[Chocolate and Almond Cake]
This project was to turn this (plus the almonds that were camera shy):
With the main objective of figuring out which of those three bottles would go well. The middle bottle, I know would go well - in is a Muscat Canelli wine from Becker Vineyards (they call it Moscato). I also know that an orange muscat (like from Texas Hills or Flat Creek Estates) would also be really good with this chocolate.
Now, this is a fabulous chocolate cake - well, any chocolate is always good. The center of the cake is suppose to be gooey - slightly underdone - so it is nice and creamy. Hope mine is like that! As the picture shows, have covered it with a chocolate-rum-butter frosting and then almonds. And then some raspberries and blackberries were added because I like fruit. (My spouse thinks that fruit just gets in the way.)
Back to the bottles! The one on the right is a Port from Haak. Haak is located just south of Houston, so, this would make it the most local of the three. (Although, I am not sure where the grapes are grown for the Port.)
The one on the left is a Tempranillo from Texas Hills. This version uses grapes from Reddy Vineyards even though the preference are the grapes from Newsom Vineyards. Now a Tempranillo is like a Spanish version of a Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Cabernet Sauvignon usually goes well with chocolate. So, since this bottle of Tempranillo was already open, thought I would give it a try.
In other words, the sole motivation to make this cake (and eat it, too) was because there was an open bottle of wine.
The main recipe used may be found on page 677 of Volume 1 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
So, follow along!
Have on hand:
6 ounces of chocolate (I like to use a mixture of different kinds)
2 sticks (that is 1/2 lb.) of butter (1/4 lb. for the cake, 6 Tb for the frosting, some to butter the cake pan)
about a cup of sugar
about 1/4 cup of dark rum (more if you plan to drink any along the way)
almonds (1/3 cup whole, and about 3 oz of sliced)
1/2+ cup of flour (I used all purpose since we did not have any 'cake' flour - don't know where to find that!)
just a pinch of salt
a pinch of cream of tartar - if a copper mixing bowl is unavailable for the egg whites
To begin - before the beginning - the butter (at least the 1/4 lb for the cake and a wee bit for the cake pan) and eggs come out of the refrigerator and get up to room temperature. That can take an hour or so.
The tools of the trade for the production include:
An 8 inch cake pan about 1-1/2 inches deep that has been buttered and floured. That is, the entire inner surface has been rubbed with a thin film of softened butter (that is that room temperature stuff). Then, flour is rolled around in the pan to cover the sides and bottom. Excess flour is knocked out by banging the pan, upside down on a hard surface, leaving a lift dusting of flour all over the surface. This makes it super easy to unmold the cake.
A mixing bowl - I used the KitchenAide!
A blender - I used the Vitamix
A pan, with lid, to melt the chocolate in
A larger pan with a couple of inches of water in it that is heated to a simmer to place the chocolate pan in
A copper bowl for whisking the egg whites (no copper available? No problem - just have some cream of tartar on hand)
A rubber spatula
A cake rake (or two)
A wooden spoon
A real decent balloon whisk
A flexible-blade metal spatula to spread the frosting
Preheat oven to 350 F with the rack in the middle.
Into the chocolate pot goes 4 ounces of chocolate and 2 Tablespoons of rum. (If you like, another 2 Tablespoons, or more, can go into the cook.) The lid goes on the pot. The pot goes into the simmer water and the pot-in-the-pot goes off the heat. This sits and melts the chocolate while the rest gets underway.
The bowl for the Kitchen Aide mixer is warmed - hot water is poured into it, poured out of it, and dried.
Into the mixing bowl goes the 1/4 pound of softened butter and 2/3 cup of sugar. This is creamed together for several minutes - forms a pale yellow, fluffy mixture. When it first starts out, it looks like:
At the end of creaming, it looks like:
While that is creaming, into the Vitamix (dry container) goes the 1/3 cup of almonds along with a Tablespoon, perhaps a wee bit more, of sugar. The objective is to pulverize the almonds - not to turn it into almond butter. The sugar helps to prevent the pulverized almonds from becoming oily and lumpy. I used the 'low' speed, about 3/4 of the way up, on the Vitamix.
