Lesson 18: Sponge Bob Square Pants likes Sponge Cakes


This morning I finally recognised that as I move further into my pastry training when I look at a list of ingredients I can usually surmise the likely techniques and stages for orchestrating the realisation of the final cake.


Mind you, you could say I have a distinct advantage in this category as we have repeated and reinterpreted the same basic techniques a multitude of times!


A chocolate-pistachio log cake sounds interesting really…


Then looking at the ingredients I know we are going to blanchir the yolks and make a ribbon like mixture, whisk the whites until stiff, then lightly fold in the flour and butter before making our biscuit sponge.


We will imbibe it with syrup, fill it with ganache and roll it!




We began with our special guest, our friendly kitchen assistant, who always knows how to make us smile, and who secretly controls everything. We all love it if she tastes our cakes! And lately we have been leaving her entire cakes!



Lesson 18: Les Biscuits ßà ‘Biscuit’ Sponges

  • Bûche Pistache-Chocolat – Chocolate Pistachio Log Cake – Layers of Pistachio Biscuit Sponge imbibed with syrup, with layers of chocolate ganache, finished with a chocolate glaze, pistachios and chocolate butter cream


  • Pain de Genes – Genoa Cake – Almond Sponge covered with flaked almonds



Well boy was I wrong about some of the method – it will be a layer log rather than a rolled one and boy was I right about the taste – the pistachio sponge was incredible!


For the first time in a long time I was really excited after our degustation of the so called scraps! They were amazing – firstly they actually had loads of flavour, the pistachio paste had proven worth every ounce, they weren’t overly sweet, and the texture and moisture were just right.


So my interest was sparked but how would it eventuate… Wait and see!


Getting back to the beginning, we started by making the pistachio ‘biscuit’ sponge.


We learnt an important principle today, that adding a liquid ingredient little by little to a dense ingredient and whisking it vigorously produces the smoothest mixture.


The chef whisked the eggs and yolks into the intensely green pistachio paste until it was silky smooth, then the melted butter, before the ground almonds and icing sugar. Then the mountain of extremely stiff and fluffy egg whites was added before the final folding in of the flour whilst turning the bowl.

The moulds were incorrectly lined with paper, we later learn the old shirt was required instead – I mean the literal translation of chemise – so buttered and dusted with flour.


They are then baked in the oven before being removed whilst still hot from the moulds and expertly sliced with the “serrated knife of lost fingers” – Literally it is the sharpest blade in our tool kit so we all have to be careful.

Using metal bars we slice the stills steaming cake into three layers.


However, if we were to be clumsy, like he expects some of us to be, “du le expression ‘Oh lo lo lo lo lo’ – Oh no!“, then we were simple to reconstruct them like nothing ever went wrong! (the faces say it all!)

Whilst it was baking we made our imbibing syrup and chocolate ganache. The ganache was mixed with small circles to ensure a proper emulsification of the two fats.


Now began the construction project for which you need an architectural eye and engineering degree with honours in the fluid dynamics of chocolate!


There were twelve stages to this mammoth project – Ganache, Sponge, Imbibe, Press down, Ganache, Sponge, Imbibe, Press down, Ganache, Sponge, Imbibe, Press Down!

It is then placed in the freezer before being removed from the mould and allowed to come up to room temperature. This is so as to prevent the chocolate glaze from setting too quickly as it is poured over the log.


For this stage in particular the set-up, or mise en place, is essential even for such a short process.


It is all over with one smooth movement of the ladle of glazing chocolate. Then comes the famous “takatakataka” or tapping of the rack to remove the excess glaze and cut off the edges with a large chefs knife before it sets.

Then after letting it set comes the decoration with a chocolate ganache butter cream. As the chef politely pointed out “it doesn’t taste great, it is basically just butter, but that doesn’t matter it is just for decoration”.


Whilst making all these layers he also made the Genoa Cakes…



Well the final products, as usual, did look quite sensational and the designs were beautiful.











Practical – Le Bûche Pistache-Chocolat


Getting into practical today I was hot and tired having run to class, despite being early, and having had only 4 and a half hours sleep.


This was not exactly ideal preparation for our time sensitive construction job.


Given the more intricate nature of the recipe, for the first time I had rewritten my notes including a step wise guide and defined sections with my mise en plus, meaning my preparation and setup clearly set out.


Let us just say that I had this in the so called cake bag wrapped up and ready for sale.


I was cool calm and collected and moving a little slower than normal to take in the atmosphere and process.


I was as Chef Walter says “Zen”.


I was moving through the recipe well, lining, mixing, whipping, ganaching…

… baking, imbibing, constructing…

Moving well until I hit the piping and presentation stage!


Here are some of the crew hard at work on their construction efforts!

The chef was very happy with my chocolate glaçage – mind you I was pretty happy too!

The chef was happy with my piping; I think he was just trying to be nice!

Piping is something that takes slot of experience, a steady hand, a good eye, patience, a piping bag with tip, but most importantly the right texture and temperature of your medium.

I know now more than ever that I have a really long way to go with my training and technique and I need a lot more practice!


Here are the creations of two of my friends – if all three were sitting in a shop window, I think they would sell quite well!

This just so happened to be my last practical with my favourite chef – Chef Daniel Walter – I will miss his encouraging presence! He was such a great teacher!


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