3.5 – 4 cups flour,
1 cup beer,
200g unsalted cold butter,
1 teaspoon baking powder,
The exact origin of this cake recipe is unknown. The first description of the recipe was mentioned in the book “Le Cuisinier françois” (1651) by Francois Pierre La Varenne. This book is the fundamental book of French cuisine. Later, the famous chef Marie-Antoine Careme (1784-1833), who served in Rothschild, George IV, Talleyrand, and worked for a while in St. Petersburg at the court of Alexander I, one of the founders of the new cooking time, had the nickname “Chef of Kings and King of Chefs” improved this recipe.
According to La Varenne, the cake was formerly called Gato de Mille-Feuilles (pie in a thousand pages), referring to the many layers of puff pastry. There are many ways of making this cake, but traditionally, Napoleon made it from puff pastry and custard cream with the cake layers alternating. I did not have puff pastry and cooking it in the hot conditions I live in is difficult, so I went the easy way out and made a dough using beer. I cooked this cake a lot when I was younger but I lost the recipe, I was so excited when I rediscovered it recently. I try not to eat cake a lot for obvious reasons but sometimes you just can’t resist a nice piece of juicy vanilla flavoured cake, especially if you have a good reason like I do, a friend’s birthday.
1. Cut the butter into small cubes.
2. Sift flour and baking powder into a large bowl, add the butter.
3. Rub the mixture together until it resembles breadcrumbs.
4. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture, pour the beer into the well. Mix well.
5. Roll the dough into a ball. Add a little extra flour if you need it. The dough should be soft and smooth but should not stick to your hands.
6. Divide dough into 8 pieces, form into balls, wrap the balls in plastic wrap and put in to the refrigerator for an hour or two. Meanwhile prepare the custard. (Or any other creamy filling you like, for example, condensed milk + butter, but I like custard)
7. When the dough is ready, start to roll the pastry layers. I’m rolling it out between two sheets of baking paper. Using a rolling pin to evenly distribute the dough.
8.Before you remove the top sheet of paper, press down a mold to outline the shape of your cake, I used a square plate. Carefully remove the top sheet of paper and cut the excess dough off with a knife. It is much easier to peel the paper off if the pastry is cold. Pierce the pastry several times with a fork so the dough does not bubble. Bake in a oven preheated to 200 degrees for 10-15 minutes until golden brown, be careful not to burn the pastry!
9. While the pastry is baking, prepare the other layers using the same process. When the pastry is ready remove it from the oven and put it immediately on a cooling try, cool. Do not try to remove the baking paper until it has fully cooled. Now bake the another 6 layers of the pastry, leaving the last layer for tomorrow, we will use that to crumble over the top of the cake.
10. You can start layering the cooked pastry with custard now. Use approximately 1-2 tablespoons of custard between each layer.
11. The last layer of pastry is not smeared with cream. Put the remaining custard in a container to cover the side and top of the cake tomorrow. Any pastry scraps should be saved to make crumble topping tomorrow, store them in a paper bag. Because of the terrible humidity in the Dominican Republic I’m going to bake the crumbs tomorrow so they are much more fresh and flavourful.
12. Wrap the cake in plastic wrap.
13. Put the wrapped cake into a container and weigh down slightly, set in a cool place (not the refrigerator as the cream will harden and will not be absorbed by the cake).
14. The morning of the party! Bake the last layer of pastry, if you like you can bake this pastry a little longer so the crumbs have a darker colour, I think it makes them taste better but it’s not for everyone. Let the pastry cool on a wire rack, break it into large chunks and grind in a blender.
15. Now the crumbs are ready. Smoother custard over the top and sides of cake. Smoothen it with a silicone spatula.
16. When the cake is evenly covered with custard, sprinkle with the crumb mixture on all sides and over the top, gently press the crumbs into the custard using the palm of you hand, be very gentle! Look how beautiful it is.
17. Voila! The cake is ready to celebrate a birthday! Cut it into pieces and serve. Because I used beer batter for the pastry it is quite flaky, the longer the cake is allowed to the sit the most saturated it will get, it will be much moister and tastier the longer you leave it. Do not rush this, let the cake sit as long as possible.
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