Spiced Chocolate Torte

January 30, 2011

Margaux says…

It’s my birthday!! My husband asked me if I wanted him to get me a cake, or if I wanted to make it myself. I’m a total cake snob, and have yet to really find a bakery in Chicago that has cake as good as homemade. I’ve found decent ones, but still not good enough, so I usually make my own cake. This year was no exception, and I’ve been really wanting to make the cake that was featured on the December cover of Bon Appetit…it looks heavenly!! Maybe a little labor-intensive, even when not making the white chocolate and milk chocolate ribbons to wrap it up in, but hey, it’s my birthday!  Totally worth the work.

The cake part is actually pretty straightforward and easy.  The batter was a little weird before you put in the egg whites…it was more like cookie dough.  But once you put in the egg whites, it’s much more what I’m used to for cake batter.

The buttercream was another story.  I’ve always wanted to make a real French buttercream, but always put it off because it seems too tedious.  It took me two tries, but the second time around I had the hang of it, and it actually turned out pretty perfectly.  I don’t have any photos of the process because you really have to buckle down and stay focused on the task, but if you follow the instructions carefully, it’s actually not that hard.  I added one note to the recipe…the first time around, I used my stand mixer, and I definitely advise against that.  I was pouring the cooked sugar mixture into the eggs with the mixer running, like you should, but because the syrup hardens immediately as it cools, it was splattering into hard crystals on the sides of the bowl.  It was pretty, and looked like spun sugar, but almost half of the syrup didn’t end up in the eggs like it should have!  So the second time around, I used a hand mixer, which was more labor intensive but did the trick.


The glaze was very easy.  The only thing is that I don’t think I stirred it enough to thicken it, so a lot more than I wanted slid off the cake.  So make sure you follow the instructions, and not get too antsy to eat the cake.  🙂


Spiced Chocolate Torte
(without the chocolate ribbons)
from Bon Appetit, Dec 2010 issue

I made this as a 6″ cake, since I wasn’t serving 12-14 people like the original recipe states.  You can halve any recipe for a 9″ cake to make a 6″ cake.  Some of the division is a little tricky, so you’ll have to use a calculator or conversion chart on the internet.

cake
1 1/2 cups butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
8 eggs, separated, room temperature
10 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), melted, lukewarm
1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/3 cups unbleached all purpose flour, sifted (measured, then sifted)
pinch of salt
pinch of cream of tartar

buttercream
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
4 jumbo egg yolks
1 1/2 cups butter, cut into small pieces, room temperature
6 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), melted and cooled (but still pourable)
1/4 cup dark rum
pinch salt

glaze
12 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate(do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
2 tbsp honey
3/4 tsp instant espresso powder or instant coffee powder

cake
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter three 9″ cake pans with 1 1/2″ high sides. Line bottom of each cake pan with parchment paper.
Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter. Gradually beat in sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks one at a time. Blend in melted chocolate. Slowly mix in pecans, vanilla and spices. Gently fold in flour in 4 batches (batter will be very thick and dense).
Using an electric hand mixer, beat egg whites with salt and cream of tartar in another large bowl until medium peaks form. Gently fold 1/4 of the whites into batter to lighten, then fold in remaining. whites. Divide batter among prepared pans, spreading evenly. Bake until tooth pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Run knife around sides of each cake. Let stand 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto racks. Cool to room temperature. (Cakes can be made up to 2 weeks ahead. Wrap tightly and freeze.)

buttercream
Stir sugar and corn syrup in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil 1 minute. Meanwhile, using electric mixer, beat egg yolks in medium bowl until pale and thick. Gradually beat in hot sugar syrup; continue beating until mixture is completely cool, about 5 minutes. (I used a hand mixer for this because with a stand mixer, when adding the syrup mixture half of it ended up on the sides of the bowl like spun sugar. I had to scrap a batch and start over.) Beat in butter one piece at a time, incorporating each piece completely before adding next. Blend in melted chocolate, then rum. (If buttercream looks broken or curdled, place bowl with buttercream over medium heat on stove burner and whisk 5 to 10 seconds to warm mixture slightly, then remove from heat and beat mixture again on medium speed. Repeat warming and beating as many times as needed until buttercream is smooth.) Chill buttercream for 30 minutes to firm it up before spreading it on the cake layers.
Reserve 1/2 cup buttercream. Set 1 cake layer, flat side up, on rack; spread top with half the remaining buttercream. Top with second cake layer; spread with remaining buttercream. Top with third cake layer; use reserved 1/2 cup buttercream to fill in seam where cake layers meet. Freeze cake until buttercream is firm, about 2 hours (I wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap so that it wouldn’t dry out).

glaze
Place strips of waxed paper under the sides of the cake to catch extra glaze when it runs down the sides.
Stir all ingredients in top of double boiler over gently simmering water until mixture is smooth. Remove from over water. Stir until glaze is thickened, about 5 minutes (do not allow glaze to set). Pour 3/4 of the glaze over the top of cake. Carefully and quickly tilt cake back and forth so glaze coats sides; smooth sides with spatula, adding some of remaining glaze where necessary. Chill cake until glaze is set. Remove pieces of waxed paper.

Cake can be prepared up to 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring cake to room temperature before serving.