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I’ve been wanting to make this cake for awhile and decided I would make it for the Aspiring Bakers #18 Layers of Love challenge hosted by Sam over at Sweet Samsations.  She has such an inspiring blog with wonderful recipes and gorgeous pictures of said recipes!   The challenge is for a layer cake that must have at least three layers.  Cake is not my favorite dessert, I do enjoy it every so often but I haven’t baked one in a long time.  What to do?  I want to join the challenge but I don’t want to bake a traditional flour cake with overly sweet frosting.  Hmmmmm……

I recently found a Williams Sonoma cake book at a thrift store.  I can’t remember which recipe caught my eye, but all of them were classic recipes and I needed a good cake book to add to my collection. This is where the original idea for this dacquoise came from.  What is dacquoise?  It is usually almond or hazelnut meringue “cake” layered traditionally with buttercream or whipped cream.  This recipe called for toasted walnuts!  Why not?  I also didn’t want to use buttercream because again, I don’t really like it.  I can usually taste too much of the butter.

Then I remembered the caramel marscapone frosting I made for the Pierre Hermes Apricot Lime Financier Cake.  That was not too sweet, had a little burnt sugar taste and would go well with toasted walnuts.  As I was making it the thought of dates went through my head, their sweetness, the deep subtle flavor they would add,  why not?

The Recipe adapted from the Williams Sonoma Cakes, Cupcakes & Cheesecakes book.

  • 75 g plus 60 g walnuts, lightly toasted
  • 180 g sugar
  • 1 Tb cornstarch
  • 3 large egg whites (room tempurature)
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • about 1/4 cup chopped dates (I didn’t measure sorry)
  • Caramel marscapone frosting (find the Pierre Hermes recipe here)

Toast the walnuts in a 350 oven for about 10 minutes, and put 75 g in a food processor with 60 g of the sugar and the cornstarch. Process to a fine grind.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Draw three 8 inch circles onto the parchment in pencil. One 8 inch circle on one sheet and two on the other.  Make sure to turn the parchment over so the circles are visible but so you won’t get pencil transfered onto your meringue.  Preheat the oven to 250.  Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in a mixer and mix on med until soft peak form.  Add in the remaining 120 g of sugar and continue beating until stiff, glossy peaks form.  Gently fold in the nut mixture. Divide the mixture onto the three circles. (you can pipe the circles if you want). Bake for 1 hour 20 mins until crisp and golden. Let cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, remove from parchment and then let cool on racks.

Meanwhile I made the caramel marscapone frosting.  This cake has to sit in the refrigerator overnight to let the meringues soften and my cake plate is too large to fit in the refrigerator with everything else in there.  I decided to cover a piece of cardboard with aluminum foil and transfer the cake to the fancy plate in the morning.  Bad idea, the cake stuck to the foil….because I put some frosting on the foil to anchor the meringue.

Frost the first meringue and sprinkle with the chopped dates. There’s no correct amount to use, whatever your taste likes.  I thought the amount I used was perfect, it added an unrecogniseable flavor that was not overpowering or oversweet.

Dates!

Put the next meringue layer over this and frost, sprinkle this layer with some chopped, toasted walnuts.

Add the final meringue and frost the top and sides.  Press chopped walnuts on the sides of the cake and decorate with walnut halves on the top.  Cover and refrigeratove overnight.  Bring to room tempurature before serving.

The taste and texture are wonderful. It has a smooth creamyness with just a little crunch.  The carmel marscapone frosting has a slight bitter edge which is offset nicely by the sweetness of the dates and the toasted walnut flavor tops it off perfectly.

The foil not only made the cake stick to it, it also ripped and stuck to the piece I cut. I hope this qualifies as a layer cake!  If I find the time and, more importantly, the inspiration, I will try a completely different, more traditional layer cake and submit that as well.

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