Monday, May 14, 2007

Are Martha's Crepes Up To The Challenge?

Last month, a group of food bloggers put themselves up to a challenge with Martha Stewart's Crepe Cake. Were they up to the challenge? Were the crepes? Find out with Lisa's recap.

A Daring Crepe-tastic Challenge ...

When Cate asked me to write a round-up of all of the Daring Bakers’ Crepe Cake experiences, truthfully, a shudder ran down my spine at the thought of having to relive that experience again. But, after some careful consideration and a ½ bottle of wine later, I wrote Cate back and said I’d be happy to do this for her!

Unfortunately, that was followed by the rest of that bottle and another one of his friends.. causing me to black out the whole discussion until, pretty much, yesterday. Which gives me approximately 24 hours to get this round-up written and delivered to Cate with hopes of never having to get within 500 feet of another Crepe Cake. Ever. Again.

For those of you who haven’t stumbled across the latest challenge presented by a group of lovely people called The Daring Bakers, May’s challenge was a cake constructed of 32 chocolate crepes, layered with our choice of filling (the recipe called for a Hazelnut Meringue Buttercream), and then covered in a rich chocolate ganache and if that wasn’t enough, it was decorated with candied hazelnuts. Sounds enticing doesn’t it? Can you hear your thighs screaming in protest? This cake was “created” by The Martha and is featured on her website.

Most of us had never made crepes before. So one of the biggest challenges was perfecting crepe making. Well let me just tell you.. this is NOT the recipe you want to try when learning how to make a French crepe. The batter was thick, the amount to be used for each crepe was not enough, making it almost impossible to flip successfully. Many of us learned that we really don’t need the first couple of layers of skin on several of our fingers due to severe burning when having to pick the fakkin crepe up off the hot pan to get a spatula underneath. Several suggested we might have luck in robbing a bank in the near future, as we wouldn’t have to worry about leaving incriminating fingerprints. Ha! Just a joke, you FBI/CIA readers out there. :)

Then general consensus was that this cake was delicious. Okay well, the filling was delicious. It’s definitely a show stopper and quite beautiful when sliced. But would any of us make it again? FAKK NO.

And so without further ado, allow me to bedazzle you with a plethora of cursing, ill will, burnt fingers and death wishes aimed towards my The Martha.


Starting us out is the lovely Jenny of All Things Edible. Jenny is a busy SAHM, raising 2 boys and 1 marathon running husband. She’s always on the go, yet she found the time to make 32 “thin rubbery disks” as she called them. Jenny wasn’t fond of this recipe…


Next we’ve got the super talented Mary of Alpineberry. Her desserts are always mouthwatering, including her version of the crepe cake, although by the time the cake was almost finished, Mary was so disappointed that she grew disinterested and decided to forego the candied hazelnuts, choosing strawberries instead – good choice, in my opinion!


Moving on to my co-founder of The Daring Bakers, not to mention my partner in crime, Ivonne of Creampuffs in Venice. Ivonne is one of the busiest gals I know.. what with her full time job, her pastry schooling, helping with the family businesses and lunching with the Baking Goddess, it’s a wonder she ever gets these challenges done. I always know on the day she’s baking (or in this case just “making”) the challenge, I’ll get many e-mails and boatloads of giggles! Ivonne’s opinion of this case, pretty much mirrored Mary’s.. the more she got into it and all of it’s steps, the more disinterested she got.. you’d never know, though looking at that scrumptious chocolate delight!


Aww Gracie.. how I adore her stories of bashing into furniture, tripping down steps and generally putting her body in harm’s way all too often. Ya’ll might know her as Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. When she’s not tripping over her coffee table or kickin’ some ass out on the ice playing for her hockey league, she’s creating the most sinful desserts this side of the equator. Bless her cotton socks. =) I’d say that Peabody’s passionate post regarding her feelings about this cake, pretty much says it all…


Mercedes, of Desert Candy, was one of the lucky new April joiners who’s first challenge was not easy by any means. I had to wonder about some of the April gals.. how many of them cursed under their breath asking what the hell they had gotten themselves into? teee! Mercedes’ lovely cake was her own spin on the recipe and hot damn if it doesn’t look delish!


There are only 3 destinations that I truly fantasize about visiting OFTEN.. Italy, of course, Scotland and Ireland. Imagine my great joy when Laura of EAT DRINK LIVE joined us – our first Irish Lass! And what a talented baker she is.. her creations are gorgeous and always droolworthy. When I clicked on her blog to read her challenge post, I started laughing right out of the gate.. her’s was the post that left me actually feeling good about this experience. She tells us to take our time and to read the recipe a couple times before diving in.. very good advice, advice I wish I would have taken. ;) And you’ll notice.. her cake kicks The Martha’s cake in the ass. :D


This next lady has got to be one of the sweetest gals I know. I’ve said this before and I am still sticking with it.. I imagine Elle always smiling. =) Elle is the wonderful author of Feeding My Enthusiasms and WOW did her post ever express EXACTLY what when into making this cake and what kind of time frame you could be looking at. I LOVE how she wrote this, making you feel as if you were there the whole time.. Other than a few tricky crepes, Elle seemed to float through this recipe and her results were just gorgeous. =)


