This recipe has been intimidating me ever since I first received the book in the mail. Intricate layers, multiple steps, and a complex flavor profile were enough to keep me from making this cake. I was always able to find an excuse: I didn't have creme fraiche, there was no creme fraiche in the grocery store at the time, I didn't have enough time for all of the steps, I just plain did not want to make it. Each of these reasons were valid, but I knew I would eventually have to tackle this terrifying cake.
A few days ago, I was at Whole Foods and spotted an entire shelf full of creme fraiche. I knew what this meant. It was time to attempt the Marjolaine. I bought two containers of creme fraiche, which is similar to sour cream but much, much better. I had the rest of the ingredients at home, so I was ready to go. Just to forewarn you, this is going to be quite a long post.
Boy was I wrong about this cake! It was not difficult at all; in fact it was quite easy and left me with a lot of downtime to attend to other things. It is very impressive and also very tasty. It is the perfect finishing note to an extravagant dinner because of its beauty and its depth of flavor.
Adapted from Room for Dessert
3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted
3/4 cup whole almonds, toasted
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
8 egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup whole almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup sugar
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup creme fraiche
3/4 cup creme fraiche
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Cognac
Preheat oven to 350. Butter bottom and sides of a 12-by-18-inch baking pan. Fit a sheet of parchment paper into the bottom of the pan. Butter parchment and dust the inside of the pan with flour. Rub hazelnuts between hands to loosen and remove skins. Pulverize almonds and hazelnuts with sugar and cornstarch in a food processor. Whisk egg whites until frothy. Add pinch of salt and increase whisking speed, beating until egg whites form soft, glossy peaks. Sprinkle ground nut mixture over egg whites and fold nuts into egg whites. Smooth nut meringue onto baking sheet with spatula. Bake for 20-25 minutes until pale golden brown. Cool.
Lightly oil a baking sheet. Sprinkle sugar into a heavy saucepan in an even layer. Melt sugar over low heat, tilting pan to ensure it melts evenly. Continue cooking until sugar turns a light amber color and caramelizes. Remove from heat and immediately stir in nuts with a wooden spoon. Pour mixture onto oiled baking sheet in an even layer and allow to cool completely. Break up praline with your hands and finely chop with a large knife.
Heat creme fraiche in a saucepan until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat and add chocolate, stirring until it's completely melted. Set aside to cool.
Whip together creme fraiche, cream, sugar, and vanilla until mixture becomes glossy and begins to hold shape. Continue beating until stiff. Add 2/3 cup whipped creme fraiche mixture to chopped praline and stir together. Add Cognac to rest of creme fraiche mixture and whisk slightly.
With serrated knife, cut around edges of meringue to release it from pan. Place another sheet pan over it baking side up, and invert the meringue. Carefully peel away the parchment paper, holding down the meringue as you peel it so as not to break the meringue. Cut meringue into four rectangles, each about 4-by-12-inches. Cover a baking sheet with a piece of plastic wrap. Lay down one rectangle on the meringue. With an offset spatula, evenly spread 3/4 cup cooled chocolate ganache over it. Cover and refrigerate the remaining ganache. Add second piece of meringue and evenly spread all the Cognac cream over it. Cover that with the third piece of meringue. Wrap marjolaine in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Before serving, remove marjolaine and ganache from refrigerator. Trim rough edges with a long serrated knife. Gently reward ganache to a spreadable consistency, over warm water, and spread smoothly over top and side of cake. Serve in even slice with lightly whipped cream.