Pařížský dort: Part One

To be honest, anything involving making sníh, snow (egg whites whisked into firm peaks), by hand, makes me nervous. I lack the stamina that prior, mixer-less generations of women from all sides of my family no doubt had in spades. Still, ever since seeing this kind of cake, and its frappé-like layers in the windows of the Ovocný Světozor patisserie in Prague, I’ve wanted to try to make it.

Pařížský dort (Parisian Cake)

Pařížský dort (Parisian Cake)

I’ll include a translation of the recipe in Part Two, but here’s Jakub’s mom’s recipe, again.

I started with the base, first:


I’m fairly sure those egg whites should have been much fluffier, but the base turned out decently:

Finished cake base on the left; butter melting for the next layer, right.

Finished cake base on the left; butter melting for the next layer, right.

The chocolate-butter-cocoa layer revealed itself to be brownies in the making:


And here’s two of the cake’s layers, so far. It was only after taking that out of the oven that I realized that those neat slices of Pařížský dort in Prague all had right angles. My kitchen and I are round-cake-pan kind of people, though, so this version looks for all the world like a chocolate tart:


It’s now sitting in the fridge with a note attached: “Please don’t eat yet–work in-progress.”

Later today, I’ll add the chocolate-cream layer, and then the whipped cream top, at some point. The recipe advises that the whipped cream should be made one day ahead, stored in the fridge overnight, and then used the next day. Someone with a broader culinary background than me can weigh in on why this might be.

Since it promises to be another broiling week here in New York, I’m excited to try one of my great-grandmother’s recipes for a mint and ginger-ale drink topped with pineapple sherbet:


Any project like this has to be able to withstand the “So what?” test. That is, sure, it’s fun to page through old recipes, but so what? What’s the bigger significance?

I’m not sure I can supply a watertight answer to that yet, but the process of pulling together disparate strands of a family tree, this way, and using recipes as a vehicle for storytelling and characters, is what interests me most.
Who are these people?
What did they like?
Why have these recipes been saved for nearly a hundred years?
Plus, this kind of search is relatively easy for anyone to do, as nearly everyone has access–through a file of old recipes, or via oral tradition, which just comes to you as you’re standing in the kitchen–to a family story like this.