Photos by Greg Rannells

Home bakers can create edible centerpieces for their holiday tables with a little help from premier pastry chef Nathaniel Reid. These gorgeous small cakes are French desserts traditionally layered with mousse, nuts, fruit, and other fillings and encased in a thin glaze. The mix of di†fferent textures and flavors tastes as good as it looks.

Nathaniel creates the cakes at his namesake bakery in Kirkwood. The French call them entremets—desserts that decorate or entertain. “Entremets have been around for a long time,” Nathaniel says, “but the glazed look has become very, very popular.

“You want the smallest amount of glaze possible on the cake. You want it to be thin on the top and the sides, very thin. The glaze is edible, it’s good, but it’s not really considered part of the flavor profile of the cake.” -Nathaniel Reid

These cakes created by Nathaniel and his kitchen manager Shimon Otsuka are stunning—but the glaze is more than a pretty face. “People love it because of the look, which is important,” Nathaniel says. “But it’s more to tell us what’s in the cake on the inside. For example, with a chocolate cake, you have a chocolate glaze on the outside. It’s also to protect the product. It’s keeping the mousse and the cake from drying out as it’s in the display case” … or your refrigerator.

Creating a glazed entremets is simple enough for the Missouri home baker, but getting a really good result takes practice. Nathaniel explains that pastry chefs look for a fluid glaze at just the right temperature and texture to pour over the cake. “In the end,” he says, “the glaze shouldn’t have any air bubbles in it. And then really, the thing you don’t see on social media is you want the smallest amount of glaze possible on the cake. You want it to be thin on the top and the sides, very thin. The glaze is edible, it’s good, but it’s not really considered part of the flavor profile of the cake. You don’t want it to distract from the flavor of the cake.”

To achieve that very thin layer, after pouring, push the glaze off with a metal spatula by swiping once forward and once back. “It’s about keeping the spatula at the right height on the cake so that it’s not too high and you’re not taking off enough, and it’s not too low and you’re not hitting or damaging the cake,” Nathaniel explains. “You’re not touching the cake at all, just pushing the glaze.” Glaze must be poured over the cake as a liquid but solidify when cool and hold its shape. “What solidifies it could be cocoa butter in the chocolate, gelatin, or in some clear glazes, it’s a pectin-based recipe,” he says.

Most importantly, when creating your holiday glazed cake, remember that it’s what’s inside that counts. As Nathaniel says, “If it doesn’t look good, they’ll never buy it. If it looks good but tastes bad, they’ll only buy it once.” Use only the highest quality cake, mousse, jams, custards, creams, nuts, and candies, and ensure the layers complement one another, and you’ll serve an unforgettable holiday cake.

Guyana

Nathaniel Reid’s Guyana, a gourmet variation of the basic entremets, is a chocolate entremets served on a crunchy bed of caramelized puff€ed rice mixed with milk chocolate streusel and hazelnuts. Encased in a thin chocolate glaze, it is layered with dark chocolate crème brûlée, dark chocolate cake, and dark chocolate mousse.

Basic Chocolate Entremets

  • 1 round, 8-inch chocolate cake
  • For chocolate mousse: 13 ounces dark chocolate pieces
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ cup milk  cup cream
  • 1¾ cups cream

1. Bake your favorite chocolate cake in an 8-inch round pan. If using a cake mix, prepare only half or bake all the batter in two 8-inch rounds and reserve the other round in the freezer for another use.

2. After cooling one round, split it into two thinner cake rounds that are approximately ¾-inch thick. Set aside.

3. To make the mousse, melt the chopped chocolate pieces in a double boiler, stirring frequently.

4. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until thick.

5. Pour the egg/sugar mixture into a saucepan and add the milk and  cup of cream. Over low heat, warm the custard to 180 degrees or until thickened.

6. Immediately remove from heat and pour ‡ of the custard over the melted chocolate, then whisk until combined. Repeat two more times until all of the custard is whisked into the chocolate.

7. Whip the 1¾ cups cream into soft peaks. Fold ‡ of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture. Repeat two more times until all of the whipped cream is folded into the chocolate.

8. Place one cake round on the bottom of a 9-inch round springform pan. Place about half the mousse on top of the cake and between the sides of cake and pan. Place the other cake round on top. Scoop the rest of the mousse on top of the cake and fill sides, carefully smoothing out the top. Freeze overnight.

9. Prepare the chocolate glaze and refrigerate it (recipe at right).

10. To finish, unmold frozen cake from springform pan. Heat glaze on low until just warmed. Place the frozen cake with the mousse layer up on a wire cooling rack with a large cookie sheet beneath. Pour the glaze over the cake until it runs over the sides. To achieve a very thin layer, you can go over the top of the glaze with a flat metal spatula.

11. To create a decorative base, gently press nuts, candied nuts, candies, or your choice of base all around the bottom edge of the cake (see step 5 on page 66).

12. Let the glazed cake rest for about 5 minutes, then decorate the top with nuts, fruit, or candy.

13. With a large spatula, pick up the cake and transfer to a plate. Refrigerate for about 2 hours.

14. To serve, warm a knife in hot water, dry it, and slice the cake.

Recipe courtesy of Nathaniel Reid Bakery

Chocolate Glaze

  • 2½ cups sugar
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 1 ounce gelatin powder
  • 1½ cups water  cup sour cream

1. Sift the sugar and cocoa powder together.

2. Bloom the gelatin in ¼ cup cold water.

3. Bring 1½ cups water to a boil, stir in the cocoa powder/sugar mix and boil again for 1 minute.

4. Add the bloomed gelatin and stir.

5. Put the sour cream into a blender and pour the chocolate mix on top of it. On low speed, mix together until combined.

6. Pour into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Recipe courtesy of Nathaniel Reid Bakery

Ruby

Nathaniel Reid’s Ruby is a red-glazed chocolate sponge cake with layers of raspberry cream and a mousse made with raspberry tea. Surrounded by crunchy candied hazelnuts, the cake is topped with chocolate flags, fresh raspberries, and edible gold leaf flakes. His gourmet Ruby entremets is a variation of the basic recipe below.

