In another post a while back I mentioned a bakery that my partner and I visit when we make it to San Diego. They have extremely decadent cakes. I tried to replicate one of them for my partners birthday this past year to no avail. All I had to go on was the description from their online menu and my partners questionable memory.
Suffice it to say it wasn't a completely successful representation of the real cake. However, for my birthday this year, my partner got me the same bakery's cookbook with many of their secrets revealed--including the cake I attempted.. When I started paging through the book I started realizing how in depth these cakes really are--like multiple layers and each layer is a different type of cake. I don't think any of their recipes are simple sponge cakes with butter cream slathered between the layers.
Nevertheless, I had an occasion (that being my belated birthday celebration with my family) to make one of the cakes. I chose the most chocolatey one I could find and it was quite appropriately named, Amor Chocolat. Fancy sounding right? Well it was. And it was a project. And I fucked it up a bit.
The cake was supposed to have five layers--three layers of chocolate sour cream sponge cake, one of milk chocolate créme brûlée and the final a chocolate mousse. The chocolate mousse was what got me and I can only speculate as to the cause of its demise.
I'm not quite sure but when I went to go and fold the meringue into it, disaster ensued and the chocolate mixture wouldn't separate and then did separate but separated in large chunks and the meringue went flat. So I said bye bye to that layer and decided to work with what I had. The only other problem was that I had to divide the chocolate sponge cake into three quarter-inch thick layers and one of them I cut too thin and then it broke in a few different pieces.
So I was left with two chocolate sponge layers and one milk chocolate créme brûlée. But, the recipe also included a port wine simple syrup soak for the chocolate sponge cakes, a port wine chocolate ganache, a dark chocolate mirror glaze and last, but certainly not least, the sides of the cake had a wall of chocolate cookie crumbs pressed into it. Needless to say, even without the two missing layers, the cake was still incredibly rich as all heck.
Recipe for Amor chocolat--accidentally adapted from Extraordinary Cakes by Karen Krasne
Chocolate sour cream cake
1/3c unsalted butter at room temp. and cut into cubes
3 oz (1/2c) unsweetened chocolate chopped (I used Ghiradelli)
1 1/2c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs at room temp.
1 1/2c granulated sugar
1/2c sour cream at room temp.
Preheat your oven to 275 degrees F. Grease the sides and bottom of a 10 inch spring-form pan and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper that has been cut to fit the bottom of the pan. Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl and place it over a pot of simmering water--making sure that the water isn't touching the bottom of the bowl. Stir the chocolate a bit until it's melted and then remove the bowl from the heat and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and baking powder and set aside. In the bowl of stand mixer using the whisk attachment, whip the eggs and sugar on medium speed until thickened and light in color--about 7 minutes. Then add the butter and sour cream and mix until fully incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Pour in the melted chocolate--still warm--and mix until fully incorporated. Scrape down the bowl again, add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Now, in a microwave safe bowl--or over the stove top--bring the 1 cup of water to a boil. When it's at a boil, pour it into the batter and stir just until fully combined. Pour the batter in the prepared cake pan and bake--50-60 minutes or until the point where a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool completely before removing from the pan. When it's cool, remove it from the cake pan and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store it--up to 2 days--at room temperature until you are ready to use it. Otherwise, wrap it in a Ziploc bag and freeze it.
Milk chocolate créme brûlée (Interestingly, you don't actually "brûlée" this so the title is a bit deceiving--it's more of a milk chocolate custard. But who cares, it's fucking delicious)
5 oz (3/4c) milk chocolate finely chopped (I used Callebaut)
2 oz (1/2c) semi-sweet chocolate finely chopped (I used Callebaut)
8 large egg yolks
1/4c + 2T granulated sugar
3c heavy cream
1 whole vanilla bean
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. You'll need a 10 inch cake pan for this *(see note below). In a large heatproof bowl, melt both of the chocolates together over a pot of simmering water--making sure not to let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Once melted, remove from the heat and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until they are frothy. Then, place the cream in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean into the cream and bring it to a boil. Once it has reached a boil, run your mixer on low and begin to slowly pour the cream into the egg/sugar mixture--again while the machine is running. Once fully combined, remove the bowl from the mixer and pour mixture through a fine mesh sieve into the melted chocolate. Stir until fully combined. Pour the batter into the pan and bake until the center is just barely jiggly. The book states this can take about 30 minutes but it took me twice that time--at least. So check after 30 minutes and if it's not done leave it in and keep checking every 5-10 minutes until it's set. Once it is done remove it from the oven and let it cool completely in the pan. After it's cool, wrap the cake pan tightly in plastic wrap and freeze it until it's firm which can take 4-6 hours. Once frozen, you'll need to remove the cake from the pan. The cookbook suggests running a hair dryer around the sides and bottom of the cake to help get it out of the pan. I did this but it seemed to be taking a long time. So eventually, I used a combination of the the hair dryer, removing the spring-form from the pan and using a long knife to scrape underneath the cake--ever so gently--to try and pry the cake from the bottom of the pan. Eventually I got it out. Then, I wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap and kept it frozen until I was ready to assemble the cake.
