I Should Have Stayed Out of the Liquor Cabinet: Pomegranate Bavarian

While I am very good at following recipes written by other people, I am not at all skilled at creating my own. I rarely even play around with a recipe in any substantive fashion -- I might do a little tweaking around the margins, but I usually treat recipes as static; if I'm not satisfied with the results, I just move on and look for another.

However, after making a series of desserts that consisted of cakes and either mousse or Bavarian cream assembled in a cake ring (e.g., chocolate Bavarian torte, chocolate raspberry Bavarian cake, strawberry streusel cake, rhubarb-mascarpone mousse cake), it dawned on me that you can put just about any cake together with any flavor of stabilized cream in a cake ring and get a nice-looking dessert. I decided to adapt Nick Malgieri's recipe for "Passion-Fruit Bavarian Cream Cake" from Perfect Cakes -- which has a base of sponge cake topped with a layer of passion fruit Bavarian cream and a passion fruit gelatin glaze -- to make a pomegranate dessert.

The sponge cake component is Malgieri's biscuit recipe (I've made the biscuit before as part of the strawberry streusel cake from the same cookbook) that contains eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt, and cake flour. You spread the batter into a circle on a piece of parchment to bake. After the cake was baked and cooled, I trimmed it into a 9-inch circle.

The Bavarian cream recipe includes a passion fruit puree that you make by heating and slightly reducing water, sugar, and either fresh passion fruit juice or frozen passion fruit puree. You chill the puree and then mix in gelatin that has been softened in rum and dissolved by heating it in a double boiler. Finally, you fold in whipped cream. I simply substituted pomegranate juice for the passion fruit juice in the puree and I added a little extra sugar because 100% pomegranate juice is quite tart. I also substituted Chambord -- black raspberry liqueur -- for the rum because: 1) I really don't like the taste of rum, and 2) I had the Chambord on hand and I figured that the black raspberry flavor would be relatively close to, or at least harmonious with, pomegranate (there is such a thing as pomegranate liqueur, but I didn't want to buy some just to make this cake).

Because the mixture of gelatin dissolved in Chambord was hot, I put the pomegranate puree back into the refrigerator after I added the gelatin so that it could chill for a few minutes while I whipped the cream. I didn't think it would be a good idea to try to fold whipped cream into a warm liquid. Unfortunately, during the very brief time I put the pomegranate puree-gelatin mixture in the refrigerator, the gelatin began to set up. Thus, when I folded in the whipped cream, there were actually small bits of pomegranate gelatin in the Bavarian cream -- you can see some of them in the picture below.

I didn't bother adapting the recipe's formulation for the passion fruit glaze (which consists of gelatin, water, passion fruit puree, and apple jelly), but simply made a straightforward pomegranate gelatin from the pomegranate puree and powdered gelatin.

To assemble the cake, I put the 9-inch biscuit layer inside a 10-inch cake ring and brushed the cake layer with a mixture of simple syrup and Chambord. Then I poured on the pomegranate Bavarian cream. I put the cake in the fridge for a couple of hours to let the cream layer set up, and then poured on the pomegranate gelatin and chilled the cake until the gelatin set.

The cake was beautiful and the color of the pomegranate gelatin mirror on top was particularly striking. I was a little dismayed about the random bits of gelatin that ended up in the Bavarian cream layer, but I still think the sliced cake was quite attractive. When I tasted the cake, I was surprised that it wasn't more pomegranate-y. The cake layer tasted strongly of Chambord, as did the Bavarian cream layer. The gelatin layer did taste like pomegranate (quite similar to cranberry), but because it was so thin, it was dominated by the flavor in the other two layers. In short, the Chambord took over the cake and I really regret using it.

It's not that I didn't enjoy the cake -- the biscuit was moist, the cream layer was light and lovely, and the cake was actually quite tasty. It's just that I was really hoping the cake would taste like pomegranate. I would like to give the pomegranate version of this cake another try without the Chambord. I'd also like to experiment with other fruits. I think the combination of cake + Bavarian cream + gelatin is a winning formula, in any flavor!

Recipe: Adapted from "Passion Fruit Bavarian Cream Cake" in Nick Malgieri's Perfect Cakes.

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