So, week two of Le Meilleur Pâtissier came around soon enough and with it, the second technical challenge: Le Russe. Apparently, a ‘forgotten cake’ from the South-West of France, it was balloon whisks at dawn from the inhabitants of the village of Oloron Sainte-Marie who protested that it was not forgotten but alive and well … in Oloron Sainte-Marie at least.
In fact the great great grandson of the inventor of the cake went online to divulge the secret of the cake, not included in Mercotte’s challenge since it was, (and still is) a secret. Watch the video here and for those that are interested in these things, the chef has the strongest South-Western French accent I’ve ever heard.
So back to the challenge: le Russe consists of three layers of ‘biscuit’ (confusingly, French for ‘sponge cake’) each separated by an italian meringue butter cream flavoured with praliné. It sounds simple, but the challenge is to get all the layers of the cake straight and even and also to cope with the huge number of eggs required. For a 20 cm x 20 cm cake this was 20! I am really surprised that this fact was not really mentioned on the show but 640g of egg whites is 20 eggs, so there it is. The top of the cake is sprinkled with icing sugar, to represent the snowy plains of Russia, apparently. A bit rich for a cake which was invented in South-West France by a chef with Crimean ancestry.
I didn’t find the cake that hard. I’m adept at making my own praliné, as you can see here and the only challenge with the biscuit was fitting all the eggs in the bowl of my KitchenAid. You just have to be exact with putting it all together, but it’s similar to alot of other French cakes, including the Opéra. So voilà my effort. I must say that it’s a slightly unusual tasting cake, partly due to all the eggs, but the sponge is soft and squidgy and a perfect foil to the rich praliné butter icing. As always, you can find the challenge recipe (with photographs for you to compare it to) here on Mercotte’s blog. Scroll down for all the noise from Oloron Sainte-Marie. If you speak French it’s all quite amusing.
My friend Antoine, who as you know was in the programme, Le Meilleur Pâtissier, also blogged his version of this cake. You can see it here.