Basic Raspberry Entremets

1 round 8-inch yellow cake

Red Raspberry Cream

Chocolate Mousse

1. Bake your favorite yellow cake in an 8-inch round pan. If using a cake mix, prepare only half or bake all of the batter in two 8-inch rounds and reserve the other round in the freezer for another use.

2. After cooling one round, split it into two thinner cake rounds that are approximately ¾-inch thick. Set aside.

3. Prepare red raspberry cream (recipe at right).

4. Prepare chocolate mousse (see recipe on page 63 and follow steps 3 through 7).

5. Place one cake round on the bottom of a 9-inch round springform pan. Place about half the chocolate mousse on top of the cake and between the sides of cake and pan. Spread about half of the raspberry cream on top of the mousse (reserve remaining raspberry cream for another use). Place the other cake round on top. Scoop the rest of the mousse on top of the cake and fill sides, carefully smoothing out the top. Freeze overnight.

6. Prepare the glaze (recipe at right).

7. To finish, unmold frozen cake from springform pan. Heat glaze on low until just warmed. Place the frozen cake with mousse layer up on a wire cooling rack with a large cookie sheet beneath. Pour the glaze over the cake until it runs over the sides. To achieve a very thin layer, you can go over the top of the glaze with a flat metal spatula. See steps 1 through 10 on pages 65 through 67.

8. Let the glazed cake rest for about 5 minutes, then decorate with nuts, fruit, or candy.

9. With a large spatula, pick up the cake and transfer to a plate. Refrigerate for about 2 hours.

10. To serve, warm a knife in hot water, dry it, and slice the cake.

Red Raspberry Cream

  • 1 cup sugar ™⁄› cup flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 pint raspberries, fresh or frozen 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In heavy saucepan, mix sugar, flour, and salt. Whisk until combined.

2. Whisk in milk and egg yolks and cook over medium heat until mixture begins to boil and thicken. Cook 3 more minutes.

3. Remove from heat.

4. Blend fresh or frozen raspberries in a blender or food processor and strain through a fine mesh sieve. Stir 1 cup raspberry puree, butter, and vanilla into the milk and egg mix.

5. Place cream in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap onto the top of the cream to keep a film from forming.

6. Cool completely in the refrigerator. Recipe from Missouri Life

Red Raspberry Glaze

  • 1 package (3-ounce) raspberry-flavored gelatin
  • ¼ cup boiling water 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • ¼ cup water, room temperature
  • 1 cup good-quality white chocolate discs or chopped white chocolate
  • ¼ cup sweetened condensed milk Red gel food coloring

1. Dissolve the raspberry gelatin in the boiling water in a small bowl. Stir until completely dissolved.

2. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is clear, about 2 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and stir in the raspberry gelatin mixture and the white chocolate. Let sit until the chocolate has melted, about 2 minutes.

4. Stir 2 to 3 drops red gel food coloring into the condensed milk, add to white chocolate mixture and blend with an immersion blender until completely smooth. Let the mixture cool to 95 degrees F on an instant-read digital thermometer.

Recipe from the Food Network

Farmington native Nathaniel Reid is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. He was named one of Dessert Professional magazine’s Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America and won Pastry Chef of the Year at the 2010 US Pastry Competition. The bakery in Kirkwood is open Monday through Saturday. 11243 Manchester Road • 314-858-1019 • NRBakery.com

Assembling the Entrements

1. Remove the frozen mousse cake and place on a cooling rack with a cookie sheet beneath.

2. Spoon the warm glaze over the cake.

3. For a thin glaze, carefully push the glaze off with a metal spatula.

4. Lift the cake using spatulas.

5. Holding the cake over a pan filled with candies, nuts, candied nuts, or your choice of base, gently press them all around the bottom edge of the cake. These are colored, candied hazelnuts.

5a. As an alternative to pressing nuts into the cake bottom, use a crunchy, sweet base such as this one made from hazelnuts.

6. Use spatulas to place the cake on a flat serving tray.

7. Let the cake rest for 5 minutes.

8. Decorate the cake with fruit.

9. Add a few more touches of decoration such as edible gold leaf flakes or foil, chopped nuts, marzipan, or other candy.

10. After refrigerating for 2 hours, slice the cake with a warm knife to serve.

Ready to Mix It Up?

Once you’ve mastered the basic entremets recipe, take some inspiration from the Nathaniel Reid Bakery menu to experiment with di€fferent flavors and textures, and create your own holiday sensation.

Sambava

Chocolate mousse, vanilla bean crème brûlée, and crispy hazelnut praline lurk under a rich, dark chocolate glaze. Decorations of white glaze droplets and chocolate squares adorn the top.

Amber

A caramel glaze enrobes buttery shortbread, salted caramel mousse, and pecan caramel in a decadent variation.

Helene

This entremets features almond crumble, poached pears, caramel cream, and chai tea chantilly covered with a unique clear glaze.

Scarlet

Two glazes—half red, half chocolate—create a stunning effect. Inside are layers of dark chocolate mousse, cherry and cassis compote, and a cocoa-almond sable cookie.

Camille

Fruity flavors brighten the season. This entremets is made with lemon curd mousse, moist almond cake, and raspberries, encased in a bright yellow glaze decorated with chocolate flowers.

Polynesia

Dreaming of the tropics? Try almond cake layered with coconut mousse and mango-banana cream, all covered with a mango-vanilla glaze.