Saturday, May 21, 2011

Passion Fruit Cream Cake . . .

One of the most pungently tasty items I've learned to make in the last year or two, hands down, is fruit curd. Fruit curd is a rich substance, cooked on the stove with egg yolks and butter, and can be used in much the same ways you'd use a really good jam. We make it now and then in pastry classes at school, and it's often a predictable citrus flavor--lemon, lime, or orange.

But last week, browsing through cookbooks at home, I found a recipe for a simple genoise layer cake that included a passion-fruit curd filling, with the curd being made from frozen passion fruit puree. Serendipitously, I happened to have a package of passion fruit pulp in my freezer, and it was getting antsy to be used. Frozen fruit pulp, which I've sung the praises of before, can be remarkably inexpensive. It's not to be confused with the shockingly costly, concentrated fruit purees that professional pastry chefs buy in quantity to have on hand in their enormous freezers. Those purees are of exceptional quality, no doubt about it, but they're another animal altogether. For those of us with no access to wholesale prices on those sorts of goods, we'd easily have to pay $15 to $20 for a 1-kilo container.Yeah, I know. Not bloody likely, right?

The type of fruit pulp that I'm talking about is often found in Hispanic food markets, but it can increasingly be found in mainstream grocery stores, gourmet markets, and even health food stores. Brace yourself for the price I paid for one package of this gorgeous, golden, passion fruit pulp: $2.05. That's right. Two bucks and minimal change. Unbelievable, isn't it? You've gotta get some. Granted, it's not high-brow, but it's still pretty darn good.

Besides loving the pulp itself, which comes in several flavors--some of them quite exotic to a Midwestern girl like me (eg., lulo, mamey, soursop)--I love the flat plastic bags in which this stuff is packaged. You can lay lots of these in your freezer and they'll take up almost no space at all. It's the best thing since sliced bread (or maybe I should say sliced fruit).

About this recipe . . . 

I have to tell you at the outset that my favorite thing about this recipe was the curd and, given what I just said above, that's surely not a surprise. But, the fact is, I am not a huge fan of genoise in general. In terms of flavor, it's an eggy cake--one of the classic "foam" cakes similar to a basic sponge--that certainly has its place in the pastry pantheon, but I am not sure it complements this curd in the very best way. And I have always been hypersensitive to anything that's overtly eggy tasting. 'Course, that's just me.

Were I to make this particular cake again, I think I'd use only one layer of the genoise and split it in half horizontally, rather than using two thick layers, which seemed to be overkill. I might also consider brushing the layers with a simple sugar syrup to combat any latent egginess. But you, fellow bakers, should follow your heart. Perhaps you adore genoise? Then by all means use both full layers. In any event, I can strongly endorse this recipe for the passion fruit curd alone. And, who doesn't love whipped cream? We all love whipped cream, don't we? Of course we do. So use that, too.

This dessert hails from the pleasing little book, Luscious Creamy Desserts, by Lori Longbotham. The only change I made to this formula was to add some powdered sugar to the whipping cream, and to reword the instructions, reflecting exactly what I did.

Passion Fruit Cream Cake
(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Ingredients for the fruit curd:
1/2 cup butter, unsalted
yolks from 5 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup frozen passion fruit pulp/puree, thawed
1 pinch of salt
2 tsp. fresh lime juice

To make the curd:
 Place a fine mesh strainer over a medium-size glass bowl. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a heavy, medium-sized, saucepan over a medium-low flame. Take the pan off the heat and, whisking constantly, pour in the sugar, fruit pulp/puree, yolks, and salt. Put the pan back on the stove over medium heat. Begin by whisking frequently, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly for the last few minutes as the mixture thickens. It should seem thicker than gravy but still be easily pourable.

Take the pan off the stove and immediately pour the curd into the strainer over the bowl, encouraging it through with a spoon or flexible spatula.

Whisk in the lime juice. Cool to room temperature. Cover the bowl securely with plastic wrap placed directly on the surface of the curd, to help prevent a skin from forming as it cools. Refrigerate the curd for about 2 hours, until completely chilled.

Ingredients for the cake layers:
1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
6 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 unsalted butter, melted

To make the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of two 8" round cake pans. Cut a parchment paper circle to fit onto the bottom of each pan.

Sift the flour three times onto a sheet of parchment or wax paper.

Beat the eggs and sugar in the large bowl of your mixer, using the paddle attachment, for up to 10 minutes, until the volume has increased at least three times. The mixture should look thick, pale yellow, and bubbly.

Take the bowl off of the mixer. Sprinkle in half of the flour, folding it in with a hand-whisk just until combined; repeat with the rest of the flour.

Drizzle in the melted butter and whisk only until combined.

 Divide the batter equally between the prepared cake pans.

Bake the layers for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cakes begin to pull away slightly from the sides of the pan. Cool the layers for 10 minutes before removing them from the pans. Peel off the parchment circles and let the layers cool completely before assembling the cake.

For the whipped cream filling:
1 cup whipping cream, very cold
1/2 sifted confectioners' sugar

Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Sprinkle in the confectioners' sugar and whip until stiffer peaks begin to form. Keep the whipped cream cold until you're ready to spread it on the cake.

To assemble the cake:
Place one cake layer on your serving plate. Spread about a cup of the curd evenly atop that.

Spread a thick layer of the sweetened whipped cream over that.

Sandwich the other cake layer on top. Using a fine mesh sieve, sprinkle another tablespoon or two of confectioners' sugar over the filled cake.

Keep the cake refrigerated if you won't be serving it right away.

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