Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Pandan Sans Rival

One of my most favorite desserts is this "no rival" cake, the SANS RIVAL. I remember one passionate cookbook author saying that there were cakes for every decade, they have come and gone, but not sans rival. And I agree. It hasn't been surpassed ever since. It has retained its position, still in many pastry shops in the metropolis.
I have been craving for homemade cakes since the new year rolled around. Maybe an aftermath of Christmas, where all I did was make cakes for everybody else, except for myself. Well, now time is more generous. I have the luxury, albeit not so often, to try out new recipes to satisfy my cravings. And the first thing that came to my mind is the sans rival (and well, plain old coffeecake). I've never made a sans rival before. I remembered watching my sister do it several years ago and it looked pretty easy...
So, I set out to make them. As I gathered all the necessary ingredients (they were few), I had a sense of triumph because it felt like I've been doing it for a long time. I had the nerve to make a couple of changes to my recipe, and I was determined to produce a meringue that would retain its crunchiness for a sensible amount of time. I have made concord before and I remembered that right after I took them out of the oven, they started getting soft and sticky. A rule of thumb in baking meringue is to never bake them in a high oven. The outside will brown quickly (tricking you into thinking they're done!) before the inside has time to dry out, and the moment you take them out of the oven, the moisture inside will creep its way out, making the meringue sweat and lose its crunchiness.
I spread 4 thin layers, studded with finely crushed cashew nuts, and let them bake in a slow oven for close to an hour. I made the buttercream ready, flavored with a few drops of pandan flavoring. There are those who prefer their sans rival with a thick buttercream icing, but I'm the type to forego the buttercream, just give me my meringue. And so, I applied a very thin layer over the meringue, just to make them adhere to one another. I let them chill a bit before I continue the stacking, allowing the buttercream to set.
Eating them was sensational. The meringue stayed crunchy, (the buttercream played a vital part sealing in moisture) the cashews added crunch and complemented the pandan buttercream. My sister loved it! She ate more than half of it in one sitting (for crying out loud!)! And I can't think of a better compliement.

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