Adriano Zumbo’s V8 Cake

One word: INSANE!

Mission somewhat accomplished! Indeed,  I felt like I survived the worst kitchen battle I’ve ever put myself through. Adriano Zumbo! What a genius! RESPECT! And I thought I was pretty insane when I decided to attempt this painful V8 cake featured as a pressure test in the most recent Masterchef Australia series. At 12am, I should be saying “hello boudoir!”, not start work on this monster of a cake. Serve me right for looking as white as the titanium dioxide that lends this cake such blinding brilliance!  The process was extremely tedious but the taste was nothing short of AMAZING! How can a vanilla cake pack such a flavour punch? This cake puts the term ‘plain vanilla’ to shame. Mr. Zumbo certainly knows how to play around with flavours; this divine creation teased the taste buds with nuances of sweetness, saltiness, bittersweetness paired with textural sensation of  crunchy, soft, creamy, the sleekness and bite of the gell layer…all in a single mouthful! 

Since this Masterchef pressure test aired on 19th July, I have longed to attempt this masterpiece dressed angelically in white but hell to make. When I finally got hold of the Titanium Dioxide, I was overcome by impulse and set to work on the cake close to midnight. It could have been a recipe for disaster as I assumed that I had the ingredients in the correct amounts; fortunately I did (the thickened cream was just sufficient, no more, no  less..phew!).  I used up at least 8-10 vanilla beans from my stash..a luxury I usually allow for special projects. I studied the recipe a few times and also referred to extremely useful hints from Anita of Leave Room For Dessert, who has already succesfully attempted it. Hooray!

When Adriano Zumbo gave this a difficulty level of 10 out of 10, he wasn’t kidding. The contestants were given 4 hours to replicate this ginormous task and I so feel their pain. While I had no problems making the individual layer components, the vanilla ganache was extremely painful to make; my hand-held stick blender could not breakdown the couverture white chocolate chips (not sure if it was due to the extreme winter cold) so I resorted to melting the ganache ingredients, letting it set and then whizzing it with the blender. I probably applied too much heat to the very sensitive white chocolate so my ganache split. DANG! But I tried my best to rescue it and process it into a smooth paste but it still ended up slightly grainy; definitely a point to remember next time.

Assembly: left to right, toasted vanilla brulee, vanilla chiffon, vanilla dacquoise, forgot to take a photo of the vanilla macaron

 The second problem I had was the assembling of the cake. Although I used a round acetate-lined cake tin instead of square, that didn’t make the assembling any easier; my crème chantilly was like a set custard so it made spreading up the sides of the tin quite difficult and then I struggled massively to even out the glossy vanilla glaze around the sides of the cake. The surface was covered but the sides were HIDEOUS! But thank goodness for the white chocolate tiles; they somewhat lessened the ‘ugly’. Which brings me to the tempering of the white chocolate. This is my first time tempering chocolate properly so with my notes on tempering temperatures in hand, inexperience, three tries (I just re-tempered the chocolate each time it failed) and with grunts of frustration,I finally got it right and squealed when I gently peeled the acetate from a white chocolate tile and voila! shiny, glossy and a clean snap that was music to my ears. The white chocolate flower however, lacked finesse even though it came from the same batch of tempered chocolate as the tiles; maybe I was handling it too much but I er…… rolled it the wrong way so the ugly side was facing upwards instead of the glossy side. Haha… And last but not least, the most annoying problem I had was transfering the cake to the serving platter. There I have a fully assembled cake which thankfully hasn’t collapsed into a messy puddle BUT then I had to move the cake which was resting on a cooling wire rack. Bad mistake; the weight of the layers have pushed my dacquoise  base into the wire grooves so whilst trying to gently slide the cake onto the platter, some of my dacquoise got left behind. SOB SOB SOB!

see the gap between the vanilla ganache and almond crunch? structural damage/imbalance due to massacred vanilla dacquoise during cake transfer to serving platter 🙁 mark of a very delicate cake.