Our resident Kiwi and one of my dearest friends EVER – Morven of Food, Art and Random Thoughts had a good old time slinging crepe batter all over her kitchen when she and her mom attempted to make The Martha’s cake. While her mother thought she and the rest of the Daring Bakers were.. uhmm.. slightly off their rockers (to put it in nicer terms?) her co-workers thought the cake was fabulous and she was even told that she should go professional. Yay Morv! You go, girl! :D


Claudia of Heal My Life was also an April joiner who had to deal with quite the recipe for her first challenge. Her cake turned out lovely and quite high! A true tower of crepes and yummy filling. Claudia enjoyed her cake so much that she is one of the few who will delight in making this cake again. I say – Rock on, Claudia! Go for it! Hehee


We’re lucky to have another phenomenal baker in our group – Gilly of Humble Pie. Now this gal can make a plate of scrambled eggs look elegant and divine! Imagine what she can do with 35 chocolate crepes and Irish Cream Meringue? Well lemme just tell yous – she can make a Chocolate Crepe Cake that looks as if was torn from the pages of a magazine! Her cake not only sounded delish with the addition of Bailey’s Irish Cream to her filling, but it was simply gorgeous! She decided not to candy the hazelnuts but instead make small flowers from the caramelized sugar.. so pretty! Way to go, Gilly!


Thanks to the support of her husband, Scott, my sweet friend Sara of i like to cook
and the Weekend Cookbook Challenges decided to put aside her fears and marched into her kitchen to create a towering crepe masterpiece. And that she did! And look at that crown of strawberries on top! Sara’s cake looked luscious with just the right amount of tang with the addition of the strawberries. So luscious, that I gave her my “drool worthy” stamp for sure! =)


Ahhh.. and now we come to the Mastermind of the April Daring Baker’s Challenge. Brilynn of Jumbo Empanadas. Of this I’ve never kept secret.. Bril has been one of my most favorite bloggers of all time. My goodness can this gal make me laugh! I was so tickled when she picked this recipe as our challenge because it was voted down the month previously. Little did we know.. that in March we were just peering into the depths of hell. Who knew that in April we’d be visiting. haha! As much as I joke about how horrible it was to make this cake, I have to thank Bril SO VERY MUCH, because I learned lots of things in the process – things I’d never learn otherwise. She’s our third baker that decided to use strawberries as decoration – look how freakin’ gorgeous her cake turned out because of them! Beauteous my friend! =)


Here’s where the potty mouth enters. I’m Lisa of La Mia Cucina, co-founder of this wonderful group of Daring Bakers. My own experience with the making of this cake was not so pleasant as some of the others. My problems came with the initial making of the crepes.. disastrous. Next came my failed attempt at curd (kurrddddd it even sounds awful) for my blood orange filling.. *shudder* But in the end, I did prevail, albeit through many, many swear words and the chucking of torn & freakishly malformed crepes across my kitchen and dining rooms. My cake did turn out lovely, and I have now learned how to make the one and only frosting that I’ll ever use from here on out (Italian Meringue Buttercream made with SALTED butter and Grand Marnier *swoon*). So all in all, this was a “colorful” but good experience for me. :D


Ilva, of Lucullian Delights, is someone that amazes me on a daily basis. Not only has she taught me so much about cooking, but her photographs blow me away. It was her cake that I was most interested in from the beginning. Ilva doesn’t use many heavy ingredients in her cooking. Her baking is usually a simple, yet delicious non-frosted cake or small treat. You don’t find butter laden, chocolate covered desserts on her blog, so I couldn’t wait to see how she’d handle this challenge. I wasn’t disappointed! Although this wasn’t her cup of tea (her family loved it though) she whipped up a beautiful cake, IMHO. I am so happy that Ilva has joined us.. I look forward to learning more from her in the future.


Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups, is our core means of support. You know that however many people respond to your plea for help, like maybe.. after scrambling the eggs in your kurrrdddd, Tanna will be one of the first to show you the bright side of the situation and then she’ll encourage you to try again. You rock, Tanna. =)
Now look at the height she got on her crepe cake! It’s a tower to be true! Where Tanna doesn’t think she’ll be making this cake again anytime soon, it opened her eyes to the world of crepes and how adaptable they are. I think we’ll be seeing more of Tanna’s crepe creations in the future!


Marce not only writes her fantastic blog, Pip in the City, but she’s the Mommie of Phoebe – the CUTEST Golden Retriever EVER. (as if I could write about sweet Marce and not mention Phoebe! Hehee) Marce’s crepe cake experience went fairly well.. besides the butter shock. ;) And talk about ingenuity! From some of the torn crepes that didn’t make it into the cake, she formed the gorgeous rose that sits on top of it all. I am so impressed! I vote Marce’s cake for best use of The Martha’s saggy ass crepes. :D


She is my baking guru. She is one of my bestest friends ever. She is Helene from Tartelette. This woman is amazing in the pastry department and it showed in her mini crepe cakes with gorgeous sugared hazelnuts and sugar corkscrews. Helene’s take on how the cake tasted was based on that delicious hazelnut filling we’ve all been reading about. Helene feels the filling is what makes the cake. I’d have to agree! Cheers to our resident French Pastry Chef and all the creativity and fun she brings to our group. =)


Does the list of talented bakers ever end? Well apparently not, because our next Daring Baker, Patricia of Technicolor Kitchen always amazes and delights the rest of us with her beautiful creations. Patricia had a positive reaction to her cake making experience – as well she should for how beautiful it turned out! Another cake that looks as if it were torn from a magazine page. Simply awesome! Patricia said that she probably would never had made a cake like this if it weren’t for the DB’s and now she’s quite happy she did! We are too, Patricia!