Here's the almonds and the sugar waiting for the lid of the Vitamix to be put on and turned on:
A little while later, pulverized almonds!
Now, back to the creamed butter and sugar. Into the mixer goes the yolks from the three eggs. And then this is well blended together.
The three egg whites go into the copper bowl for whisking. Once added to the bowl, test the temperature. If it is not room temperature, warm the bowl over the simmering hot water for a few seconds while gently stirring the eggs. Could also have let them sit in this bowl for about 20 minutes - that should have brought them up to room temperature. Now comes the whisking!
Start whisking, using the lower-arm and wrist muscles (shoulder muscles tire too quickly) at a speed of about 2 strokes per second with a vertical, circular motion. Do this for about 30 seconds. The egg whites should begin to foam. Then, add a pinch of salt and, if the bowl is not copper, add a larger pinch of cream of tartar.
Now start whisking at 4 strokes per second, whisking in as much air as possible into the mixture and rotating the bowl so all the whites are engaged.
When soft peaks are formed the Tablespoon of sugar is sprinkled on top. Then, continue to whisk until stiff peaks are formed. This can be tested by holding the whisk upright and seeing if a peak forms on the top of it that holds upright.
Now comes the blending!
First, take the mixing bowl off the Kitchen Aide.
Stir up the melted chocolate and rum with a rubber spatula so that it is all mixed together. Should look silky.
Now using that rubber spatula, blend the melted chocolate into the creamed butter/sugar.
Now use that rubber spatula and blend in the pulverized almonds and 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract.
At once (immediately!) stir in 1/4 of the whisked egg whites - this is to lighten the batter.
Now, delicately fold in 1/3 of the remaining egg whites and when partially blended, sift in 1/3 of the flour and continue folding.
Do this two more times (alternating egg whites and flour) to fold in the rest of the egg whites and flour.
Pour and scrape (using that rubber spatula) the batter into the cake pan. Push the batter over to the sides.
Into the oven!
Around 22 to 23 minutes later, start testing with the cake tester needle. When the cake has puffed up and when the needle plunged into the cake about 2-1/2 inches from the edge comes out clean, it is done. When the needle is plunged into the center, it should come out oily. And, when the pan is shaken, the center should jiggle slightly.
Onto the cake rake to cool for 10 minutes:
Then, out of the pan and left on the rack to completely cool. At least 2 hours! Don't even think about frosting it until it has completely cooled. It is a butter-based frosting and if the cake is warm, it will be a disaster!
For the chocolate-butter icing (GLAÇAGE AU CHOCOLAT, from page 684):
2 ounces of chocolate (I used a dark chocolate)
2 Tablespoons of rum (again, more for the cook)
6 Tablespoons of butter (room temperature)
chocolate melting pan with lid
larger pan with simmering water
bowl with ice water
A wooden spoon
A flexible-blade metal spatula
Melt the chocolate with the rum like usual. That is, place the broken up chocolate in the pan with the rum, place the lid on it, and place the pan in the simmer water and remove from heat. in about 5 - 10 minutes the chocolate has melted. Take the pan out of the hot water, add the butter that has been cut into small cubes (about a dozen or so), adding just a few cubes at a time while stirring with a wooden spoon. If need be, place pot back in the hot water to help melt the butter and blend it in:
Once all the butter is melted and blended, place the chocolate pot in the ice water and continue to stir until the icing is the spreading consistency.
This is what it looked like when it was first placed in the ice water.
Here it is after cooling, ready to go on the cake:
And, here it is on the cake!
And, here is the pot ready to be licked!
Now, if I had coconut - that would be pressed into the sides of the cake as part of the decorating process. As shown in the picture, I only used almonds (and fruit - to my spouse's chagrin) for decorating.
With coconut, along withe chocolate and almonds - this would have been a joy.
An Almond Joy.
UPDATE! Port wins.
UPDATE #2! Spouse prefers this - pure joy.