I lost sleep from this experience but it was kind of great throwing myself into the deep end. I actually learnt a lot from making the layer components especially the praline based vanilla almond crunch. To me, this was the hero of the entire cake as it was crunchy, nutty and the addition of salt elevated the flavour of the entire cake. The next best layer was the vanilla toasted brulee, it gave a bitter earthy edge to cut the sweetness of the other layers and the vanilla water gell was like a hidden surprise that gave out a refreshing burst, also to offset the sweetness of the other components.

Overall, a great learning experience although I did not enjoy washing the clutter of dishes, pots and utensils between making each layers. That took up a significant amount of time, what with confined bench space as well. To those who sampled a piece, I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it. I will definitely attempt this again, hopefully at normal hours of the day.

  • If you’d like to attempt this, click here for the recipe on the Masterchef website. You can also watch the full episode
  • Also, Anita from Leave Room For Dessert, gave good tips and notes on making this cake so I shall not reiterate them here. Click here for her rendition of the V8 cake.
  • The only modification was I used agar-agar instead of gellan for my vanilla water gel as agar-agar sets firmer than gelatine. Gellan would break my budget  at $110 for a 250 g bottle, and the recipe only required 1.5 g of it.
  • To temper white couverture chocolate, you will need a chocolate thermometer or a digital thermometer (I used the latter). This is what I did using the Injection Method, or seeding method:-
    Stage 1  –   In a double boiler or a heat proof bowl sitting atop a pot of simmering water, melt half the white
                          chocolate to 40oC – 45oC
    Stage 2 –  Add the remaining couverture chocolate to the melted chocolate and stir well to bring the
                          temperature down to 26oC – 27oC
    Stage 3   Warm the chocolate in the double boiler until it reaches 29oC – 30oC. This is called the working
                           temperature. You can now pour this chocolate on your acetate sheet to form the chocolate tiles and
                           triangles for the flower.
  • From personal observation, I noted that the temperature of the melted chocolate will continue to rise so rather than take it off the heat at exactly 44oC of Stage 1, I wait for it to reach about 41oC – 42oC before taking it off the heat as the temperature will continue to rise to my desired 44oC.  I then immediately add the remaining chocolate to bring down the temperature as specified in stage 2 and proceed to re-heat it back to 30oC, again taking note of how the residual heat will work. If the chocolate has gone beyond the recommended ‘working’ temperature, you could have possibly destroyed the lovely crystal bonds formed during tempering, that gives tempered chocolate that glossy look, crisp and clean snap, so you will have to repeat the entire process from stage 1. Note the above temperatures are for tempering white chocolate, dark chocolate requires higher tempering temperatures.
  • Have  fun and stay tuned for improved V8 Cake Number 2! Technically it should be a V9 cake unless the glaze isn’t counted as a layer? Hmmmm……

Me love the chocolate tile 🙂



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15 comments to Adriano Zumbo’s V8 Cake

  • Your layers look fantastic! You’ve done an amazing job. I love the chocolate tiles – they look perfect. Your water gel layer turned out very nice as well. I’m guessing yours held together much better than mine too 🙂

  • Mei Sze

    Hi Anita, thank you. If it weren’t for your handy tips I wouldn’t have been able to complete this task. I liked your layers as well…my main problems as mentioned were the glaze and transferring the cake. I found that the cake firmed up when left to chill overnight so cutting a slice was much easier the next day.

  • Lena

    I was one of the fortunate to be able to taste this DELICIOUS…well invented ROUND….MASTERPIECE of ART….

    Thanks to AWESOME MeiSZE =DDD

  • Oh wow! Massive props and respect to you for going for it! I think it looks brilliant as a round cake and look at those glistening white tiles. Using agar agar instead of gelatine to substitute for gellan was an inspired choice. Seriously, awesome stuff 😀

  • Vyanne

    The glistening chocolate tiles were a work of art! I am sure you’ll get the ganache right the second time round, given that you so heroically proclaimed that you’ll make it again, hehe.

  • YES, insane is the right word…I attempted this sucker myself…and then modified a second version…lovely to taste, but hell to make! Congratulations!

  • Teagan

    Well done. Reading of your experience was interesting and inspiring! I was thinking of making the v8 cake myself and if i make it a couple of times and master it maybe even make it for my wedding cake. I was just wondering though how much it cost u in ingredients to create it?

