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REC: Julia's Provencal Beehive Cake. This is a wonderful rustic dessert for a crowd.

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Joined: Dec 14, 2005


Posted to Thread #6149 at 10:49 am on Mar 21, 2007

A big disk of mace-flavored brioche dough, baked with a honey and walnut topping, split, doused with rum syrup and filled with vanilla rum buttercream. I posted a favorite summer menu in "Menus" that includes this cake.

Provençal Beehive Cake

From <i>The Way to Cook</i> by Julia Child

[NOTES: I’ve taken liberties with Julia’s recipe. Hers calls for a double recipe of dough, but I find such a huge volume of dough takes over the kitchen like in the famous I Love Lucy episode, and the result is too much cake and not enough filling. Julia makes her dough in the processor, but my wimpy Cuisinart is not up to the task so I use a mixer. The recipes for brioche dough and butter cream follow, but any formulae for these would work.]

For a 14" cake 3" high, serving 20 to 24.

Spiced Brioche Dough (recipe following)
Egg Wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. cold water)
1/3 cup slightly warmed honey
2/3 cup chopped walnut meats

½ cup rum syrup (2 Tbs. sugar dissolved in ¼ cup hot water; 2 Tbs. dark rum stirred in)
3 cups rum-flavored butter cream (recipe follows), 1 cup reserved for serving

A bowl of fresh strawberries, raspberries, or diced pineapple
1 cup heavy cream, lightly whipped, folded with the reserved cup of filling

Shape the risen dough into a round, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest 5 minutes. Roll and pat into a fat disk 10-12 inches in diameter. Transfer smooth side up to a buttered pizza pan.

Cover loosely with floured plastic and let rise about 1 hour, until it looks puffed and feels light to gentle pressure—it will only reach a height of about 2-1/2 inches.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375*F.

Gently brush the dough with a coating of egg wash and let sit for 2 minutes. Then brush with a coating of tepid honey, and sprinkle the chopped nuts over the surface—this gives the presumed “beehive” effect.

Set in the middle level of the preheated oven, and bake about 30 minutes, or until the center has puffed up and the top and sides have browned and crisped.—if the top browns too much during baking, cover loosely with foil.

Cool completely on a rack. (May be wrapped and refrigerated for a day or two, or frozen.)

Slice the cake in half horizontally, turn the top half cut side up, and sprinkle both halves with the rum syrup. Spread 2 cups of the filling over the bottom half, re-form the cake, and set it on a serving platter. (May be completed a day ahead to this point; cover and refrigerate, but let sit 20 minutes or more before serving.

To serve such a large cake, cut a circle in the center, then cut fat wedges from the outside ring. Now cut the center into wedges, as for an ordinary cake. Serve with a helping of fruit and pass the cream separately.

This is a combination of Julia’s recipe and Andre Soltner’s technique.

1 package dry-active yeast
3 Tbs. tepid water
2 tsp. sugar
&#8531; cup milk
3½ cups (1 pound) all-purpose flour
4 “large” eggs
1½ tsp. salt
&#8531; cup sugar
½ to 1 tsp. mace
6 oz. (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened

Put the yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook with the water and the 2 tsp. sugar. Let sit until foamy. Add the milk and enough of the flour to form a batter. Cover with a cloth and let the sponge rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Add the eggs, the rest of the flour, the &#8531; cup sugar, the salt and the mace. Mix until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl, about 5-8 minutes.

Add the butter and mix until thouroughly incorporated, a few minutes.

Knead lightly to be sure all ingredients are well mixed. Return the dough to a bowl and let rise, covered, to more than double its volume. Ideal rising temperature is 72 to 75*F. Is the kitchen is warm, place the bowl in another bowl of cool water—if the temperature is too warm the butter will ooze out of the dough.

The risen dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days: cover with plastic wrap and punch down several times until chilled, at which time its own congealed butter will hold it down.

For about 3 cups

1½ cups sugar
½ cup water

2 “large” eggs
6 egg yolks

1 lb. Unsalted softened butter
2 tsp. vanilla
One of the following: 2 to 3 Tbs. rum, kirsch, or orange liqueur, or 2 to 4 oz. melted chocolate, or mocha flavoring (2 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate smoothly melted with 2 Tbs. instant coffee and 3 Tbs. dark rum.)

Boil the sugar and water to the soft-ball stage.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs and yolks in a large metal bowl. As soon as the syrup is ready, beat it into the eggs in a thin stream, using a large whisk or a hand-held mixer.

To cook the egg mixture, set the bowl in a pan of almost simmering water and beat for 4 or 5 minutes or more, until the mixture is too hot for your finger and forms a slowly dissolving ribbon when a bit is lifted by and dropped on the surface.

Remove from heat and beat, either by hand or in an electric mixer, until cool, 5 minutes or more.

Beat the butter in a bowl until fluffy and creamy. Then, by 2-tablespoon gobs, beat the butter into the egg mixture. When smoothly incorporated, beat in the vanilla and the flavoring. If the cream turns grainy or looks separated after the flavoring goes in, beat in a tablespoon or so of additional butter.

Beat over a bowl of ice cubes and water until the cream firms to easy spreading consistency. It is now ready to use.

Butter cream will keep several days under refrigeration, or may be frozen for several weeks. In either case, let it come to room temperature, then beat to smooth it. If it looks grainy beat in a spoonful of softened butter. If still grainy, beat over hot water to smooth and cream it.

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