She is a dessert maker I’ve known for over 10 years and has a cake business called Gigi Blue. She worked at Prune as a reservationist, when she was still incubating Gigi Blue — tweaking her flavors and recipes and slowly building her client base. Her signature item, before she expanded her line to include gorgeous, perfectly proportioned layer cakes and cookies, was what she calls a bell, which is essentially a superb iteration of a Ring Ding, a two- or three-bite individual chocolate cake, cream-filled and chocolate-glazed. When she was developing her recipes, she would bring samples of these bells — raspberry cream, salted-caramel cream, espresso cream — to the restaurant and leave them out for the staff to guinea-pig, and to be professional and collegial, I’d cut out a little wedge and have a taste. When she brought the peanut-butter-cream-filled, I ate two whole ones, wedge by wedge, and could’ve gone for a third. I adore her palate; she makes things deliciously sweet, not toothache sweet. Years later, when I married Ashley, I ordered a hundred of those bells for my wedding “cake.”
Katherine’s work is careful, organized and well researched. Maybe even obsessive, in the very best way. After 20 years of building a résumé that spans the large-scale production of the Waldorf Astoria, the precise fine dining of Daniel and the high standards of Thomas Keller, she still questions if she has the necessary cachet for a brick-and-mortar shop of her own. She is never sloppy or off the cuff, and her desserts are gorgeous, balanced and technically superior. This peanut-butter cream filling is sturdy — the cornstarch spares you a lot of heartache when you’re cooking it, because the eggs won’t curdle as the custard boils. Many cornstarch custards do well with a few cubes of cold butter stirred in while the custard is still warm, to loosen and silken the mouth feel. But Katherine’s use of commercial creamy peanut butter results in the perfect consistency: luscious and craveable.
I dip the wafer sheets in tempered chocolate for snap and gloss, and decorate the perimeter with a finely ground roasted-peanut mixture while the chocolate is still tacky, so that it will stick. Piping the peanut-butter cream, once fully chilled, with a star tip is easy and makes for a rather impressive edge on the layer “cake,” but after it’s assembled, it should be eaten soon before the waffle-y wafer loses its crisp, dry quality — so it’s best for a group and a celebration. Or, if like me you’re having a dry period, it feeds just one, beautifully.
Recipe: Peanut-Butter Wafer Cake