A little bit more about the cake I baked for my 40th birthday. For all the cooking I do, I don’t have a lot of experience with cakes and cake-like desserts. I’m more of a bread man, myself. Nonetheless, I decided to make a cake because it is always a good experience and there was a recipe for a Revamped Chocolate Torte in the November-December issue of Cooks Illustrated that looked worth a try.
I started the recipe on Thursday afternoon with a little prep work, then did the actual baking on Friday afternoon. Overall, I think the cake turned out okay although it is such a rich cake – nearly flourless – that it wouldn’t make my list of favorite cakes. But then, I’m not a big cake person. One challenge is that the recipe uses a food processor, which I don’t own. Instead, I used a stand mixer. Things seemed to work okay, but I don’t know if the slower speed of the mixer affected the texture at all.
I’ll give you a rundown of the recipe and the preparation process:
The first step was to make some almond flour, basically finely-processed almonds. You can buy this in some markets (it is used to make macarons, for example) but the recipe explains how to make it yourself since you use a relatively small quantity. Take 1 cup (4 ounces) of sliced almonds and lightly toast them.
Then process in a food processor for a few pulses until finely ground. You then add 1/4 cup (1 1/4 ounces) of flour and 1/2 teaspoon table salt and process it a few more seconds to combine. Not having a food processor, I used a coffee grinder attachment for my blender and it seemed to work okay.
Note on food processors. I had one in the US and didn’t seem to use it often. But nowadays I keep encountering recipes that call for a food processor, especially in the making of quick and easy pastry dough. I may break down eventually and buy another food processor. Cooks Illustrated recommends the 12-cup Kitchen Aid model.
Next, melt 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate with 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) of butter in a bowl set over simmering water. After smooth, remove from the heat and cool to room temperature, adding 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon of instant espresso powder. Not having that, I had to use instant coffee.
While the eggs are cooling, process 5 large eggs in the food processor until almost doubled in volume. Not having the processor, I whipped them with the mixer. I think this may have made the texture a bit more dense than had I used the food processor. As the eggs are being whipped, slowly add 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) of granulated sugar. What you see here is the almond/flour/salt mixture, the egg/sugar mixture, and the chocolate/butter mixture.
Start by gently folding the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture using the whisk. This does not have to be thoroughly incorporated.
Next, gently whisk in the almond-flour mixture. Divide the batter between two 9-inch cake pans lined with parchment. The pans were not buttered and floured.
After baking about 15 minutes at 325 F. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans and then remove.
Spread a filling made of 1/4 cup raspberry jam and 1/2 cup raspberries (I used frozen as fresh are way too expensive here), mashed together.
Add the second layer of the cake, inverted so the bottom of the cake is facing up, giving you a relatively smooth surface with which to work.
To glaze the cake, melt 5 ounces of bittersweet chocolate with 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream over a simmering pot of water. Then pour the glaze onto the cake and use a spatula to spread it evenly over the cake.
You can then add almonds to the side of the cake. I think I was supposed to use lightly chopped almonds but all I had were the sliced almonds. This is kind of a messy prospect. Also, you can decorate the top of the cake with fresh raspberries, which I didn’t have. The biggest challenge for me was that the glaze didn’t have a smooth, liquid consistency. Maybe it needed to be melted a bit further or have just a little more cream in it so it poured over the sides in a smooth motion? This is where my inexperience with cakes comes in.
Per the recipe, I put the cake in the fridge for a few hours to let the frosting set. I didn’t get it removed early enough, though, and when it was served it was still pretty cool and the ganache was solid. When I arrived at the restaurant I should have asked them to leave the cake out rather than put it in the fridge. Anyhow, it was tasty enough and considering it was for my own party, I think it turned out pretty nice.
I hope you enjoyed this cooking adventure and encourage you to try the cake yourself.