French Fridays with Dorie · Just Dessert

FFwD – Caramel Topped Semolina Cake

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Years ago…a lot of them, actually, I had a new apartment back here in my home state of RI, and that year I hosted dinner for my mom’s birthday.  I remember I roasted a leg of lamb, and we probably had potatoes in some form with it…maybe Brussels sprouts too, and maybe some orange vegetable as well.  Or maybe there was salad.  I don’t remember those details.

I do, however, remember the dessert.

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It was, if I remember correctly, called a Bavarian Cream Cake, or a Bavarian Wheat Cake, and both my mother and I had seen it on an episode of Jacques Pepin’s cooking show on PBS.  Don’t remember the name of the series, but I know the recipe is in Jacques Pepin’s Table (1995), although I think the original version was published in an earlier book (I’m pretty sure I baked this before 1995).

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Anyway, the cake was actually made – oddly enough – with farina, more commonly known here as Cream of Wheat.  So it wasn’t a cake like the flour-egg-butter-sugar layer cakes I’d done before.  Rather intriguing.

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The main reason I wanted to make that particular cake, though, had nothing to do with the ingredients and everything to do with the decorating.  Jacques Pepin filled one parchment coronet with melted chocolate, and filled three more with melted and strained apricot jam colored red, green and one was left yellow.  He drew a simple line-drawing pitcher as a vase on the cake, and stems, and the outlines of flowers, and then he filled in this chocolate drawing with the different colors of jam. 

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The result – a beautiful stained-glass-window-like sketch of flowers in a makeshift vase.

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THAT is why I made the cake.  And while I don’t have a picture, I do remember that mine came out very nicely.

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And the memory of the cake itself – the creamy, unusual texture, and the lovely citrusy flavor (orange and lemon zests) – has remained with me.

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So.

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When I saw the name and description of this cake, my first reaction was “No way!”

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My second reaction, happily, was “Way!”

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While Dorie’s recipe is very different from Jacques’, the common denominator, the texture is very similar because of the Farina and the milk/cream in the recipes. 

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The recipe in Dorie’s book is a lot simpler and way less time-consuming than Jacques’ cream cake.  Just cook some cream of wheat, make a quick caramel, line the pan with the caramel, add raisins and eggs and vanilla to the cream of wheat mixture, pour onto the (now hardened) caramel, and bake until puffy and golden.

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Mine puffed up in spots, but not the entire thing.  The smell of vanilla as it baked was quite distracting.

Now, the directions say to run a knife around the edge of the pan and invert right away onto a plate.  And that’s no big deal for me normally.  But I had elected to use this heart-shaped cake pan (because I couldn’t find my 8” round pans in my nightmare of a pantry), and so I…well, I had issues upon inversion.  I admit I was kind of rushing, which I shouldn’t have done.  Anyway, when I flipped the pan and plate over, the pan slipped a bit and…well…here’s my cake.

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Yeah. 

Kind of a Caramel-Topped Rorschach Farina Blot. 

Not sure why there are those three puddles of caramel, but I kind of didn’t mind. 

Nothing wrong with four puddles of caramel.

So, not quite the pretty cake I’d hoped for, but delicious nonetheless.  Especially the very caramelly bits left around the edge of the pan.  Yum!

And mostly yum for me, because though we all tried it, I’m the only one who really, really liked the cake. 

I know it was a texture thing for Alex – and he ate half of his serving before regretfully informing me that he didn’t like it.  Julia ate more than he did, and for her I think it was okay because it was DESSERT!, but I don’t think it’s her favorite thing.  And Bill admitted yesterday that it really wasn’t his thing.

But that’s okay.

Sometimes it’s nice not to have to share!

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Now, things are a bit different at French Fridays with Dorie this month.  We voted on eight recipes last month, and the four recipes that received the most votes are November’s recipes.  The thing is, there’s no set order for these four recipes.  I’ve actually baked all four (all in one crazy day), and I decided to go with dessert first.  (A sensible plan, I believe, whether writing or dining.)

So I’m sure some of the members of FFwD also posted this dessert, but other members will have posts up about the other recipes.

It’s kind of potluck month of Fridays!

So go ahead over and check out all the links and see what’s been cooking in the other kitchens this week!

14 thoughts on “FFwD – Caramel Topped Semolina Cake

  1. I loved your post. Loved the story about the original cake (so wish you had an old picture), loved the photos of you making Dorie’s cake, and just laughed out loud about the flip! Sorry, but that has happened to me so many times…I’m glad I’m not alone. My cake actually came out of the pan this week…sheer luck! Yours looks great with the beautiful pools of caramel! I too got to eat the majority of the cake in my house…not such a bad thing. PS…glad you’re going to try the fried mush!

  2. I love it… especially the ‘Farina Blot’. 🙂 The exact same thing happened to me. Puffed up in spots and ended up falling out of the pan in pieces. Luckily, I salvaged enough for a slice and a photo. Not the best I’ve ever made, but it wasn’t the worst either.

  3. My reaction when I first read the recipe was the same as your first reaction because I never liked Cream of Wheat as a kid. It will be interesting to try this. I love that you put it in a heart pan. Things don’t have to look perfect to be delicious!

  4. The French Fridays with Dorie members have agreed not to print the recipe with their posts. You can find this and all the recipes in Dorie Greenspans fabulous book, Around My French Table. Its definitely worth owning your own copy!

  5. Wowza. I love the idea of doing it in a heart pan. And I love the story. I haven’t made this one yet so I don’t know how others will respond to it, but I’m really glad I read this first because I was thinking of making it for a dinner party this friday, and I think I’ll make a lemon tart instead now!

  6. The puddles of caramel seem like a bonus to me! I ended up making this twice, because the first time my caramel was cooked a little too long.

  7. Oh, I have the same heart-shaped pan:) I was really happy with the flan I made, even though I counted on the kids not to like it, so that I could have some more (no luck there, they loved it, too).
    We ate a lot of cream-of-wheat growing up and reading about this cake makes me look forward to baking it even more. Puddles of caramel? Heaven!
    I love your “about” page. And I love the events that let me encounter well-written blogs.
    Looking forward to reading more.

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