This is a naturally gluten-free cake, and contains only eggs, chocolate, walnuts, and sugar, plus a little bit of cream and tartar for the egg whites. After making the passion fruit cake, I thought that this one was downright easy, with just a few ingredients and just a few steps.
First, the walnuts are toasted and rubbed in a dish towel to get rid of as much of the skin as possible.
If you wanted to skip any of the steps, you could probably skip the toasting and rubbing steps, but I didn't want to. The only way I could tell if it made a difference would be to bake two cakes at the same time, changing only those two steps. I'm probably not going to do that.
The walnuts and dark chocolate are ground in a food processor. I managed to get my hands on some Valrhona dark chocolate ("powerful and chocolatey").
The ground nuts and chocolate are mixed with part of the sugar and set aside.
The base for the batter consists only of eight egg yolks and about a cup of sugar. It's one of those miraculous transformations that comes from beating the hell out of egg yolks, so they change from bright yellow-orange globules to rich, thick, creamy batter
And then, once you add the walnuts and chocolate, it turns into a rich, creamy spotted batter.
Finally, you beat the egg whites into a meringue. Fortunately, the recipe calls for eight egg yolks and eight egg whites, so there are no leftover egg parts in the refrigerator, reminding you every time you open the door that you are being wasteful.
Meringue is so pretty, isn't it? The meringue is folded into the batter until the batter becomes airy and fluffy.
I have two cake strips wrapped around the springform pan. The pink one is Rose's, made of silicone; the gray one is from the King Arthur catalogue. It has to be soaked in water before using it, and it is inferior to Rose's, but I keep forgetting to order another one.
I sailed through this recipe with no problem at all. But when I poured the batter into the springform pan, it seemed to be an overly-bounteous amount. I checked the recipe. It said, "The batter will fill the pan half full." Hmmm. Well, I could either remove some batter or I could just see what happens. Oh, let's just see what happens, I said to myself.
Yikes! Looks what happens!
Well, I thought, maybe it will sink when I take it out of the oven.
Not so much.
It did sink in the middle eventually, but still had the crown around the edge.
I think my pan (a 9-inch springform pan, as specified) must either have been a little smaller than the standard pan, or the volume of egg whites was too great. Rose does give both weight and volume measurements for eggs, but I didn't bother this time. There seemed to be no harm done, however, although I did let the cake bake for the maximum amount of recommended time.
There are several options for serving the cake: topped with a chocolate ganache (this is the way Rigo and Clara ate it), topped with light whipped ganache, or topped with warmed sour cherry or apricot preserves. I went the sour cherry route, with a dollop of whipped cream on the side. Jim volunteered to go to the grocery store for me, and he was very apprehensive about the sour cherry preserves. "What if they don't have sour cherry preserves?" I told him that they would; they'd just be expensive because they had the word "sour" in them. He looked at me like I was making that up, which I sort of was, but it turned out to be true.
He was a little bit grumbly when he came home and announced that this jar of sour cherry preserves cost over three times as much as a jar of Smucker's. But the taste was perfect with the torte--worth every penny.
This cake is one of the more interesting cakes I've made from the book--about as different from an American cake-mix-style cake as it's possible to be and still be in the same genre. It's very light and delicate, but still manages to contain the assertive flavors of chocolates and walnuts withouto being overwhelmed by them. It's the kind of food that want to savor, so you can enjoy all the contrasting flavors and textures. I'm sure it would be good with chocolate ganache too--how could it not be--but try the sour cherry preserves too.
June: "Moist and light. I think the combinations of nuts and chocolate do well to balance the whipped cream. The little bit of texture to the cherries makes it really nice."
David: "I think it was wonderful, but I can't tell you exactly why. The difference in temperatures, the difference in textures--it's got some nice combinations."
Jim: "Very light. I like the little bits of chocolate. This one's a winner."
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I'm really looking forward to checking out the blogs to see what other people did with this cake. I spent a few hours Saturday afternoon going through the blogs of the people who have signed up for this bake-through. We have some very talented cooks and bakers! Some have been doing blogs for years; some have just started. Some have baked incredible wedding cakes and teach baking classes; others, like me, have a more amateur status. We're from all over--England, Canada, Georgia, California, Colorado, et al. Welcome to all of you!
I will do another posting mid-week that will primarily be a place for you to ask each other questions, to brainstorm, and to offer advice. See you then.