Sweet Stuff

Majorly Improved Marjolaine

If you count my failed attempt at this cake, this whole project really took two weeks for me to produce an edible and presentable version of this cake.

When I finally did, one of my friends who I served it to, said “Oh. Cool. Dessert log.”

Part of me wanted to jump on the table and scream IT’S NOT A LOG. IT’S FRENCH PASTRY!

But really, he was right. My version was far from fancy and any intro-French pastry chef could probably do better.

So what I ended up with was a log. But you know what? I was proud of my log. So proud that I’m posting on it.

It was a very delicious log if nothing else. Two days to make and fifteen minutes to devour.

1 cake
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...


Marjolaine Dessert

My attempt at a made-from-scratch marjolaine dacquoise cake.


Praline Powder:

1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup hazelnuts
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
3 tablespoons water

Dacquoise Cake:

1 cup hazelnuts
3/4 cup sugar, divided
10 egg whites
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Pastry Cream:

12 egg yolks
4 cups milk
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup corn starch

Chocolate Ganache:

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups heavy cream

Other ingredients:

1 tablespoon rum
1 teaspoon vanilla
Slivered almonds (opt.)

Helpful Equipment

KitchenAid Food Processor Sheet pan
Print Recipe  


For Praline powder:
1) Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Toast almonds and hazelnuts for 15 minutes until fragrant on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Meanwhile, in a small pot, stir together sugar, water, and corn syrup and heat over medium-high heat. Stir the mixture to combine everything but then let it sit so sugar can caramelize.

2) Let caramel cook until water cooks out and it turns a nice tan color. Again, don’t stir it at this point. Once caramel is a nice even color (probably 4-5 minutes of cooking), pour over toasted nuts.

3) Let praline cool until hard and then process in a food processor.

For Dacquoise:
1) Keep oven at 300 degrees F. Roast hazelnuts for 15 minutes. Then use a paper towel to rub off shells from hazelnuts. It’s okay if you can’t get all the shells off.

2) Process hazelnuts with 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor until it is a flour consistency. Stir in flour.

3) In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk eggs whites with 1/2 cup sugar until they are firm and hold their shape.

4) Fold nut mixture into the egg whites using a wide spatula. Try to keep the batter as light as possible.

5) Transfer half of the batter to a jelly roll pan lined with parchment paper, buttered and floured. Bake cake at 300 degrees For 25-30 minutes until lightly browned. Then let cool, remove from the pan, and let cake cool completely. Repeat with second half of the batter.

NOTE: You can make the cake in advance, cool it, wrap it in plastic and store in the fridge for a day or two.

For Pastry Cream:
1) Heat milk and 1/2 cup sugar in a large pot over medium heat until steaming hot.

2) In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk yolks and 1/2 cup of sugar until very light and can hold a ribbon, about 4-5 minutes of beating. Whisk in corn starch near the end.

3) Whisk 1/2 of the hot milk mixture into the yolks, then whisk the tempered yolks back into the hot milk.

4) Return to low heat and stir constantly as mixture thickens. It should get very thick and easily coat the back of the spoon.

5) Let pastry cream cool and chill completely before using.
NOTE: You can make this in advance as well.

For Chocolate Ganache:
1) Heat cream until steaming hot. Place chocolate in a metal mixing bowl. Pour hot cream over chips and let sit for a few minutes and then stir well until perfectly smooth.

2) Let ganache cool at room temperature until it’s spreadable.
NOTE: You should be able to make this in advance and reheat slowly over a double boiler, but I had better luck making it right before I needed it.

To make the cake:
1) Cut cake sheets in half to have four even pieces. Place one on a large serving tray. It helps to line the cake with parchment paper for easier cleanup. Spread chocolate ganache on bottom layer.

2) Top with second cake. Stir 1-1 1/2 cups of praline powder into 2 cups of pastry cream. Spread cream over cake. You might not need it all.

3) Top with third cake. Stir 1 tablespoon rum and 1 teaspoon vanilla into 2 cups pastry cream. Spread that cream flavor on third cake.

4) Top with fourth cake and coat with chocolate ganache on top.

5) Optionally, frost side of cake with leftover pastry cream and press on sliced almonds.

Let cake chill for at least a few hours before slicing and serving!

Recipe a mix from this NY Times recipe and this Joe Pastry Series.

The Dacquoise

I feel pretty good about my dacquoise cake making. It’s a really basic batter as long as you are comfortable working with egg whites.

I’m not going to go through every detail in the post, just hit the highlights, but be sure to check the printed instructions if you really care.

First, you need to toast and peel some hazelnuts. I did this in a 300 degree oven for about 15 minutes and then just used a clean rag to scrub off most of the skins.

Just nuts.

Just nuts.

Take these for a spin in the food processor with some sugar until they are in a light flour consistency. You can pulse in the small amount of flour in the recipe also.

Ground down.

Ground down.

Then, using a very clean stand mixer with a very clean whisk attachment, whip the egg whites with about 1/2 cup of sugar until they hold their shape. This will take 6-8  minutes on medium speed.

Whipped whites.

Whipped whites.

Then, using a flat spatula, fold in the nut mixture. Be gentle working with the batter so it doesn’t deflate.

Careful folding.

Careful folding.

I used a normal baking dish for this that I lined with parchment paper, but ideally you would use a jelly roll.

Also, I just eyeballed my cake batches, but this was very wrong. If you have the time weigh them to make sure they are even.

Ready to bake.

Ready to bake.

You’ll need to bake the dacquoise for 25-30 minutes at 300 degrees.

