Alphabakes, apricot souffle cake recipe, apricot-Grand Marnier dessert sauce, baking, Basic to Beautiful Cakes, dried apricot marmalade, dried apricot puree, dried apricot souffle, fruit desserts, gluten-free apricot souffle cake, gluten-free baking, gluten-free souffle, No Waste Food Challenge, Random Recipes, Roland Mesnier, Tea Time Treats
We reached the end of the alphabet in last month’s Alphabakes challenge, an event organized and alternately hosted by Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline of Caroline Makes. This month, to start off the new season of Alphabakes, Ros and Caroline have chosen not to randomly choose a letter as they usually do, but to actually begin with the letter ‘A.’
However, it is still a unique (and random) challenge, because they are teaming up with Dom of Belleau Kitchen for a joint Random Recipes and Alphabakes challenge. The idea was to randomly select a cookbook, as we typically do for Random Recipes, and then randomly choose one of the recipes from the ‘A’ section of the index to make.
The book I selected was Roland Mesnier’s Basic to Beautiful Cakes. Although I only have two cookbooks written by him, I somehow ended up picking both of them for Random Recipes within just a few months of each other, which convinces me more than ever that the law of probability is something that, though correct in theory, rarely comes to pass in practice.
To prove the point, I have nine Williams-Sonoma cookbooks in my collection, so according to probability I should be most likely to pick one of them. Yet I have not picked a single one of them so far. Hmm.
It was the recipe for apricot soufflé cake that I pointed at when I jabbed a finger into the ‘A’ section of the index, and I was very happy with the choice. It is an unusual cake, which Chef Mesnier discovered by accident: a soufflé made with dried apricot puree that will hold its shape like an ordinary cake after it has collapsed and cooled.
The benefit of this soufflé-style cake is that the recipe does not include any flour, so it is suitable for those with gluten intolerance. But it is also a delicate, elegant cake with a strong flavour of apricots that makes a pleasing dessert for anyone who is looking for a light fruit dessert.
The taste of apricot in this cake really is quite amazing. Using dried fruit instead of fresh to make the puree for the soufflé base provides a much more intense flavour. This is reinforced further by a simple sauce made by diluting apricot preserves with a little water and Grand Marnier.
The original recipe called for using plain apricot jam in the sauce, but as I happened to have a couple jars of dried apricot-orange marmalade in my very crowded cupboard (it’s one of the recipes I’ve been testing for my cookbook), this seemed like a good opportunity to use some of it up. And as the orange in the marmalade would tie in nicely with the Grand Marnier, it made perfect sense.
I’m so glad that I picked this recipe. In the first place, it’s just the right sort of recipe for early spring: airy, refreshing, and daintily pretty. And secondly, the technique opens a range of possibility for future experiments. What about a dried cranberry soufflé cake for Christmas? Or a prune one with brandy sauce? Or how about a strawberry one with whipped cream for the summer . . . why, we’ve only just begun.
Besides Random Recipes and Alphabakes, I’m also submitting this cake to Tea Time Treats, which is co-hosted by Karen of Lavender and Lovage and Jane of The Hedgecombers. Karen is hosting this month, and the theme is Jams, Curds, and Preserves.
And last of all, I’m submitting it to this month’s No Waste Food Challenge, which is led by Elizabeth of Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary and hosted this month by Ness of Jibber Jabber UK. For not only did this recipe help me use up some of the surplus of preserves I’ve been making recently, it also finally finished off the bottle of Grand Marnier that I bought over Christmas to make truffled prunes!
Note: If you don’t serve this cake with the crème fraîche, it will not only be gluten-free, but dairy-free as well. However, if you don’t have to worry about food allergies, please do include it. The acidity of the crème beautifully complements the sweet, fruity flavours of the cake and sauce.
Adapted from Rolnand Mesnier’s Basic to Beautiful Cakes
Ingredients:For the cake: 1 lb. dried apricots ½ cup granulated sugar Zest and juice of 1 lemon 5 egg whites, at room temperature For the apricot-Grand Marnier sauce: 1 cup apricot marmalade ½ cup water 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier 1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in a little cold water Crème fraîche, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter a 9-inch ceramic soufflé dish and coat heavily with granulated sugar.
- Put the apricots in a medium saucepan and add enough water to cover them.
- Place the pan over the heat and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat, cover the pot, and simmer until the apricots are soft enough to mash, about 35 minutes.
- Drain off the liquid and transfer the apricots to a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth.
- Measure out 1 ½ cups of the puree and place it in a large bowl. Reserve any extra puree for another use. (It’s wonderful on toast.)
- Add ¼ cup of the granulated sugar, the lemon juice, and the zest to the puree in the bowl.
- Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on high speed until soft peaks are beginning to form, and then gradually beat in the remaining ¼ cup of sugar. Continue to whip until stiff peaks form.
- Fold half of the meringue into the apricot mixture to lighten it. Then gently fold in the remaining meringue and immediately pour the mixture into the prepared soufflé dish.
- Smooth the top of the soufflé with a spatula and place in the oven.
- Bake until firm and dark gold on top, about 30 minutes. Don’t open the door while the soufflé is baking. You can test it after 25 minutes, but don’t open the oven until then.
- Transfer to a wire rack and let cool until completely collapsed (sounds odd, I know), 20 to 30 minutes.
- To make the sauce, combine the marmalade, water, and Grand Marnier in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Whisk in the paste of cornstarch and water and bring back up to a boil. Cook until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.
- Pour into a bowl and allow to cool.
- Turn the soufflé out onto a serving dish that has been dusted with a little powdered sugar, which will help to prevent the cake from sticking to the platter.
- Cut into slices and serve with the sauce and a dollop of crème fraîche.
Yield: 10 servings