By Nick Wuest,
ICC Pastry Arts student
(read more about Nick)
I have a confession to make. I do not like cakes. I didn’t know this until starting pastry school mostly because I didn’t know what it meant to build a real one. It is a ton of work to build something even as simple as the cake in this post. Having been through two cake units I now have a world of respect for people who focus on this particular field.
Mostly I don’t like cakes because I am not as naturally talented at making them as I hoped to be going in. So like anything it takes a lot of work to get better. There are so many techniques to master in order to build a cake. Mixing while maintaining an egg foam and inhibiting gluten development, baking to just the right level of doneness, creating and working with a myriad of fillings and coatings, decorating (which is a whole skill set on its own), all while monitoring and adapting to your environment.
It’s a lot of work, and while I may not particularly enjoy it the knowledge and skills to be gained from mastering the production and creation of cakes crosses into every facet of pastry arts (I have come up with several ice creams and frozen desserts progressing through this unit alone).
Now I may not like cake all that much but here’s something I do love – cinnamon buns! So I combined the two to get in some seriously good practice over the weekend and bring you the Cinnabun Roulade Cake.
- Stand mixer
- Silicone baking mat(s)
These are all recipes done in class that I have tweaked for this particular project.
CINNAMON PÅTE A CORNET
Pate a cornet is easily one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. It’s a paste that can be spread over stencils or piped into any shape or design you can imagine. Freeze it on a silicone baking mat then pour a batter over it and bake it like normal and when you flip it over and unmold it you have a perfect design incorporated directly into the cake. It’s tattoos for cakes and totally awesome.
- 83g butter, room temperature
- 83g sugar
- 75g egg white
- 75g pastry (or cake) flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 tsp cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp cocoa powder
Cream the butter and sugar light and fluffy then gradually mix in the egg whites to completely emulsify. Add the flour, salt, cinnamon, and cocoa and mix until just combined. Spread or pipe the paste onto a silicone baking mat as desired and place it in the freezer while you mix the cake.
CINNAMON BISCUIT CAKE
Roulade cakes are a lot of fun to make. When baked properly the cake sheet is super pliable, enough to tightly roll, and really neat to play around with and feel elasticity of the crumb. Oh, and it’s pronounced “biskwee.” Say it right or run the risk of getting beat with a wooden spoon by a Frenchman.
- 195g cake flour
- 8g cinnamon
- 1/2t baking powder
- 1/2t baking soda
- 300g egg white
- pinch of cream of tartar
- pinch of salt
- 200g sugar
- 200g egg yolk
Preheat oven to 350F.
Sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda.
Prepare a French meringue by whisking the egg whites, tartar, and salt at medium high until slightly foamy then slowly adding the sugar and whisking until stiff peaks form.
Mix a scoop of meringue into the egg yolks to bring the consistencies closer to each other, then very gently fold the yolks into the meringue, leaving the mixture streaky. Gently fold the dry mixture into the meringue working as quickly and efficiently as possible. The more you have to work to incorporate the ingredients the more you will deflate the meringue. (It’s a tough process to get down that I have struggled with until only very recently.)
Spread the batter evenly over the frozen pate a cornet and bake for ~15-18 min or until the cake begins to pull from the edges of the pan and springs back when lightly pressed in the center. Cool the cakes in the pan for about 10 min then unmold, remove the baking mat, and cool completely on a rack.
CINNAMON SPICE CRÈME MOUSSELINE
Crème mousseline is a pastry buttercream, so yeah, it’s pretty great. This one is flavored with cinnamon, vanilla, and cloves and adds a warm aromatic flavor that boosts the cinnamon in the cake. Normally pastry cream is made by cooking a crème anglaise with pastry cream powder which is starch with some vanilla flavoring. Pastry cream powder is tricky to find so a mixture of cornstarch and flour with some vanilla extract works just as well.
- 473g milk
- 6 cinnamon sticks
- 125g sugar, split 75g and 50g
- 50g egg
- 40g egg yolk
- 1t vanilla extract
- 10g all purpose flour
- 40g cornstarch
- pinch of cloves
- 10g cinnamon
- 150g butter, RT
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp sugar
Bring the milk, cinnamon sticks, and 75g of sugar to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and steep for ~20 min.
Remove the cinnamon sticks, return to heat and bring to just barely boiling. Whisk the egg and yolk, vanilla, flour, cornstarch, cloves, and cinnamon until thickened. Temper the egg mixture with the milk, whisking constantly to combine.
Cook the mixture, whisking constantly and vigorously, until very thick and resembles the consistency of pudding. Pour the cooked pastry cream onto a plastic lined sheet pan, cover and cool to room temperature.
Once cooled, paddle the pastry cream at medium high until smooth. Add butter, cinnamon, and sugar and beat until very smooth.
ASSEMBLY AND GLAZE
- 250g powdered sugar
- 113g butter, melted
- 87g milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
Cut the cake sheets lengthwise to the desired width (which will determine the height of each layer). Spread a thin layer of mousseline onto each strip and roll them up tightly, for the base layer use two strips to make a good thick round. Continue forming as many layers as desired to build a tower.
Whisk the ingredients for the glaze until well combined and thick (add more sugar if too thin). Pour the glaze into a container with a spout or anything to facilitate pouring and microwave it for about 15 sec to barely warm. Pour the glaze over the cake allowing it to run down from the top.
At this point you can add any decorations you’d like or leave the cake as is. Personally I wanted to practice my buttercream flowers, so I made a batch of disgusting “buttercream” with Crisco and powdered sugar and popped them on the cake. What you do is entirely up to you and your imagination.
Cakes are hard. But do you know what else they are? Immensely popular. I have made it explicitly clear that I don’t enjoy making them yet currently have four projects in development that I have been asked to make outside of school. I suppose that’s the greatest lesson they’ve taught me so far. I may not love this particular area of pastry arts the way I do others but that doesn’t give me an excuse to check out of it. If anything it doubles my motivation to be better with each cake I make.
This is an industry that thrives on breaking the rules as much as it respects them, and cakes are all about honoring both tradition and what your customer wants. It’s a humbling experience to go from the freeform creation of something like the Linzer Cones or Cocktail Pops to working within the boundaries of building a cake as rich in tradition as a Sachertorte or designing a wedding cake for a friend. No matter the project though it’s all a means to the same end – to put a smile on someone’s face.
And let’s be real, happiness is eating an 18” tall cinnamon bun with no utensils.
Thanks for reading and stay hungry.