Most of the offerings at Flour are decidedly American: chocolate chip cookies, banana breads, puddings, and muffins. But when I wrote the opening menu for Flour I knew I wanted to include this very French cake. I still have the notebook I used to doodle in when dreaming up ideas for Flour and a detailed sketch of this cake is one of the first items in the book. I love how dramatic it looks and how well all of the flavors and textures go together.
Dacquoise refers to both the baked meringue layers within the cake and the composed cake itself. First you make a light meringue and quickly and gently fold in hazelnut and almond flour. Then you pipe three long rectangles of the meringue onto a baking sheet and bake them slowly in a low oven overnight, until they dry out and get crispy. A creamy espresso buttercream that tastes like soft coffee ice cream and a chocolate ganache filling go in between. It’s not a difficult cake to make, but with all of the component parts it is best to read the recipe start to finish so that you can organize your day. Each component can be made in advance, which makes the final assembly of the cake much easier.
- 1/2 cup (70 grams) blanched raw hazelnuts (plus 1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, for garnish)
- 1/2 cup (80 grams) blanched raw almonds plus 3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted, for garnish
- 1 1/3 cups (160 grams) confectioners’ sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 egg whites
- 1/3 cup (70 grams) granulated sugar
- Espresso Buttercream (recipe follows)
- Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache (recipe follows)
Heat the oven to 225 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Liberally spray or butter the parchment.
Grind the 1/2 cup hazelnuts in a food processor until powdery and fine; do not grind into a paste. Remove and set aside in a medium bowl. Repeat with the 1/2 cup of almonds and then add the ground almonds to the ground hazelnuts in the bowl. Sift the confectioners sugar and add it to the ground nuts. Add the salt and stir with a rubber spatula until all ingredients are well mixed.
To make the meringue, in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or using an electric hand mixer beat the egg whites on medium speed until they hold a soft peak, 3 to 4 minutes. The whites will start to froth and bubble and eventually the yellowy viscous part of the whites will disappear. Keep whipping until you can see the tines of your whip or whisk leaving a slight trail in the whites. Test for soft peak stage by stopping the mixer and removing the whisk from the whites and lifting it up; the whites should peak and droop.
Add the granulated sugar to the egg whites in three increments with the mixer on medium speed, mixing for 30 seconds between additions. After all the sugar is added, turn the speed to high for about 15 seconds. The meringue should be slightly glossy and white and somewhat stiff. Scrape the meringue out into a large bowl.
Sprinkle the nut-sugar mixture on top of the meringue. Working quickly and gently, use a rubber spatula to fold the nuts into the meringue. Cut down the middle of the bowl with the spatula, scrape the bottom of the bowl as you sweep the spatula up the side, and then rotate the bowl a quarter turn. Cut down the middle of the bowl again and repeat until all of the nuts are folded in. About every two rotations scrape the sides of the bowl to catch any loose nuts. The final consistency will be soupy, gloupy, and pudding-y.
Fit a piping bag with a 1/2-inch round tip and fill it with meringue, being careful not to overfill the bag. Pipe three rectangles of meringue onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, each about 10 inches long and 3 inches wide. (All three rectangles will fit on a standard half-sheet, which is 13×18 inches, but if you have smaller baking sheets you will need to use two.) There should be about 2 inches in between each rectangle as the dacquoise will expand in the oven. Bake for 3 hours then turn off the oven and let the dacquoise remain in the oven (yes, it’s off!) for at least 6 hours and up to 12 hours.
Make the Chocolate Ganache and let it sit overnight in an airtight container. (Room temperature ganache is perfect for piping.)
