Chocolate Raspberry Torte

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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Start by gently folding the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture using the whisk.  This does not have to be thoroughly incorporated.

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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.

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After baking about 15 minutes at 325 F.  Allow the cakes to cool in the pans and then remove.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.