Daring Bakers: Filbert gateau with praline buttercream

Although I bake a lot (and not just small almond meringue things), I was finding I wasn't trying enough new things from my piles of cookbooks. So I joined the Daring Bakers. I'm sure many of you will have seen mention of them before, and a frequent commenter here (Y of lemonpi in Sydney) has often posted about her participation in the Daring Baker Challenges (and she has this time too!). Each month there's a new challenge which remains secret until the end of the month. Then, around the world, crazy bakers post pictures, text, recipes.

Embracing the first challenge I could participate in, I set about making it on the first weekend after the Daring Bakers were told what to make. Oh hell. A full gateau. I've made all sorts of fiddly things, but never a layered bloody gateau! And so it was time to learn.

A 'Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream' was the order of the month. In this case filbert refers to hazelnuts (a common synonym for some USAmericans, I believe), although technically a filbert isn't quite the same thing as the everyday hazelnut. And praline is nuts and hard caramel ground to a powder or paste.

The cake was not a simple affair, consisting of:

  • three layers of firm hazelnut genoise (a type of sponge)
  • each layer moistened with sugar syrup flavoured with rum
  • between each sponge layer was a layer of buttercream flavoured with praline and Cointreau and a layer of whipped cream
  • the external surfaces of the cake were coated with an apricot glaze
  • a chocolate ganache was then poured over the cake and smoothed to encase the entire cake
  • and finally, praline buttercream decoration with hazelnuts

And it took about nine hours to get it together. Thankfully, a lot of that was learning curve!

In each challenge there is a little latitude permitted for some elements. I halved the recipe, as I gain enough weight from my normal baking, and there are only so many people I can give cake to!

I've become a little sceptical about many of my American baking books in recent years, with many items coming out much too sweet for a non-American palate, so I decided to err on the side of caution in this case, omitting the buttercream from between the layers and instead just using it for the decoration. I mixed praline paste into the whipped cream, using this as the sole filling between the sponge layers. Funnily, the chocolate ganache was meant to be far from sweet, using chocolate with 70% cocoa solids. This looked like a disaster in richness to me, so I used a sweeter chocolate (about 60%). In fact, I think going sweeter would have worked even better.

The gateau came out pretty well for a first attempt at this sort of thing. My ganache wasn't particularly neat, my piped buttercream looks horrendous, and choosing only to use flavoured whipped cream between the sponge layers meant the cake needed to rest about 48 hours before the best blending of flavours was achieved (because barely sweetened cream can be pretty flat). It was a great learning experience. I wouldn't make this particular cake again, but wouldn't hesitate to try other gateaux.

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32 responses to “Daring Bakers: Filbert gateau with praline buttercream”

  1. John

    Very nice first challenge!!! Congratulations and welcome!!!

  2. Cindy

    Only so many people you can give cake to?! I can think of more than a dozen from last Saturday alone. :-P

    I was sure you must be an impressive all-round baker and decorator and this confirms it – I'm looking forward to seeing more of your non-almond-meringue-based creations here in the future.

  3. maybelles mom (feeding maybelle)

    congrats on your first challenge. looks like it did go well indeed.

  4. Manggy

    Hah! "Small almond meringue things!" That's too funny. I would never have thought this was your first time to make a (bloody) layered gateau, and not just because of how good it looks now. Do you think you would have instead placed the praline buttercream as the filling?

  5. Lucy

    I'm with Cindy, Duncan. Putting hand up for tasting duties…

    Good on you, for joining the Daring Bakers group.

    Anything with Cointreau and I am there.

  6. Cakelaw

    It certainly was a learning curve, but that's what's great about being a DB. Your cake looks terrific.

  7. Y

    Oh I didn't realise you had joined the Db-ers. Welcome! :) It probably took me just about as long to make my little cakes too – mind you, I did a lot of other stuff inbetween. I love that picture of the sliced cake.

  8. amelia

    Welcome to the Daring Bakers! Nice first challenge, your decorations looks pretty good to me! I was surprised to find the sweetness of the cake just right, and I didn't change a thing, but then I love dark dark chocolate, the darker the better =P

  9. Szkrabeka

    Looks absolutely fabolous! =))

  10. Vera

    Congratulations with your first completed challenge!
    The cake looks lovely!

  11. Thanh

    So that was why you couldn't tell me about the gateau. Great job on the cake. I'll try some if there's any left.

    I hate doing frosting stuff too. No matter how hard I try, I always manage to make a great tasting cake look terrible with the frosting. I always end up smearing it everywhere into a big mess.

    I've previously seen all the great things the Daring Bakers have made but I think it's still a bit out of my league. Maybe another year or two of baking and mastering the basic techniques before I attempt some of this stuff.

  12. Rosa

    Very beautiful! Great job despite the problems you met! I also came across the same difficulties…



  13. Foodie Froggy

    Your cake is wonderful.Bravo !

  14. Anh

    That is one beautiful cake. I haven't baked anything fabulous for ages. Ahh, I wish I had time for this!

  15. vida

    I could have helped you eat that whole cake if only you had given me a call… V x

  16. Thermomixer

    Looks great, guess we expect that it tasted superb. Do they need a tasting panel??
    Have you seen Loretta Sartori's book Patisserie ? It is FULL of gateaux.

  17. Greg

    My "Nursing Mothers Association of Australia" cookbook advises halving sugar content in any American recipe. Sound guidance for the most part, though would be troublesome in some confectionery ;)

  18. veron

    I have the same issue with American recipes being too sweet. I omitted the Praline paste in my buttercream and just the right sweetness was obtained. Your cake looks delicious!

  19. breadpitt

    did i just hear 70% cocoa solid chocolate!!!loved the bitterness of chocolate especially caraibee 70%…….!but personally i do prefer grand manier rather than Cointreau .in malaysia , there are also same issue that u mention, the american recipe were too rich for local taste bud more worst , people said the recipe aint working well, but i do think diffrent region have their own taste. chinese always
    complain western dessert too sweet, well ….i still saw them chewing caramel sesame nuts bar without any complain of too sweet with it, lol!!!!

  20. Rebecca

    Even though you say you did a horrible job with piping buttercream, I think your cake looks fantastic!

  21. Dana

    I'm curious as to the difference between a filbert and a hazelnut? I've always seen the words used interchangeably.

    I also joined to push my limits a little more and try new things. And I have to say, none of the things I've made with them so far come close to what I would have attempted on my own!

  22. elra

    This was my first challenge too. Yippy…, finally I found someone that also used whipped cream praline instead of butter cream. I am not really that fond of butter cream! For the ganache, I used 55%. It was perfect!
    I wish I could see you when you were in action doing all those piping for the cake decoration. A+ for your efforts.
    Btw, what happen to your photographs? I am sorry (please don't be up set), I just can't help it. Your photos are normally so good. This time is still pretty, it just not like Duncan.

  23. the gobbler

    Duncan-you are about to give Rose Levy Berembaum ( the cake Bible lady) a run for her money.

  24. Clumbsy Cookie

    Welcome to the gang! You did an amazing job on your first vhallenge!

  25. Joanna

    That is an adorable looking cake. So simple and yet so professionally done. Congrats on your first DB challenge :) Woot!

  26. Debyi

    I agree, we Americans like things sweet. It is definitely a curse. Your cake looks great!!!

  27. Amelita (Squishy)

    I think you did an amazing job. Looks so yummy. Gotta love chocolate and hazelnuts.



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