Finally.. my first challenge as a Daring Baker is completed! Ever since I started blogging, I've had the opportunity to try new desserts and learn new techniques, but this filbert gateau was at a whole other level. I actually didn't complete this until late July because I didn't really know where to start... praline paste? buttercream? the ever so delicate sponge?! Although there was a lot of recipe re-reading and not to mention, a whole day's worth and more dedicated to this gateau, it was totally worth it. The most frustrating part was trying to skin the hazelnuts, which was like a marathon spread over a couple days. Some of them were so stubborn that even after multiple toasts the skins still remained stuck on.
I started off with the praline brittle, thinking it would be easy.. haha. After patiently waiting 10, then 20 minutes for the sugar to caramelize and nothing happened, I spooned in some water (what was I thinking!). Rather than speeding up the process, there were random chunks of sugar everywhere. The only way this could be salvaged was by turning the 'brittle' into the sugar syrup that I flavoured with the Jamaican rum suggested by the recipe. For my second attempt, I cranked the heat up to medium and the sugar slowly melted into a beautiful caramel. This time, the sugar was ever so slightly burned, but it actually added a nice deep butterscotchy flavour.
The cake part was not as scary as I anticipated, but how could I not be worried. The most crucial part was done by hand, no KA could do the folding component for me. I tried to be as light handed as possible and repeated the 'down through the middle, scrap up from the bottom, twist and up' until everything was incorporated. For the buttercream, I only made 1/4 of it because I didn't want any leftover. I can't stand all frosting except for cream cheese, whipped cream and 7 minute icing. This on the other hand was suprisingly delicious! It didn't taste like a stick of butter, but was smooth, silky and melt in your mouth with the occasional crunch from the praline brittle. By mistake, I added double the amount sugar because I forgot that I was making 1/4 of the recipe instead of 1/2. I'm actually glad I screwed up on that because it still had the perfect amount of sweetness. Since there was so little frosting, there was barely any left for decorating so I had to compromise by piping dots on the bottom instead of continuing with the stars.
After all that work, I was a little hesitant to cut into it, but was tempted to taste it because I've never eaten a cake made with nuts before. Flavourwise, this has to be the best cake I've ever eaten. It was so nice to taste the hazelnuts, rum, buttercream and chocolate ganache all in one bite. The texture was a little coarse, but that was probably from underprocessing the nuts and because my mesh strainer didn't catch all the bits. For the bits that were leftover, I just topped it on my cake (I could not waste any hazelnuts, especially since I spent forever skinning them!) It might take a super special occassion for me to make this again, but the buttercream on the other hand.. I'm going to have to experiment with different flavours. Next time I'll definitely have to find already skinned hazelnuts!