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Recipe courtesy of Jacques Torres

Celebration Centerpiece

It is always best to work with sugar on a dry day. When it is humid or rainy outside, the sugar will become sticky. To help combat the humidity, I use corn syrup in the recipe. Remember, the sugar is very hot and will burn if it comes in contact with your skin. It is a good idea to keep a bowl of cold water readily available. If you get any sugar on your skin, dip your skin in the cold water to stop the burn and easily remove the sugar.
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  • Level: Advanced
  • Total: 1 hr 10 min
  • Prep: 1 hr
  • Cook: 10 min
  • Yield: 1 centerpiece
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7 cups sugar

Scant 2 cups corn syrup

2 cups or 450 grams water

Food color, liquid or paste, blue and white

White vinegar

Magic Flowers, recipe follows

One 8-inch Classic Genoise, recipe follows

Basic Buttercream, recipe follows

Simple Syrup, recipe follows

Rolling Fondant, recipe follows

Royal Icing, recipe follows

Magic Flowers:

7 cups sugar

Scant 2 cups corn syrup

1 1/4 cups water

Food color, liquid or paste, red and green

Classic Genoise:

8 large eggs

3 large egg yolks

1 cup granulated sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons honey

2 cups unbleached, unbromated pastry flour, sifted

Basic Buttercream:

Scant 1/2 cup water

2 1/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar

5 large egg whites

2 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cubed

Raspberry jam, for assembly

Simple Syrup:

2 1/2 cups sugar

Full 1 cup water

1/2 lemon, juiced

Rolling Fondant:

1 tablespoon gelatin

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup corn syrup

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 tablespoons shortening

8 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

Cornstarch, for dusting

Royal Icing:

1 large egg white*

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 lemon, juiced and strained


Special equipment:
Metal sugar flower and leaf molds
  1. Cook the sugar, corn syrup and water to light caramel color (about 320 degrees F). Add 2 to 3 drops of the white food color mixing gently to make the sugar opaque. Add 2 to 3 drops of blue food color, do not mix completely. This centerpiece uses a 12-inch ring, a 10-inch ring, 2 (8-inch) rings, and a 4-inch cake ring. Spray each cake ring with vegetable cooking spray. Place the 12-inch ring on the baking sheet lined with silpat (a silicone baking mat). Then place the 8-inch ring inside the larger ring so that the sides touch. This will leave a crescent shape inside the 12-inch ring. Place the remaining cake rings on the baking sheet. Pour the sugar into the crescent shape (including the circle beside the crescent shape) and all of the cake rings completely filling the circles until they are about 1/4-inch thick. Reserve a small amount of sugar and pour on a second silpat lined baking sheet in a free form. This will be used to "glue" the centerpiece together. When the sugar has cooled, which will take 10 to 15 minutes, remove it from the rings. Break the free-formed piece into small pieces and place in a heatproof glass bowl. Use a clean towel dipped in white vinegar to clean any remaining cooking spray from the edges of the sugar circles and moon piece.
  2. Use the melted sugar to "glue" the Magic Flowers into your desired positions all over the moon and the base it rests on. Now, the centerpiece is ready to accept the Celebration Cake. Jacques' tips: The ideal work surface for this centerpiece project is silpat placed on top of a piece of marble or granite. Stainless steel as a surface will absorb the heat and expand/contract with the temperature changes. If you do not have marble, work on a wood surface instead. Silpat will keep the surface of the sugar shiny. If you work on parchment paper, the sugar surface will be matte. Assemble the cake and centerpiece: Use a serrated knife to slice the cake into 3 layers. This task will be easier if you use a turntable. Flavor 1/3 of the buttercream with raspberry jam, to taste, and use this as a filling. Set the first cake layer on the cardboard cake circle. Douse the layers with some of the Simple Syrup. Apply the raspberry buttercream filling between the cake layers. Frost the cake with a thin layer of the unflavored buttercream. The first application does not have to be perfect. Place the cake in the refrigerator for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the refrigerator and apply the second layer of unflavored buttercream. It is easier to get a smooth appearance if you apply the buttercream in two applications. Cover the cake with the Rolling Fondant as described in the recipe. Place the Royal Icing into a cornet and decorate the top and side of the cake in any way that you desire. If you make a mistake, simply wipe away the royal icing and begin again. Carefully place the cake on the sugar cake stand part of the centerpiece.;
  3. Assemble the centerpiece: You need to first make the glue to stick everything together. Place the extra sugar pieces (those are remnants of the sugar that you poured freeform on to the silpat) in the microwave and heat until it begins to bubble. Watch carefully to be sure it does not burn.
  4. Next you need to make the sugar supports to hold the moon vertically and to support the 8-inch sugar circle that will be resting on and in the moon, creating the level stand for the cake. You will need 4 support pieces in order to build the centerpiece. To make the supports, heat a metal triangle or metal scraper on the burner of the stove. Place the heated edge on the 4-inch sugar circle allowing the heat of the metal to "cut" the 4-inch sugar circle into quarters. Use the heated metal scraper to also cut 2 to 2 1/2 inches off 1 of the 2 pointed tips of the moon. You will need to do this on an angle of about 90 degrees, in order to create a somewhat flat edge. This flat edge will provide a level landing spot for the 8-inch sugar circle that will be the cake stand attachment of the moon.
  5. Pour some of the melted sugar into the center of the 12-inch circle and "glue" the moon vertically into place. The end of the moon that you cut off is now the bottom of the moon. Hold the moon straight until the sugar sets. "Glue" the first 2 support pieces (these are the pieces that you cut by quartering the smallest sugar circle) at the wide, face of the moon, gluing 1 on either side. These 2 supports should be touching both the face of the moon and the base the moon rests on vertically. These supports will steady the moon in its vertical position on the round sugar base. Glue your third support piece on the narrow backside of the moon. This will create a bridge of support in the back, from the moon to the base. In other words it will prevent the moon from rolling backwards. Once all 3 supports have hardened you can "glue" the 8-inch sugar circle to the cut edge of the moon, creating a level cake stand inside the moon. The circle will be sitting on both the cut level area and the inner curve of the moon. Additionally, you might find that you need the fourth support piece to steady the 8-inch level stand. Glue it into place wherever you think more support is required.

Magic Flowers:

Yield: 40 flowers, depending on the mold
  1. Make sure the molds are clean and dry. Place molds in freezer for at least 10 minutes before filling. Cook the sugar, corn syrup and water to light caramel color (about 320 degrees F). Divide the caramel into 2 heatproof glass bowls. Add a few drops of food color to each bowl. You can use any color that you like. Dip the flower mold into the hot sugar. I dipped the flower molds in the red sugar and the leaf mold into the green. Set the sugar coated mold onto a silpat lined baking sheet. Repeat this process using the other molds. After a few minutes, the sugar will set and cool. To remove the sugar flower from the mold, gently push at the edge of the flower. It should pop off from the mold. Repeat the same process until you have made as many flowers as you want for your centerpiece. If you want to stick different shapes together, use more melted sugar to "glue" the pieces into place.
  2. Remember, the sugar is very hot and will burn if it comes in contact with your skin. It is a good idea to keep a bowl of cold water readily available. If you get any sugar on your skin, dip your skin in the cold water to stop the burn and easily remove the sugar.