Jen writes The Canadian Baker and she sure knows how to bake. Her delectables are always yummy looking, as was her crepe cake. Jen decided that each component of the cake was very good.. but put all together, not so much. She had a problem of leanage – which we DB’s now call the Tower of Pisa syndrome. It happens. Regardless, we all oohhhh and ahhhhed over her cake, which had, in my opinion, the prettiest candied hazelnuts. =)


Mary, or Breadchick as some of you might know her, of The Sour Dough is one of the nicest, funniest gals I’ve had the pure pleasure of meeting. Let’s just say that Mary compared The Martha’s Darkest Chocolate Crepe Cake recipe to a bright red swimsuit that you’d admire through a magazine or store front window.. the concept is nice, but well.. once you try that baby on.. *shudder* Some things are just better left to be admired by far. ‘Nuff said and said perfectly, Mary. Hehee


We’re seeing the finish line right around the corner… next is my sis, Veronica of Veronica’s Test Kitchen. We’re not true sisters, but we both believe we might have been separated at birth because we obviously share the same brain. Veronica’s cake, to me, was the most original. You see, her cake ended up square. Yes.. she did a lil creative nip and tuck here and there and square was the final outcome. Bravo, Sis! Bravo! Veronica wasn’t tickled with the final cake.. she felt there was too much effort needed for just an “okay” cake. Well.. we’re so happy that she put the effort in because we think her cake turned out beautifully fer schnizzle. *As a small aside, I just want to mention that my sis is on blogging vacation – and I just want to let her know she’s been greatly missed! :)


So I already know that 99% of you are familiar with the blog, What Did You Eat?, written by Sher – how could you not, she makes the most marvelous food and she loves to share the recipes with us lucky readers! Sher’s take on the crepe cake was HYSTERICAL. I had tears running down my cheeks while reading it.. 30 minutes after reading it.. and then again whenever I’d think about what she wrote. This one is GOLD. I’m tellin’ ya. Sher focused, to say the very least, on the butter and cream content of this not so much healthy cake. As a matter of fact, she recommends gathering up the cake with some paper plates and heading off to the local Emergency Room to eat it. This way, when your arteries seize up from the cholesterol intake, there will be a team of physicians nearby. HAHAHAHAAAA!


Meeta, who writes What’s for Lunch, Honey?, made her cake for her husband Tom’s birthday. By all accounts her cake was a smashing success! Could there be any doubt? Look at that picture.. it’s gorgeous. =) Meeta went with a chocolate & orange pastry cream filling that sounds to die for.. Mmmm chocolate & orange – a gal after my own heart. :D


Last but in no means least, comes Freya of Writing at the Kitchen Table. I adore Freya and have a fond spot for her husband Paul and all of their own daring cooking. To read their blog is always entertaining and always full of lessons to be learned. The DB challenge post was no exception! Knocked down by a horrible migraine headache, Freya was forced to make this cake over a span of a few days (which worked perfectly). Her finished product was tall, gorgeous and completely drool worthy. Freya’s opinion was this cake did not have the sophisticated taste she thought it would have, but she fell in love with the candied hazelnuts. Freya summed it up best out of all of us.. regardless of how each one of felt about this particular cake, no one could say we didn’t learn at least one lesson while making it. And that’s the name of the game for the Daring Bakers – we’re together to learn from each other, to support each other and to become more Daring in our baking abilities.

So there you have it! An extremely long round-up written by an extremely long winded gal. ;) Thanks go out to Brilynn for choosing one of the best “learning experience” recipes EVER and to The Martha.. regardless that most of us wanted to strangle you with our bare hands for creating such a monstrosity, if it weren’t for you – we never would have learned the art of crepe making (yeah right), the joy to be found in a simple meringue buttercream filling and many of us would not have had the opportunity to learn all kinds of new cuss words. Special Thanks to all of the Daring Bakers – a group of fantastic people who are amazingly supportive, witty, creative, talented and beautiful. My love to all of you.



sher said...

Hey Lis, what a great write up! I like your method to prime the creative juices--the bottle of wine? Why haven't I thought of that? Gee whiz! :):) No more writer's block for me, I'm going to hang my wine opener around my neck. :)

Freya said...

Lis, you did a great job! I think I would have passed out after the first three!! Lined up together, all the cakes look great and your write up is brilliant!

Anonymous said...

You should be a food writer!!! That was amazing, Lis!

Elle said...

Great write make it sound more pleasant than it was. The best part was the sharing that went on as various DBs tried the crepes.