I’ve had so much fun hosting Food ‘n’ Flix this month and watching all the Pan’s Labyrinth inspired recipes trickle in. My round-up post for that will be up early next month, but for now it’s still February and I need to contribute my own Pan’s Labyrinth recipe! Be sure to check out Food ‘n’ Flix club, and if you want to learn more about participating in this month’s theme, check out my host post.
I think many people would agree that the most memorable scene in Pan’s Labyrinth is the Pale Man’s feast. Our heroine, Ofelia, is told to enter the den of the Pale Man and retrieve a dagger. She’s warned ahead of time not to partake in any of the monster’s food, no matter how great the temptation may be.
The scene is simultaneously a visually stunning and incredibly tense watch. Guillermo del Toro has mentioned in interviews that he was able to sit next to Stephen King during a screening of Pan’s Labyrinth, and that the master of horror himself couldn’t help but squirm at this particular segment.
Considering this, I wanted to make something inspired by this feast. I wound up creating cake soaked in sherry (to honor the film’s location, Spain) and filled with a blackcurrant cream. Blackcurrants appeared on the Pale Man’s table along with other richly colored fruit like pomegranate and grapes.
SHERRY SOAKED BLACKCURRANT CAKE
Yields: 1 6″ cake, serves 8
3 6″ genoise cake layers (recipe below)
Sherry syrup (recipe below)
Stabilized whipped cream (recipe below)
Blackcurrant cream (recipe below)
Red seedless grapes
Greenery (Optional; I used leaves and stems from tangerines)
1. If your cakes have domed tops, use a knife to trim them flat. Use a pastry brush to generously brush each cake with syrup. You should use up nearly all of the syrup, if not all of it. Allow the cakes to sit for 5 minutes and soak up the syrup.
2. Take one layer of cake and wrap a 4″ tall cake collar around it. Tighten it a bit to make sure the layers don’t leak, then secure it with tape. Once you’ve got the cake collar straight and well-taped, pour half of the pastry cream over the cake layer. Carefully lower the second cake layer onto the cream. Next, pour on the remaining cream (reserving only a few tablespoons for the top). Add on the final layer and spread the last spoonfuls of cream on top. Place the cake in the fridge and allow it to set overnight.
3. Peel the cake collar from the cake. Place a healthy dollop of whipped cream on the top of the cake and spread it into a nice layer (1/4″ thick at minimum). Now use a bit of the whipped cream to lightly cover the sides. The primary goal in icing the sides is just to fill in any holes in the cake layers and lock in crumbs. Re-smooth the top a final time. Note: streaking a bit of currant cream onto the top looks lovely as well!
4. Garnish with pomegranate slices and arils, red grapes and optionally some greenery.
4 large eggs
135g (2/3 cup) sugar
160g (1 1/2 cup) cake flour, sifted
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp butter
1. Preheat your ovenn to 175°C/350°F and grease 3 6″ cake pans. In a large mixing bowl, beat your eggs on high speed for 10-15 minutes, gradually drizzling in the sugar. The eggs should be nearly white, more than doubled in volume and significantly thickened. If they aren’t at this stage after 10-15 minutes, continue beating them until they are.
2. Sift the flour over the egg mixture in 3 parts, carefully folding in between each addition. Take care not to deflate your egg foam. Pour the butter and vanilla over the batter and fold until barely combined.
3. Split your batter into your cake pans and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until just set in the center. Cover immediately with a layer of foil and allow to cool for 15 minutes before turning the cakes out onto parchment and wrapping them in plastic wrap. Allow to cool completely.
BLACKCURRANT PASTRY CREAM
500ml (2 cups) milk
75g (6 tbsp) sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp butter
1.5 tsp gelatin
1.5 tbsp water
120ml (1/2 cup) good blackcurrant preserves
1. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and allow it to sit for 5 minutes. Combine the milk, sugar, yolks, eggs, corn starch and vanilla in a saucepan and cook on medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixtured has thickened and bubbled for a good minute.
2. Take it off the heat and mix in the butter while the cream is still hot. Warm the jam in the microwave, then stir in the gelatin until dissolved. Stir the jam mixture into the vanilla cream. Pass the cream through a strainer and cover it in plastic wrap, pushing the wrap onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Use immediately, while still warm.
90ml (3 tbsp) boiling water
75g (6 tbsp) sugar
45ml (3 tbsp) sherry
1. Combine the water and sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the sherry.
1 tsp (3g) powdered gelatin
1 tbsp cold water
1 cup (250ml) heavy cream
2 tbsp powdered sugar
1. In small bowl, mix the gelatin and cold water and allow to bloom for 5 minutes. In a larger bowl, beat the powdered sugar and cream until the whipped cream has reached soft peaks. Gently warm the gelatin, either over a double boiler or in the microwave. Either way, be sure the gelatin has dissolved and do not allow the mixture to boil.
2. Pour the gelatin mixture into your heavy cream while mixing and continue to mix until you achieve medium peaks. Use immediately.
This cake was just like the Pale Man’s feast: decadent, bittersweet and tempting. I hope you’ll give it a try!
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