The last of the year is about to rush by, the sands of time seeming to disappear more rapidly than years past. I can hardly believe that the New Year is only around the corner. However ready or unprepared I may be, the time for 2015 has arrived.
There is truly an amazing feeling connected with the start of a New Year. Twelve new months; yours for the taking, to etch, to start and to accomplish… a clean slate. Personally the promise of a New Year gives me a great energy to wish and dream, to leap forward against all my fears. It gives the impulse to begin anew, to plan, set priorities and achievable goals – to create inspiration and vision boards.
A New Year though, does not bring about overnight change, a new person, a fresh perspective or outlook on life. Rather, it teaches us to put everything into perspective, our dreams, goals and desires. It spurs us to ponder what is really important, who we really want to be and what we really want out of life. Thoughts that often get lost in the process of day to day life and routine.
My mind is currently drifting between thoughts of resolutions and beginnings. I’m not typically one to make a resolution at the start of the year. I find them discouraging and negative…I don’t like the idea of making an unattainable, expectant and pressure filled promise that I cannot keep.
It seems that when a New Year rolls in, we all compile lists of the trivial things we wish we could change and alter about ourselves… in the hopes of becoming a better more evolved person. A negative aspiration that is often unachievable.
Instead of focusing on what is wrong in our lives, I believe we should focus on what we are doing right and embrace all the positive aspects of ourselves. If we truly want to better ourselves, we should not lose sight of how far we have come on our personal journeys.
So this year, I resolve not to make a resolution. I rather promise to praise and embrace myself each day for the person I am and for all that I have achieved in my journey of self-discovery thus far. Instead of resolutions spurred on by whim, I have set goals for myself …most of these unspoken, personal and immeasurable – a lifetime work of progress, incapable of being completed in twelve short months.
Salted Caramel Croquembouche Cake is the way I am choosing to begin the New Year – on a decadent, celebratory and positive note. The cake comprises of three dense and moist layers of salted caramel mud cake. The cake is smothered in a sweet honey buttercream and topped with an extravagant Croquembouche tower. The choux Croquembouche puffs are filled with a salted caramel crème patissier and glazed in sticky toffee syrup. The cake is then finally drenched in a salted caramel sauce before serving. So indulgent.
This Salted Caramel Croquembouche Cake is a cake that will be remembered long after it has disappeared from the kitchen counter. It is decadence, it is luxurious, it is a cake deserving of celebration. Make this cake for the holidays, make it for New Year’s or make it all for yourself – either way, it is utterly delicious.
- 300 g (10.7 oz.) butter, cubed
- 360 ml (12.6 fl. oz.) milk, at room temperature
- 400 g (14.4 oz.) white chocolate, chopped
- 260 g (9.3 oz.) brown sugar
- 2 tbsp. honey
- Seeds from a vanilla bean pod
- 1 tsp. vanilla essence
- 600 g (1.52 lb.) plain flour
- 3 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 4 eggs, room temperature
- 200 g (7 oz.) caster sugar
- 200 g (7.2 fl. oz.) water
- 4 tbsp. butter
- 200 g (7.2 fl. oz.) heavy cream
- 1 tbsp. sea salt
- 250 ml (9.2 fl. oz.) water
- 100 g (3.7 oz.) butter, cubed
- Pinch of sea salt
- 150 g (5.4 oz.) plain flour
- 4 eggs
- 300 ml (10.2 fl. oz.) milk
- 1 vanilla bean, split or scraped
- 3 egg yolks
- 120 g (4.2 oz.) caster sugar
- 3 tbsp. cornflour
- 2 tsp. plain flour
- 3 tbsp. salted caramel sauce
- Pinch of sea salt
- 240 g (8.5 oz.) butter
- 6 tbsp. honey
- 500 g (17.7 oz.) icing sugar
- Pinch of sea salt
- 450 g (15.9 oz.) caster sugar
- 75 ml (2.5 oz.) water
- 2 tbsp. glucose syrup
- Pre-heat an oven to 170 C / 350 F. Grease and line 3 x 18 cm (8 inch) cake tins.
- In a large saucepan, melt together the butter, milk, white chocolate, brown sugar, honey and vanilla bean seeds and essence over a low to medium heat – stirring the mixture continuously. Once combined, remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Once the liquid mixture has cooled, whisk in the eggs and combine well. In separate additions add the cooled liquid caramel mixture to the flour mixture and combine until uniform and smooth.
- Pour the cake batter into the prepared tins and bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. (The batter should roughly weigh 2 kg, so aim for 600 g in each tin).
- Leave cakes to cool in tins before turning out to a rack to cool. Once cooled, level any domed tops.
- To make the caramel, heat the sugar and water in a deep saucepan, stirring until all the sugar dissolves. Continue to heat the mixture, swirling the pan often but not stirring. Let it caramelise so the mixture is golden with a few darker areas around the edges of the pan.
- Add the butter, cream and salt then turn down the heat to low and stir until smooth. Cook the caramel for a further 5 minutes to help it thicken, then set aside until needed for the crème patissiere and assembly.
- Preheat the oven to 200 C (390 F). Bring water, butter and salt to a light boil over medium heat. Once at a boil, lower the heat and add flour, beating with a wooden spoon until the flour is combined and mixture has turned into a dough that pulls away from the sides of the saucepan.
- Immediately transfer the mixture into a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a beater attachment (or with electric beaters) beat the dough on medium speed to release steam and bring to a slightly warm temperature – roughly 5 minutes. Once the mixture is no longer hot to the touch, add the eggs one at a time and beat until the mixture is smooth, thick and glossy.
- Transfer the mixture to a piping bag and pipe 3 cm (1.2 inch) rounds onto baking paper lined trays (push down any peaked tops with your finger dipped in water). Bake the choux puffs for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180 C (350 F) and continue to bake for another 15 minutes until golden all over.
- Once the choux puffs are done, immediately pierce the bases with a skewer to let the steam escape and return to the oven, door kept slightly ajar, to dry out for 45 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack before filling.
- In a medium sized saucepan bring the milk and vanilla bean to a simmer.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the yolks, sugar and flours until you get a smooth paste. Once the milk is at a simmer remove the vanilla bean pod and whisk a tablespoon of the milk into the egg yolk mixture to loosen and heat, then pour the whole egg mixture into the saucepan with the milk and bring to a light boil, stirring constantly. Once the mixture has thickened, fold in the salted caramel and sea salt.
- Remove from the heat, pour into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Allow to cool at room temperature.
- Once the crème patissiere has cooled and thickened at room temperature, pipe into all the choux puffs.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and honey until smooth. Add the icing sugar and salt and continue to mix until the frosting comes together. Set aside for assembly.
- On a serving platter or cake stand, ice and layer the cakes with the honey buttercream. Set the iced cake to harden in the fridge for an hour.
- To make the toffee, heat the sugar, water and glucose over medium heat and bring to a light boil. Now, take the iced cake out of the fridge. Leave the toffee mixture to boil, without stirring until it turns a golden brown – roughly 15 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and quickly dip each choux puff into the toffee and then stack on-top of the cake in a circular pattern, building a tower. Lightly drizzle and spin the toffee over the tower to form strands of dripping sugar. If the caramel has melted down onto the cake, re-patch it with left over honey buttercream before returning to the fridge for an hour to set. Serve with drizzled salted caramel over the cake.