To flock or not to flock? That is the Heston

Oh dear. So I came up with a grand plan to be nice and make a cake for the other halves birthday.

The error happened when I set precedence last year and jumped on a train up north and hid behind a pickup truck in a car park trying to surprise the damn fool with it.

To be honest I can’t top that for effort, especially as italian meringue butter-cream was involved, which if you’ve never made it, it’s friggin’ awesome sh*t.

Earlier in the year I witnessed a very rare form of excitement from the ‘to-be-older’ about a cake and thought to myself, “Ok, that’s the one I need to make”. It is no less Channel 4 Heston’s Exploding Chocolate Gateau (which appears to be a reinvention of the original recipe in 2008 as seen here). A misleading title as it neither explodes or can be classified as a gateau (it’s more of mousse cake in fact) but I’ve been researching the net and it hasn’t exactly filled me with glee because apparently it tastes, well, ‘a bit pants’ (it’s a very british idiom). I bought the ingredients already, double quantities in fact, so I may be on a one-way track with two cakes poised for disappointment.

Coincidently, I am a bit scared of passion fruits after watching Prometheus as that engineer dude at the beginning guzzles down a space age version of one by the riverside only to decompose seconds later. I’m sure Heston would have figured out a way to stop it reacting with the human body, so it eased my mind somewhat.

At least it might look nice with the flocking. In this instance it is not act in which birds partake but instead involves sticking chocolate and vegetable oil into a spray paint gun to create a velvet like appearance. I’ve only ever seen it in super-expensive restaurants and patisseries but it never fails to impress me.

Like other fellow bloggers (1,2,3,4) and city flat owners, there is limited scope to why you would own air compressor capable of performing this effect, so likewise I have decided to abandoned the idea. That’s wraps my question, though it was not for trying. Now I just have to figure out what to do with the spray gun head I bought before realising that it needed to be attached to something. I did tell Amazon while filing the return form that I’d not really thought about the gravitas of purchasing compressors, so I’m hoping they’ll send me a refund and a conical hat.

Some of the pitfalls others having been facing are either finding a cake ring small enough, or sourcing the neutral popping candy. Obtaining the ingredients and the mould are obviously easier to track down in a big city, but I’d recommend ‘preparing to prepare’ a little. In hindsight, I probably would have opted for adjustable cake ring which at least has the potential to be reused for other recipes.

#1: Trial run using a 17cm (7″) Spring Form Tin

For the biscuit base I didn’t own a food processor (it’s certainly on order now!), but I have to say, if you want a cheap and effective way to grind anything to a pulp get a French Garlic Grater Plate.

With the spring form tin, I turned it upside down so that the biscuit base didn’t get caught in the little groove where the base floor sits. Even though it’s upside down, the clip still works so there’s no struggle to release it.

In my case, I had the clip loosened while making it, so the whole thing came out flatter than I wanted, ergo Heston’s Exploding Chocolate Torte was born. To overcompensate for my error I made a lop-sided circle out of an experiment with chocolate transfer sheets in order create height and distract you from the flatness.

For the flocking alterative, my solution was to dab cocoa powder. I brushed the surface with a little bit of vegetable oil as I didn’t
freeze it and then used a cheap make-up brush for dusting the cocoa. It’s important you keep this as dry as possible otherwise the cocoa will from clumps.

The ratio of base to filling in this recipe though is something that I’m not sure I agree with. It seems whatever mould you put this into you’ll get a weird split. I sort of already knew this from reading other posts, but you should always walk the line yourself before playing cake god. Really the trick is to never tell anyone about your dry runs so that you appear more awesome than we all really are. :)

#2: The one for the big day using a ~14cm (5 1/2″) cake ring

To use a funfair analogy, it seems that you ‘have to be this minimum height’ to go on the ride known as the Gateau and I was keen to reduce impeding disappoint by a factor of 20%. I therefore invested in a smaller cake ring than advised because I wanted this to be a mini-fortress of wow.

Firstly I found the base in dry run version to be a little underwhelming as it was mushy compared to the popping candy. I wanted it be like you couldn’t quite tell between the two so instead of baking the short bread and then pulverising, I did the reverse. Having a larger surface area meant that all of the biscuit was golden inside and out.

I decided to make the base as is but just weigh what I was putting in. Technically the weight of base with all ingredients accounted for is 233g (including the sugar which is about 28g), so you it’s easy to scale back based on total weight as you don’t lose any volume during the process of creating the base.

Recalculating this for a visually acceptable base for ~14cm (5 1/2″) ring I’d say your looking for 180g (roughly 76% of the original mix) for 1.5cm base. Generally you looking at 0.5cm of base for every quarter of the ingredients you use for this size cake ring.

In ‘gold standard’ terms, the weights of the separate ingredients would be as follows:

114g all butter shortbread biscuits
23g unsalted butter, melted
1.5 tbsp white caster sugar
21g neutral popping candy (NB if you decided to do the calcs with me you’ll notice this is wrong. That’s because I added 3g more in because I thought it could be more ‘pop-y’).

For ganache, I did not change the mixture as being in a small ring I knew it would be taller. I did spend some time whipping it a little to help it cool down in the hope it would be be a lighter more aerated without it becoming too mousse like. It seems to have done the trick.

One author noted that the volume of passion fruit pulp would have been useful to know. On this attempt I weighed it out to be 146g and the balance seemed to be perfect for me. Again some are definitely sweeter than others so it’s not an exact science but it might help as guideline.

For the finishing touches I decided to dress my plate with colulis because Co-op only sell them in packs of fours and I had so bloody many of them!

My recipe was as follows:

3 passion fruit
63g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
a little bit of water (25ml).

If you’ve put in too much water, don’t worry it will reduce down but it will just take longer. People say it should reduce down by half but there are much better indicators. It depends on how much you’re making but with such a small quantity like this you should be able to strike through it and see the bottom of the pan for second. It should also just lightly coat the spatula, have a jam like stickiness becoming almost translucent.

I also dressed the plate a little bit of custard (again because I have lots).

Cake decoration wise I cocoa powdered the sides as per the dry run but decided to use the cake ring to make a chocolate disc that sits a top the cake. It could have been a bit more flush but I was generally happy with the finished result.

Overall taste wise, I quite like the passion fruit and chocolate combo and it wasn’t cloying at all. The shortbread seemed much crisper breaking up first and then baking I think (A bit like how Heston recommends with making crumble topping). That said I’d say I’d fall into the ‘Not amazed’ catergory, the whole thing is just too dense.

N.B. The flower sadly died during the making of this post.

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