These were my two cakes. As you can see, one is much thinner than the other because I didn’t measure my batter evenly.

Uneven, but okay.

Uneven, but okay.

You want these cakes to be completely cooled before you use them in the marjolaine so feel free to make them the day before. Just wrap them tightly in plastic wrap once they are cooled and store them in the fridge.

The Praline

I went over this yesterday, but making this is pretty straightforward. Make a caramel sauce with a little sugar, some corn syrup, and water and then pour it over toasted nuts.

take two

take two

Let that harden and then pulse it up.

Praline ground.

Praline ground.

Pastry Cream

I have no idea how I screwed this up the first time around. For the second batch though, I used a recipe that I knew would work. It includes some cornstarch which really helps firm up the pastry cream. It’s really sturdy and I knew it wouldn’t soup up on me.

To start, whisk the yolks vigorously with some sugar and the cornstarch.

Yolks whipped.

Yolks whipped.

Heat the milk in a pot until steaming and then whisk half the milk into the yolks. Then whisk the tempered yolks back into the pot with the hot milk.

Return this to low heat and stir like crazy as the mixture thickens.

Much better.

Much better.

Once the pastry cream is really thick, let it cool completely before using it in the cake.

Also, a perfectly smooth pastry cream is the goal, but unless you’re an expert, you’ll probably have a few bits of egg in yours. Don’t worry about it. It’ll still work fine for this cake.

Building the Cake

Okay. Deep breaths.

Stir a 1-1 1/2 cups of the praline powder into 2 cups of pastry cream. I didn’t end up using all of mine and was forced to eat the rest with a spoon.

Praline mix.

Praline mix.

When you’re ready to actually make this thing (probably on day two when you have the pastry cream and cakes already made), lay out some parchment paper strips on a large serving tray and place a cake right in the middle.

This way you can remove the parchment strips from the sides at the end and it’s an easy clean up.

Then spread on a layer of chocolate. Try to not go super-thick here.



Then another layer of cake and the praline cream layer.

Second layer...

Second layer…

Then a third cake layer and more pastry cream stirred with a tablespoon of rum and a dash of vanilla.

Looking good!

Looking good!

Top with the fourth cake and top with more chocolate ganache.

You can use extra pastry cream (which you’ll definitely have) to coat the outside of the cake and press on sliced almonds. It’s optional, but it does kind of clean up the cake a bit.

Not sure I love this finish.

Not sure I love this finish.

This whole thing will need to chill a bit before you slice into it. A few hours is the minimum or you could make it the day before.

If you’re keeping track, that makes this easily a 2-3 day recipe.

But look at those log layers!

I give this like a B-.

I give this like a B-.

And a close up for good measure. My layers weren’t exactly even but who cares?

Delicious layers.

Delicious layers.

Overall, I would give my version an A on flavor. It was really delicious. But, I would give it a B- or C on looks. It still looked pretty sloppy even though I had most of the ingredients prepped correctly.

I think it’s just one of those recipes where small mistakes compound. If you don’t do every step perfectly, the effects get worse and worse due to the layers.

The crazy part about this is that some marjolaine versions actually have twice as many layers, working through those layers one more time. CRAZY.

If anyone out there has ever tried to make this LOG, please let me know. I’m not sure I would recommend that anyone make this unless you really like pastry making, or just like kitchen projects.

Project Marjolaine… DONE.

For now…

13 comments on “Majorly Improved Marjolaine

  1. fab.u.lous! How many people did it take to eat the lovely thing?
    Years ago, when I was in my Julia phase, I made a Buche de Noel for Christmas. The buche itself wasn’t that hard (except you have to be really careful it doesn’t crack when you roll it up. BUT, by the time I made meringue mushrooms in various shapes and sizes and dusted them with cocoa, and then made a bunch of marzipan fruits and painted them with food colors, the damned thing probably took a week. Tasted good, but I’ll bet your dacquoise was better.

  2. Darlin you should get an award for that! Log nothing! That looks exactly like Tiramasu. And it must’ve been absolutely delicious. I will just come clean and say I will never make this cake. I am new at baking myself and that is way more than I’m ready for this point. :) But I enjoy really enjoyed hearing about your process and love your sense of humor. Btw, I made your chickpea burgers yesterday and they were HUGE success. I just found your site yesterday and I love what you do. Ciao! Laura

  3. I commend you for attempting and downright succeeding at something that, were I to try it, would make my head explode. Thank you for allowing me to live vicariously through you while I sit over here and mess up things like pound cake and oatmeal cookies on the reg.

  4. Challenge accepted!
    Both your posts are super informative––thank you for being brave enough to tell us your mistakes. This is now on my list (though certainly not the fast track. Marjolaine doesn’t appear to be a girl that can be rushed.) I just can’t turn down a challenge. I’ll be sure to come back and let you know how it goes!

  5. I love what you call ambitious, even with your obvious experience (a cookbook?!)
    Our Mom was such a wonderful production baker and chef for our family of six, but I pined for something more aspirational than her HIGHLY edible (but too humble) sheet cakes.
    After school (before she could get home from work), I regularly destroyed her kitchen attempting iced 2-layer cakes, the most glamorous thing I could conceive of at the time. With chunky, soupy or grainy icing standing ready, waiting for cake to cool before removing from the pan strained my 8-year-old patience completely, with predictable results.
    28 years later, I took a JC Penney class and turned out my first layered, monogrammed, rose beautified and very humble 2-layer cake – at age 36!
    Thanks for sharing… In our family, participating in post-mortems is the great compliment! Congratulations on your Marjolaise! It is beautiful :)

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