Pierre Hermé’s Aztec Entremets

Pierre Hermé's Aztec Entremets

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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  • Hande

    THIS must be heaven….

  • Pierre Hermé is truly a genius. I think it’s not only his outlandish and surprising combinations that are amazing, but his most simple ones too: We didn’t have the time or space to taste more than a bite or two, but I had the most divine lemon tart there this past summer.

  • The description of this brought tears to my eyes. Woe is me that I am 16 hours and at least $800 from Paris!

  • I wonder if Ulrich is in the market for a new, very appreciative friend…!

    Clotilde, I would have been jumping up and down and clapping my hands, watching you cut this cake. How exciting!

  • Eric

    Reading your blog reminds me of two things… 1) I must continue my quest to find excellent food wherever it may be, and 2) I really need to invest in a plastic keyboard cover to prevent drool damage…

  • Hande – It’s pretty much my vision of heaven as well!

    Jenny – Oh I’ll have to try the lemon tart too, then… In your honor!

    Kristi – Are you any closer to the boutiques he has in Tokyo? ;)

    Jackie – “Jumping up and down clapping my hands” is a pretty accurate description of my own behavior that night! Hm. Could this explain why I shattered the top of the cake?

    Eric – Two very commendable pursuits indeed! :)

  • Jim

    My neighbor made a cake with a caramel disc on top a couple of years ago. Fortunately for me, he brought it to my house to share with my wife and I after dinner.

    His trick to avoid shattering the caramel was to score it almost all the way through along the lines where he’d cut. He used a “Dremel Tool” which is a little drill-like device usually associated with woodworking. There are many bit options, I’m not sure which one he used.

    Anyhow, the slices had near-perfect caramel triangles on top. The cake was pretty good too…16 layers of homemade butter cream and hazelnut stuff and chocolate ganache.

  • omg! drool! i can’t wait until may so i can try his creations for myself.

  • Jim – Wow, your neighbor sounds really talented! Lucky you! :)

    Athena – Be sure to let me know what you try and what you think of it!

  • Days later, I still find myself amazed at how sparkly and pretty this cake is. It is somewhat urgent that I make it to Paris so that we can pay Pierre Hermé a visit!

  • Jackie – Oh good, I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s haunted by this! :) And yeah, when is it you’re gracing Paris and us with your presence?

  • Heidi

    Oh my god! I cannot express the desire to go to Pierre Herme’s shop right now and taste his amazing creations.

    I have never been to Paris but now I want to!!

    I love to cook but compared to what he does it is child play. It certainly does inspire one though doesn’t it.


  • Daniel Bilodeau

    He is building upon a base of his family heritage and decades of experience. He ought to be at this point, and further; he’d have no excuse not to do this this well. I have learned from my experience baking that experience is key, and you proceed, building story after story upon the foundational teachings, doing only as flavors insist. There is no genius, only enjoyment of what already is.
    If you know anything about cooking history, the BEST discoveries in cooking were made by accident or necessity, because life is bigger and more important than a pastry.

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