Sooooo sorry everyone. Its been crazy these past two weeks and I’m sorry I haven’t posted anything since last time. Every time I would go to sit down and start to write, something always came up or took precedent.
But fear not!!!
This week, we made out way across the pond to our neighbors into dark Victorian England where news has spread that Sherlock Holmes and his archenemy James Moriarty have perished after a long descent into the Reichenbach Falls. Our hero, Frederick Chase, an American Pinkerton has come to investigate the death in connection to a criminal mastermind that has moved into Moriarty’s territory and taken over. Joined by Athelney Jones, whom was introduced in The House of Silk, the two take on a Sherlock/Watson partnership that leads them back to jolly old England and through a series of grisly murders. Together, through the use of deduction and a single scrap of paper, the two unravel the truth in hopes of stopping the unknown Clarence Devereux.
Pretty quick review huh?
More like a synopsis and if you have been reading my previous blogs, you’ll know I like to give you more details than that. Can’t help that I like to write 🙂
So, overall The Group was consistent with their opinions this time around. Usually we have slight disagreements as to the overall feel of the book, however the general consensus is that the book is like a roller coaster. You begin reading it, making your way up the accent. You sit there, page after page, waiting for that key moment when the story will finally take off, waiting for the drop. Problem here is that the accent takes a while….and by a while, I mean a little over half the book.
Don’t get me wrong. When you drop, you drop. The book throws you into a collage of murder, mayham, and intrigue so fast and so hard that by the end, your eyes are bugged out and you’re screaming WHAT!!!!!
Yes, the ending is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If nothing else, stick with the book strictly for the ending.
For each member of the Group, we all reacted differently. Most were with shock and a WTF written across our faces, making us turn back the last few pages we just read to reread to make sure what we thought we read was indeed what was on the page.
All-in-all Horowitz does a wonderful job at creating and developing his characters throughout the book giving the story just enough of a Doyle feel to keep in on track with classic Sherlock, but with an ounce of his own take on these new faces. He establishes them in such a way that each brings something unique to the story. You have Jones, the one whom mirrors Sherlock and admires his methods in such a way that he imitates him to an almost obsessive degree. And then you have Chase, the American whom plays the role of a Watson-like character and keeps the story on focus. Together they form quite a formidable duo and allow those who like to play the Whodunnit game to follow right along and attempt to solve the crime before they can…..though they will probably be wrong.
The Group’s Rating:
On the flip side, Black Cherry Gateau (otherwise known as cake) was a SUCCESS!!!!!!! I was really proud of myself on this one as it combined several of the techniques I had learned on previous recipes and everyone loved it.
Sidenote, a few members of the Group had a thing about it being alcoholic (kids present and what not), so I modified it a bit. I put up the original recipe and in the notes described my modifications. I’m still up for trying the alcoholic version….maybe for the Christmas party 😉
Also, as I was researching this recipe, I ended up finding the coolest things ever on Amazon when I was on my quest for Kirsch. Total lifesavers and made this recipe a cinch.
I found tabbed parchment papers designed specifically for 9 in cake pans. Made taking the cakes out of their pans a breeze. No more using a knife on the sides and having to over-grease the pan to insure that they come out in one piece. Simply pull the tabs up and out come the cakes!!!
Black Forest Gateau (Cake) Recipe
Ingredients for Chocolate Cake Layers:
- 9 large eggs, room temp
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 4 Tbsp (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temp
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
Ingredients for Cherry Filling:
- 2 cans of canned cherries *
- 3 Tbsp kirsch (a cherry liqueur)**
- ¼ cup cold water
For the Frosting/Topping:
- 3½ cups heavy whipping cream
- ⅓ cup Confectioners (powdered) sugar
- 1 Tbsp kirsch (cherry liqueur)
- 3 oz good quality dark chocolate
How to Make Cake Layers: Preheat Oven to 350˚F. Line bottoms of cake pans with parchment (don’t grease sides).
- Beat 9 eggs with the whisk attachment for 1 min on high. With the mixer on, gradually add 1 cup sugar and continue beating on high speed a full 8 min. It will be thick and fluffy.
