I just celebrated my birthday yesterday and once again, I decided to challenge myself and bake another special cake from the book "Extraordinary Cakes" by Karen Krasne. I chose this elegant and stunning cake called Versailles for my birthday cake because it contains a huge quantity of a particular flavor I'm obsessed with at the moment -- salted caramel -- YUM! Ever since I made salted caramel ice cream a few weeks ago I've been craving for it non-stop and this cake definitely satisfies any caramel lover's appetite as you can taste it in almost every layer of the cake -- the creamy layers that top each slice of almond joconde sponge is a salted caramel mousse wherein salted caramel, in its most basic, ooey gooey form is folded into a plain mousse which already creates a fabulous dessert on its own. Then during assembly, more salted caramel is drizzled on top of these mousse layers giving you a much more concentrated caramel flavor along with each bite of the cake. And if that's not caramel-ly enough for you, the rest of the salted caramel, which is about 3 or so cups, is spread generously all over this wonderful cake providing a sticky exterior for the crunchy ground pistachio-almond praline to cling on. For a touch of elegance, the book suggests to encircle the cake with French caramel macarons and a thin ribbon which I did but since I was unable to find caramel ones, I just settled for store-bought butterscotch which was just the right color for this cake as well.
It was my first time making a joconde sponge and I couldn't be more pleased with the outcome. It was surprisingly easy to make, much easier and less fragile than a genoise for sure, and it rose beautifully in the pan. I could have easily sliced 4 thin layers with the cake but only ended up using about 2 semi-thick layers as the pan I used, even though it was the size indicated by the author in her recipe, couldn't hold more than 2 joconde layers. I will definitely slice 3 layers more thinly next time so they could fit easily inside the pan. Karen also gave the option of adding finely chopped glazed orange peel to the joconde and I must say that it gave a wonderful hint of orange flavor to the cake which I really, really loved. I highly suggest using it if you have some on hand.
And since I loved the Salted Caramel Mousse so much I'm sharing the recipe here in this post :-)
First, the Salted Caramel:
(This makes a lot of caramel and not all will be used for the mousse so feel free to halve the recipe)
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup glucose or light corn syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons French sea salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1. Bring the cream almost to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Keep warm until ready to use.
2. Meanwhile, combine the glucose, sugar and salt in another saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally for approximately 15 minutes. The mixture should become light amber in color. Attach a candy thermometer and carefully mix in the butter and stir continuously until the thermometer reads 360 F. The caramel should continue to boil as you stir, and the color should darken a deep golden brown.
3. Very carefully pour the warm cream into the hot caramel and stir until smooth and completely combined. Be extremely careful when adding any liquid into the hot caramel as the caramel may splatter. If not using immediately, store all, well wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator until ready to use. To re-emulsify the caramel for the mousse recipe, just gently re-heat in a saucepan while stirring occasionally until pourable consistency.
Salted Caramel Mousse
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
6 large egg yolks
6 gelatin sheets
1 cup salted caramel, reheated until pourable but not hot
1. In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Hold in the refrigerator until ready to use.
2. Combine the sugar with 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Insert a candy thermometer and cook to 230 - 240 F, the soft ball stage.
3. While the sugar is cooking, place the egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip at medium-high speed (speed 8 for the KitchenAid) until thick. Carefully pour the hot sugar syrup into the whipping yolks in a continuous stream, being careful to avoid pouring the syrup directly in the moving whisk. Increase the mixer speed to high and whip until the mixture has cooled down and has tripled in volume, 7 to 10 minutes.
4. While the yolk mixture is whipping, soften the gelatin sheets in 6 cups cool water for 5 minutes. Squeeze out the excess water, then melt the gelatin in a saucepan over low heat until liquid. Pour the melted gelatin into the cooled egg mixture and whip until dissolved and fully blended. Remove the bowl from the mixer.
5. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the warmed, liquid Salted Caramel. Then fold in the whipped cream until fully combined. The recipe will yield 5 1/2 cups of mousse.