The following day, remove the dacquoise from the oven and peel off the parchment paper. Use a small paring knife or a small serrated knife to trim the rectangles so they are all about the same size. The dacquoise is fairly delicate at this point and if you’re not careful it could shatter into pieces. The best way to avoid this is to trim the dacquoise by shaving off little pieces bit by bit until you get the rectangles all roughly about the same size. If a rectangle shatters as you are trimming it, don’t fret. This rectangle can be your middle layer. If two or more rectangles shatter, again don’t fret. You can piece these all together as you are assembling the cake. It’s not quite as neat but it’s not difficult and the final product will be the same.
Cut a piece of cardboard the size of the dacquoise rectangles and place one dacquoise rectangle on the cardboard. Fill a piping bag outfitted with a 1/2-inch round tip with about half of the ganache, and pipe a layer of ganache about 1/2 inch thick on top of the dacquoise. Gently press a second dacquoise rectangle directly on top of the ganache layer and press slightly to adhere the dacquoise to the ganache. Fill the piping bag with the espresso buttercream and pipe a layer of buttercream about 1/2 inch thick on top of the second dacquoise layer.
Top the buttercream with the last dacquoise rectangle, placing it upside down on the buttercream so the flat side is on top. Press slightly to adhere this last rectangle to the buttercream. Use a small offset spatula to fill and spread the remaining buttercream into the gaps between the layers and to spread a very thin layer all over the dacquoise. Do your best to make the entire cake as smooth as you can—you will need to use a fair amount of buttercream to fill in all of the gaps.
Place the entire cake in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to chill all the layers. (At this point you may store the assembled cake for up to 2 days, well wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator, or up to 2 weeks well wrapped in plastic in the freezer. If frozen, defrost overnight in the refrigerator when ready to serve.)
When ready to serve, melt the remaining half of the ganache in the microwave on low for 30 to 45 seconds or in a small bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Place the cake on a cooling rack placed over a baking sheet to catch the drips and pour the ganache over the entire dacquoise so it covers the top and drips down the side. Level off the ganache on the top of the cake with a small offset spatula. Spread the ganache that drips down the side evenly along the side so that the sides of the cake are covered with ganache. Some of the ganache may mix into the buttercream—this is okay because you are going to be covering the sides entirely with sliced almonds. Press the toasted sliced almonds into the sides of the cake, covering the sides completely. (It helps to tilt the cake with one hand and press the almonds with your other hand.) Place the cake on a serving platter and press the hazelnuts along the edge of the top of the cake for decoration. Slice and serve. The finished cake may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Makes about 3 cups (enough to fill and frost a 10-inch dacquoise)
- 3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 3 sticks (24 tablespoons; 338 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder (or 2 tablespoons instant coffee powder or 1/4 cup brewed espresso, cooled)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan and gently stir to combine. Place the pan over high heat and cook to the soft ball stage (238 degrees on a candy thermometer), 3 to 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or with an electric hand mixer, whisk the eggs and yolk together on medium speed until pale and light, 3 to 4 minutes. Once the sugar reaches temperature, carefully drizzle the syrup down the side of the mixing bowl with the mixer still on medium speed. Once the syrup is added, whip for 6 to 7 minutes until the mixture turns light and fluffy and pale colored and is cool to the touch. Add the butter in pieces and continue to whip for 4 to 5 minutes. The mixture may break and curdle but don’t worry! It will all come together after a few minutes of whipping.
Add the espresso powder (or coffee powder or brewed espresso) and salt. Whip until completely combined. The buttercream may be made in advance and stored in refrigerator in airtight container for up to 5 days. Remove it from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature, then use a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment to beat the buttercream back into a creamy state before using.
Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache
Makes about 4 cups ganache (enough to fill and glaze a 10-inch dacquoise)
- 16 ounces (454 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
- 2 cups (480 grams) heavy cream
Chop the chocolate and place in a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it is scalded, i.e., just before it comes to a boil and small bubbles collect along the sides of the pan. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let it sit for about 30 seconds. Slowly whisk the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. The ganache may be made in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Pull it out and let it come to room temperature 1 day before using it for the dacquoise.
Recipe reprinted courtesy of Chronicle Books.