- Whisk together 1 cup flour and ½ cup cocoa powder and sift in thirds into batter, folding with a spatula between each addition. Once all flour is in, continue to fold just until no streaks of flour remain, scraping the bottom of the bowl to get any pockets of flour; do not over-mix or you will deflate the batter. VERY IMPORTANT TO MAKE SURE ALL THE FLOUR IS FOLDED IN AND NO POCKETS ARE LEFT!!!!
- Gently fold in ½ tsp vanilla and room temp butter, folding as you add butter in a steady stream and scraping from the bottom to make sure you don’t have butter pooling at the bottom. Fold just until incorporated. Divide batter equally between two prepared cake pans and BAKE RIGHT AWAY in fully preheated oven at 350˚F for 20-25 minutes (my oven took 22 min), or until a toothpick comes out clean. Note: Once the butter is added, it must be transferred to baking pans and put into the oven immediately or the batter can deflate quickly.
- Let cool in pans for 10 min then run a thin edged spatula around edges to loosen cake. Transfer to a wire rack and remove parchment backing. When cakes are at room temp, and you’re ready to assemble, slice cake layers in half with a long serrated knife.
Making the Syrup:
- Roughly chop or halve cherries and place in a medium bowl with 3 Tbsp kirsch. Let sit at room temp for at least 30 min, stirring a couple times, then drain cherries in a sieve over a bowl. Keep the cherries and syrup. Add ¼ cup cold filtered water to the syrup to get about ¾ cup total syrup.**
Making the Cream: For best results freeze bowl and whisk attachment 15 min before using.
- Beat 3½ cups heavy cream with whisk attachment on high speed until soft peaks form, add ⅓ cup powdered sugar and 1 Tbsp kirsch and beat on high until stiff and spreadable (1-2 min). Refrigerate until ready to use (tip: keep whisk attachment in the bowl – you can re-whip if it seems slightly loose after refrigeration).
Assembling your Black Forest Cake:
- Place first cake layer on a cake stand and brush with ¼ of the syrup. Don’t drench the cake, but brush with enough to add the flavor of the kirsch. Cover top with about ¾ cup frosting and top with ⅓ of the chopped cherries.
Repeat with remaining layers and top with the flattest layer. Transfer 1½ cups frosting to a pastry bag with a large flower tip and refrigerate until ready to use (don’t handle the bag too much or the cream will soften). Fill the cracks along the sides of cake with frosting then frost the top and sides with remaining frosting.
- To make chocolate shavings, you can either melt chocolate in the microwave, spread it thin over the back of a baking sheet, then refrigerate a few min and use a food scraper to create bark-like shavings. This is the more authentic way. Alternatively, you can use a potato peeler to shave a chunk of chocolate.
- Cover sides and top of cake with chocolate shavings leaving a 1″ perimeter on top for piping frosting. Pipe rounds of frosting around the top of the cake and place a whole cherry over each one. Refrigerate cake for at least 4 hours or overnight before serving.
* You can use thawed frozen cherries or canned cherries. Cherries werent in season around here when I made this cake so I used canned instead. The original called for using canned cherries that were in water or juice in which you would omit the ¼ cup additional water and use the juice from can instead. I tried that with tart cherries hoping to sweeten them with the kirsch enough for use…..didn’t work. Instead, I ended up using canned cherries in syrup and voila! Turned out perfect.
I also chose to halve the cherries instead of chop them so you would get more cherries with each bite. Taste wise it was great, but for decoration purposes, can prove tricky when balancing the cake layers. Just make sure to have full cherry halves that are of the same size to level the cake layers si that they dont tilt when piping the whipped cream
Maraschino cherries can be used for the topping/decor as well instead of canned cherries.
** Because I couldn’t find kirsch anyway and we had small children around that I didn’t want to end up tasting the cake, I chose to use Amoretti’s kirsch flavored syrup. Tastes great and still brings out a strong cherry flavor. Good alternative to using alcohol.