*The recipe in the book specifically states not to use a pan with a removable bottom--like a spring-form. But I only had a spring-form so that's what I used. It worked out ok. However you'll need to wrap the bottom and sides of the pan in aluminum foil or place the cake pan on another rimmed baking sheet when you put it in the oven. If you don't the batter is likely to seep through a bit--which may be why the recipe states to not use a pan with a removable bottom. Nevertheless, I made due with what I had and it worked out fine.
3c of a ruby red port wine
Place the wine in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Then, reduce the heat so that you bring the wine to a simmer. Simmer the wine until it's a little thicker and reduced to about 2/3c. Pour the reduced wine into a clean bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. This took me about a half hour but the cookbook stated about 15 minutes. So again--everyone's stove and oven perform differently--just keep an eye on it while it's over the heat.
Port simple syrup
1/3c port reduction
1/2c granulated sugar
Using a small sauce pan, bring the water and sugar to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and stir the mixture until all of the sugar has dissolved. Then, remove the syrup from the heat and let cool completely. Once it has cooled, stir the reduction syrup into the sugar syrup until fully combined. This can be stored, covered, in the fridge for a few days.
Semi-sweet chocolate port ganache
12 oz (2c) semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Callebaut)
1c heavy cream
1/3c port reduction
Place the chocolate in a large mixing bowl. Using a small heavy bottomed sauce pan, bring the cream just to a boil. Then, pour the cream over the chocolate and let it sit for about 5 minutes. After 5 minutes gently stir the cream and chocolate together until the chocolate is completely melted and you have a smooth mixture. Add the port reduction to the mixture and stir to fully combine. Set the ganache aside to let it cool and thicken to the consistency of a pudding. You can store this for a few days in the fridge as well--just warm it up before you use it to the point where it's a good spreading consistency--or to the consistency of a pudding.
Chocolate shortbread cookie
1/4c + 1T unsalted butter at room temp. and cut into cubes
1/4c turbinado sugar
2T granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2T cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2c all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat, parchment paper or just grease it. In a medium bowl combine both of the sugars and the butter together with your fingers until you have a sandy consistency. Add the vanilla and combine it using your fingers--again you should have a sandy consistency. In a small separate bowl, sift together the rest of the ingredients. Then, pour the dry ingredients into the butter/sugar/vanilla mixture and stir until fully combined--you can still use your fingers for this. Lastly, crumble chunks of the batter onto the baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes until the cookies are crisp. Once cool, crumble them into 1/4 inch chunks or smaller. Set aside in an air tight container until ready to use.
Dark chocolate mirror glaze
1/4c granulated sugar
2T cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
2T heavy cream
1 gelatin sheet
1T glucose or light corn syrup
2c cold water
Place the gelatin sheet in a bowl submerged under the cold water for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, using a small heavy bottomed sauce pan bring the sugar, cocoa powder and cream to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat. Remove the gelatin sheet from the water and squeeze out any excess water. Stir that and the glucose into the hot mixture and stir until fully combined. You can use immediately or store for a day or two but you'll need to warm the mixture until it's at a consistency that you can easily pour and spread it over the cake.
Unwrap the sour cream cake and using a serrated knife, even the top out if necessary. Then, using a serrated knife, cut the cake horizontally into two equal even layers. Place one layer on your cake plate or circle--cut side up. Using roughly half of the port wine simple syrup, brush it over the top of the cake. Then, take about 3/4c of the ganache and spread it evenly over the same cake. Top that layer with the milk chocolate créme brûlée layer (that you've obviously removed from the freezer and unwrapped). Next, place the other sour cream cake layer on top of the créme brûlée layer. Brush it with the remaining port wine syrup and then use as much of the ganache left as necessary to top the cake off as well as the sides. Make sure the top and sides (the sides not as much because you are going to cover them in cookie crumbs) are as straight and even and smooth as possible so that when you pour on that swanky mirror glaze you have a clean smooth finish. But before you place the glaze on the cake, wrap it in plastic wrap--or cover it somehow--and place it in the freezer overnight. The next day, remove the cake from the freezer and either make the glaze then--or warm up the one you already made--and pour it over the cake. It's pretty slick so it does a good job of settling over the cake on its own but you should use an offset spatula to lightly guide it on the top and over the sides to cover evenly. After you've finished with the glaze, place it in the fridge for about 20 minutes to allow it to set. Finally, take it out and lightly but firmly press the cookie crumbs into the sides of the cake. If the cake is still kind of frozen from being in the freezer all night, let it defrost in the fridge for a few more hours before serving. If not, serve immediately and enjoy.