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Eggnog Bavarian Cream Cake

If egg yolks are heated too quickly, they will curdle. To prevent this from happening when making the custard base for this Bavarian cream and similar recipes, you must "temper" the eggs, or heat them gently. First, pour hot milk in a thin stream into the yolks and sugar, whisking constantly. After returning this mixture to the saucepan over medium heat, whisk constantly to warm the eggs gradually and thicken the custard. Use an instant-read thermometer to test the temperature; it should not rise above 170°F or the eggs will harden.

Ingredients:

  • Chocolate ladyfingers (see related recipe
     at left)
  • 2 1⁄4 tsp. (1 envelope) unflavored gelatin
  • 2 Tbs. cold water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1⁄2 cup sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp. brandy or Cognac
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1⁄8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Chocolate curls for decorating
     (see related tip at right)

Directions:

Make the chocolate ladyfingers as directed. Line a 5-cup brioche mold with the most attractive ladyfingers, trimming them to fit if needed and placing the rounded sides facing the mold.

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water, stir and let soften until opaque, about 3 minutes. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk and 1¿4 cup of the sugar, stirring occasionally, until small bubbles appear along the edges of the pan.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining 1¿4 cup sugar until well combined. Pour the hot milk mixture into the yolk mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly, then return the mixture to the pan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and registers 170°F on an instant-read thermometer, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the softened gelatin. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the custard into a bowl. Stir in the brandy, vanilla and nutmeg. Set the bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice water and whisk occasionally until the mixture cools and is just starting to set, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whip the cream to soft peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold one-third of the whipped cream into the custard, then fold in the remaining cream. Pour the custard into the lined mold. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

Invert the mold onto a serving plate and warm the sides of the mold with a kitchen towel soaked in hot water and wrung out. Lift off the mold. Decorate the top with chocolate curls. Refrigerate until serving.
Serves 8.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Cake, by Fran Gage (Simon & Schuster, 2003).