  1. Oh my goodness - Loving your re-creations of A Zumbo's recipes. This looks stunning and I bet it tastes amazing!

    I am now tempted to get his book!

  2. hi! would it work to first freeze my chantilly layer, then add all the inner layers, and freeze it all together? I ask because I plan to make this cake, but half the size, and I cannot find a 9cm size pan (18cm/2) to make the half portion for the inner layers of the cake. Thank you!


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