Hazelnut and almond Dacquoise with chocolate and salted caramel
Begin by making the meringues. Preheat an oven to 120 degrees/gas ½. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and draw three 20cm circles on paper. I use a 20cm baking tin as a guide. I use a round spring-form tin with the base removed as a mould for each layer, ensuring that they are perfectly round – this makes assembly easier as you have neat circles to work with. Pile one third of the meringue into the circle, spread it evenly and then lift off the tin; do this for each meringue layer.
Blitz together the icing sugar, hazelnuts, and almonds in the food processor, and set aside. Put the egg whites in the clean bowl of a stand mixer and whisk for five minutes to soft peaks, then add the caster sugar while continuing to whisk for another two minutes, until the whites form stiff peaks. Turn off the mixer and detach the bowl. Using a metal spoon, gently fold in the nut mixture. If you do this too quickly, the oil from the nuts will start to release and make the mixture runny.
Divide the meringue between parchment circles and gently spread out evenly. Bake in the middle of the oven for three hours, then turn off the oven and allow the meringues to cool inside it for an hour or two – this prevents cracking.
Make the chocolate ganache by heating the cream in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let it sit for a minute, then whisk the chocolate into the cream until the mixture is smooth. Allow to cool for half an hour.
To make the salted caramel buttercream, start on the caramel by heating the caster sugar and four tablespoons of water in a saucepan over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved, then increase the heat and cook the caramel for two to three minutes, until deep amber. Remove the pan from the heat immediately and stir in the cream. Beware, it may splutter a little when you add the cream. Stir in the salt and set aside to cool completely.
For the icing, the method I use for this cake is a meringue-based butter cream. The result is airy and light as opposed to the traditional buttercream made by beating butter and sugar together.
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Turn the temperature to medium heat. Cook the syrup to soft ball stage. If using a thermometer cook tol 112 degrees Celsius, or test by dropping a teaspoon of syrup into a glass of water and it will form a soft ball when at the correct temperature.
Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks then carefully pour in the syrup, between the whisk attachment and the bowl, while continuing to whip. Whip until the bowl feels cool to the touch. Meanwhile, whip the room temperature butter until it becomes whiter in colour and fluffy (about two minutes). When the egg white mixture has cooled, continue to whip, and add a piece of butter at a time.
The mixture might become runny and look curdled, but continue to whip and it will come together into a smooth buttercream. Set aside. When it is completely cool, whisk the caramel into the buttercream icing.
To assemble: spread a third of the buttercream over each of two meringues. Spread ganache over remaining meringue. Layer meringues, placing the one with ganache in the middle. Spread remaining buttercream on the sides of thecake, then cover the sides with almonds and refrigerate for at least fve hours. Before serving, decorate with some cherries dipped in chocolate and serve with a bowl of cherries.
Photographs: Shane O Neill, Aspect Photography
Styling: Leona Humphries