  • Mei Sze

    Hi Teagan,

    Thank you for your lovely comment. It was an awesome cake and one heck of an experience making it. Just a note regarding turning it into a wedding cake; it might be a little difficult as the shiny glaze on top can be quite delicate (made with miroir glaze which is practically a gelatin mixture) and the gel layer tucked within the glaze can be quite tricky as well. So considering that this cake has to be refrigerated I’m not sure how well it will stand as a wedding cake unless you modify the outer structure to make it more stable. The interior has beautiful textures which will stand well if the assembling is executed well but ultimately for a wedding, you need a stable cake – you don’t want to risk having a wobbly one on your big day! 🙂

    Personally, as weddings have a really special place in my heart having planned my own last year, my advice is do think carefully about making your own wedding cake because I too really really wanted to make mine last year, 3 tiers and all (I even trialed it out, with sugared flowers etc) BUT thankfully I didn’t because the last thing I needed the few days before the wedding is having to worry about making the cake. I had soooooo many other things to stress about, last minute changes, scheduling, delivery, flowers, guests and booking confirmations…so many other intricate details..hehe

    As for the cost, hmmm….the cake works best with really good quality chocolate so I bought Callebaut COUVERTURE white chocolate; a 2kg bag costs about $60.00. From memory the recipe calls for 500 g white chocolate. I didn’t really keep tabs on the specific cost as I had most ingredients at home but I had to buy gold strength gelatin leaves (about $8 for 2 packs), Titanium Dioxide – 200 g $15.00 (you only use 7.5g), then there’s the almonds and almond meal which are usually a bit costly. Vanilla beans are expensive as well but you can consider buying them bulk online as they’re cheaper. I’ve got mine as a gift which came up to $1 per vanilla bean and I used about 10 beans in total. You can definitely substitute this with strong pure vanilla extract which is about $9.98 a small jar at supermarkets. I would say roughly the total cost of ingredients would come up to anywhere between $ 100 – $120 including the usual suspects i.e. flour, sugar, nuts, almond meal, gelatin, eggs; the bulk of the cost came from the couverture chocolate. And you must factor in time as well. It took me a massive 12 hours to make this cake and I wasn’t kidding when I said I didn’t sleep 😛
    But that was my fault because I started the project at the wrong time when I should be sleeping so I lacked the concentration plus the time I spent cleaning up and washing the dishes was just ridiculous!

    Adriano Zumbo will kill me coz they sell the cake for I think $125 per cake…as you can see If I were to sell this based on my first attempt, I would be suffering a massive loss. But hey, it was a totally priceless experience! So do give it a go; I don’t mean to scare you with my long email-like comment but this was one of the biggest projects I’ve attempted so far and I’m still so excited about it! 🙂 It tasted so heavenly…. mmmm….
    Ok, I hope the above helps. And congratulations on your wedding 🙂

  • OMG you made the V8! It looks absolutely delicious!!!
    Hi Sze, I found your blog from Urbanspoon and you site looks really good! I love it! Until I saw the V8.. salute to u.
    Keep up the good job! I wish I can have a bite now.. 😛

  • amelyn

    I am very, very, impressed!! 🙂

  • Mei Sze

    Thanks Amelyn!! 🙂

  • amelyn

    I am going to sydney in a few weeks… and hope to have the time to go to his shop in Balmain!! His website says that they don’t make this cake anymore though.

  • […] half the stuff I put up here. My most memorable challenge from last year was the monumental V8 cake created by pastry extraordinaire Adriano Zumbo, featured as a pressure test on Masterchef […]

  • Hi there. How long did this cake survive before all the layers turned to mush? Did you just store it in the fridge or freezer and lastly, approx. how long before it decided to melt when it was at room temperature?

    Thanks in advance!

  • Mei Sze

    Hi Gabrielle,

    Didn’t leave the cake for too long to see it turn to mush. 🙂 In fact, once in the refrigerator, the entire cake stabilised even further and the jelly and glaze layers set. This cake doesn’t melt. But you must refrigerate it. And in just a few hours from full assembly, everything sets and you can basically cut into the cake to serve. Even after 3 days in the fridge (I left a portion for friends) the crunchy layers remained crunchy. Hope that helps. Apologies for the late response. The past 2 weeks were hectic.
    Mei Sze