Classic Genoise:

Yield: 2 baking sheets or 2 (8-inch) cakes
  1. Place a 1-quart saucepan half filled with water over high heat and bring it to a simmer. Make a double boiler by setting a large mixing bowl over the simmering water. Place the whole eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and honey in the mixing bowl and make an egg foam by whisking the mixture to 113 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 7 to 10 minutes. The egg foam passes through various stages becoming foamy, then smooth and finally it thickens. When it is thick, it will be hot to the touch, tripled in volume, and light in color and the sugar will have completely dissolved. If you dip the whisk into the mixture and pull it out, the batter should fall back into the bowl in a thick ribbon.
  2. Remove the mixing bowl from the heat and whip the batter with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until it cools, increases in volume, stiffens slightly and becomes pale yellow, about 7 to 10 minutes. Take the time to whip it well; if the mixture is under whipped, the baked genoise will be dense. Very, very carefully, fold in the flour with a rubber spatula until the flour is no longer visible, making sure to fold to the bottom of the bowl. Do not over mix or the batter will deflate. Fill buttered and parchment paper-lined 8-inch round cake pans 3/4 full with batter. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven until well-risen and golden brown, about 30 minutes.
  3. Let the genoise cool slightly. Unmold, remove parchment paper and finish cooling on a wire rack. The baked genoise can be stored in the freezer for 2 to 3 weeks if well wrapped in plastic wrap. Return it to room temperature before using it.

Basic Buttercream:

Yield: 6 cups
  1. The first step is to start cooking the sugar. Pour the water and sugar into a 1-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan and place over medium-high heat. When the bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan, insert a candy thermometer in the mixture.
  2. Place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl and whip with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until foamy and slightly holding soft peaks.
  3. The sugar is ready when it reaches 250 degrees F, what is known as the soft ball stage. Make an Italian meringue by pouring the cooked sugar down the side of the bowl while you continue to whip the egg whites. Do not pour the hot sugar onto the beaters, or it will splatter. Continue whipping the meringue on medium-high speed until the outside of the bowl is warm but not hot, about 5 minutes. Add the butter all at once and beat on medium speed until incorporated. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and whip until the buttercream is thick, smooth, and shiny, about 10 minutes. At his stage, you can add flavoring, if desired.
  4. The buttercream can be used immediately or can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days or in the freezer for several weeks if held in an airtight container. If it has been chilled or frozen, allow the buttercream to come to room temperature before using, then whip it with an electric mixer on medium speed until it returns to its initial volume and is once again thick, smooth, and shiny.
  5. Recipe courtesy of Jacques Torres, Dessert Circus Extraordinary Desserts You Can Make At Home, 1998

Simple Syrup:

Yield: 2 1/3 cups
  1. Combine all 3 ingredients in a nonreactive 2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. All the sugar crystals should completely dissolve. Remove from the heat and pour into a clean medium-size bowl. Let cool completely before using. If you are short on time, you can cool the syrup over an ice bath. Simple syrup can be stored in the refrigerator, indefinitely, if kept in an airtight container.

Rolling Fondant:

Yield: Fondant for more than one cake
  1. Place gelatin and water in a small saucepan over low heat and melt it. Combine the remaining ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the melted gelatin to the mixer and beat at low speed until combined. This will form a paste or dough. Place in the refrigerator for a few minutes to let harden slightly.

Royal Icing:

  1. Combine the egg white and powdered sugar in a medium-size mixing bowl and whip with an electric mixer on medium speed until opaque and shiny, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and continue whipping until completely incorporated, about 3 minutes. The lemon juice whitens the royal icing. The royal icing should be light, fluffy, and slightly stiff. You may need to adjust the consistency by adding more egg whites if the icing is too dry or more powdered sugar if it is too wet. To make decorations, fill a cornet half full with royal icing and cut a small opening at the tip. Use the cornet to draw decorations.
  2. From Dessert Circus, Extraordinary Desserts You Can Make At Home by Jacques Torres

Cook’s Note

VARIATION: Make this recipe into a Chocolate Genoise by substituting unsweetened cocoa powder for 10 to 20 percent of the weight (a scant 1/4 cup to a full 1/3 cup) of the flour. Weigh the cocoa powder before you sift it. Jacques' Tip: Genoise can be made with butter. In this recipe, you can substitute butter (5 1/2 tablespoons) for the 3 large egg yolks. Melt and cool the butter and fold it in after the flour is added.