As many of you guessed, the dessert for our dinner party last Saturday was ever so kindly contributed by pâtisserie expert and enthusiast Ulrich, he-who-works-with-Pierre-Hermé. You see, Pierre Hermé is a perfectionist and it really shows in the simple beauty of his creations. Extreme and skillful care is taken in the preparation, but once in a while of course, something goes wrong. In that case the product cannot possibly be sold as is, and whoever in the staff is interested (and the quickest, I guess) can have it.
And this is how Ulrich was able to bring a large Aztec cake (more precisely, Pierre Hermé's cakes are called "entremets"). I will describe the Aztec cake for you, but before I do so, I feel I have to warn you to please take any action you deem appropriate to protect your keyboard from accidental saliva spillage. Ready? Here we go. The Aztec cake starts with a bottom layer of muesli biscuit, crunchy and tender at the same time, with teeny tiny bits of dried fruits and nuts. Then come several intermixed layers of flourless chocolate cake, dense and moist ; orange compote with balsamic vinegar, zesty and aromatic ; and chocolate mousse with specks of fleur de sel, mellow and soft with the subtle shadow of salt. These layers are topped by a final thin layer of macaron-like almond meringue. All of this is wrapped in a shawl of glossy frosting, of a deep dark chocolate color, luscious and velvety. The final touch of beauty on this cake is a disk of caramel, delicate and thin, brushed with a smooth and shiny sugar coating, the color of copper with specks of gold, deposited on four small dice of ganache, and seemingly floating just a few millimeters above the cake, like a nimbus.
I have explained how fragile that disk of caramel is, and it should be considered a mighty good thing, as this was the flaw which led that Aztec cake to our table : the disk had gotten perforated in a couple of places, and some of the copper and gold coating had spilled out onto the chocolate frosting. Needless to say, this did not alter the taste of the cake in any way. I cautiously cut the cake in eight slices (and generous ones at that, the 6 to 8 size really serves eight people), shattering the caramel disk in the process. I'm thinking maybe I was to remove the disk before slicing, as this made the top of the cake look sort of messy, all colliding caramel shards and collapsed spikes, but in a graphically interesting way that we copiously photographed.
As for the eating, well, as the description may have hinted, it was quite an experience. Pierre Hermé really has a way with flavors and textures, it's humbling and exhilarating at the same time. I think I will make it a point to get a taste of his creations more often.
For research purposes, of course.
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