This week I decided to make the gateau moka aux amandes from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible. The recipe is in the Special Cakes section of the book which contains complicated recipes look “very impressive”. There is no picture of the gateau in the book, not even a sketch, but Mary assures her readers that the cake looks spectacular when finished, covered in toasted almonds and piped rosettes of crème au beurre moka (coffee butter cream).
My imagination began to run away with me, and I saw myself posting pictures of a dainty gateau that wouldn’t look out of place on Margot Leadbetter’s hostess trolley (and would, no doubt, have been preceded by prawn cocktail and duck a l’orange served with Chianti from a basket). I should have learned from my experience with the Battenberg that there’s no point giving your imagination free rein when tackling tricky recipes. Here is my finished gateau; not dainty and no rosettes.
The cake bit of the recipe was fairly straightforward; 3 eggs whisked together with 100g caster sugar, followed by 75g of flour which has to be folded into the mixture with a metal spoon. I did accidentally add 50 extra grams of sugar and had to scoop it out with a teaspoon without putting any of the eggy bits back into the sugar bag but, apart from that, the sponge was quite easy to make. I gave the eggs and sugar five minutes in the KitchenAid at level 6 with the whisk attachment, very carefully folded in the flour, and got the mixture into the oven. It was cooked in the thirty minutes (as the recipe said it would be). It did come out of the oven looking a bit pale and wrinkly, but when it was covered in toasted almonds and dainty butter cream rosettes so that wouldn’t matter.
The complicated part of the recipe was making the coffee butter cream. Instead of simply mixing icing sugar and butter, the method required dissolving caster sugar in water, bringing it to the boil, boiling it for a couple of minutes until it reached 107 degrees and then whisking the syrup into some eggs yolks. This mixture is then added to beaten butter and flavoured with coffee essence.
I was very organised and broke up my egg yolks before I started heating the sugar and water. I turned on the heat and carefully watched the sugar thermometer as the temperature began to rise. As well as having degree marks up the side, my thermometer is also marked with different stages of sugar boiling. 107 degrees is marked “thread”. When the mixture hit the thread mark I rushed it across the kitchen to my eggs and started whisking. Half of it solidified on the whisk.
Perhaps, if I was a bit more of a perfectionist and a little less lazy, I would have started again, but some of the syrup had made it into the eggs and I couldn’t face scraping all the sugar off the whisk. I shoved it into the dishwasher and forgot about it.
I added the egg yolk and syrup mixture to creamed butter. I hadn’t been able to find any coffee essence in Tesco, so I used two-thirds of a cup of really strong espresso for flavour and it tasted fine.
To finish the cake, I sliced it in half and sandwiched it back together with the butter cream, covered the cake with the rest of it, and then covered the top and sides with toasted almonds. I didn’t have enough cream for the rosettes. Perhaps I’d been a bit too generous in covering the cake, but it probably had more to do with the sugar that was still coating my whisk which was still sitting in the dishwasher.
I’m afraid that no one was very impressed with this cake. My husband didn’t like the texture of the almonds, and I didn’t like the butter cream. My son said it was disgusting – give it to me straight why don’t you Matthew?
I did make mistakes in making this cake. If I made it again (and it is a big if), I would work more quickly with the sugar syrup so that it didn’t have time to solidify, and I would probably try to get hold of some coffee essence, although the cream did have a decent coffee flavour. On a brighter note, my whisk sparkled as it came out of the dishwasher. Not a drop of sugar syrup in sight.