My choice for my April cake centered entirely on one fact: my mom was coming into town. My mother, who prefers to be called Shmee, adores chocolate. I know that most women are known for loving chocolate, and would do anything for it, blah blah blah, but I've never met someone that loves it as much as my mom. She has shelves of chocolate-related books, antique chocolate tins, a vast collection of chocolate wrappers that her children have collected for her (sometimes contributing the chocolate as well...but not always), and once told her grandmother that she loves chocolate pudding more than her own mother. I've always been pretty certain that if she had a choice between me or chocolate, I would be the losing party. Okay, maybe not that, but I DO know that she would be pretty okay with taking chocolate from me, her beloved third most loved child. Anyway, so when she made plans to come visit me, I knew that I would need to make my April cake in honor of her, and it would have to have some serious chocolate cred.
I used Greg Patent's A Baker's Odyssey again partly because I liked the idea of doing some kind of super European cafe torte but also because I still had it checked out from the library. I settled on Rigo Jancsi, which, according to the author, is "one of Hungary's most famous desserts." It is made up of chocolate cake, chocolate filling, and a chocolate glaze. Of all the possible cakes I looked at, this was the most straightforward chocolate one I could find, unadulterated by nuts or fruit or plain whipped cream. Apparently, this cake is named after a famous gypsy violinist who ran away with the young wife of an elderly Belgian duke. I'm not sure how this applies to the cake, but that's what the book says.
First I made the cake, which is a very thin chocolate sponge cake. There are lots of eggs separated and whipped to make the cake light and spongy. This meant lots of steps and dirty bowls, but Shmee very kindly washed dishes as I used them so I didn't get so overwhelmed. Unfortunately, my crappy oven burned the bottom of the cake so I had to carefully slice off the burned parts.
While that cooled, I made the whipped cream and then melted chocolate which I tempered with the cream and then added slowly into the remaining cream to make a chocolate filling. (Actually, I think Shmee added the chocolate while I got ready for church. Thanks, Shmee!). Patent warns that if the cream is too cold, the chocolate won't incorporate correctly and will remain little dark flecks in the cream - this isn't what you're looking for, but still tastes good. I think this happened a little bit to our filling, but it still looked pretty good. Then I melted the more chocolate down with sugar and water to make the glaze. Whew! That's a lot of steps, and I still had to assemble it.
You bake the cake in a half-sheet pan and then split it in half to make almost a square, and sandwich the filling in between the two cake halves. Pretty much as soon as the filling went down, it started oozing out the sides, which was quite frustrating. Clearly, this wouldn't be the elegant cafe dessert that I envisioned, but it would still taste great - the chocolate filling melted and merged with the sponge cake, tasting rich and decadent, while the glaze hardened while refrigerated, which gave a nice contrast from the light chocolate cream. If you ate it slowly, the glaze would melt in your mouth to complete the chocolate high. I kind of forgot to take pictures of the finished product, but here it is halfway gone:
Chocolaty, no? This makes a lot of cake, so we had everyone over for a big dessert party. Everyone raved about the cake, but, being the true chocolate aficionado that she is, I think that Shmee enjoyed it the most of all.
from A Baker's Odyssey by Greg Patent
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
10 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup apricot preserves, strained (I forgot to include this)
To make the cake, adjust an oven rake to the center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a half-sheet pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the paper and dust the pan with flour, knocking out the excess.
Melt the butter into a small heavy saucepan over low heat. Add the chocolate and stir with a spatula until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and coo to tepid or room temperature.
In a small bowl, whisk the flour and cocoa powder to combine well.
Beat the egg yolks with an electric mixer or hand mixer on high until thick and lemon colored, 3 to 5 minutes. Beating on medium speed, gradually add 1/3 cup of the sugar. Increase the speed to high and beat for about 5 minutes more, until the yolks are very pale in color and form a slowly dissolving ribbon when the beater is raised. Scrape the yolks into a large wide bowl. Wash the beaters.
In a bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt on medium speed until they increase in volume and form soft peaks when the beater is raised. Gradually beat in the remaining 1/3 cup sugar, then beat until the whites look creamy and form stiff shiny peaks that curl slightly at their tips.
With a large rubber spatula, fold the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks. Add the dry ingredients and fold them in. Add about 1/3 of the egg whites and fold them in gently. Do not be too thorough at this point - it's fine if some streaks of white show. Fold in the remaining whites until thoroughly incorporated. Spread the batter into the prepared pan - be gentle so as not to deflate it - and carefully level it with the spatula.
Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, or until the cake is puffed and springs back when gently pressed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few crumbs sticking to it. Do not overbake, or the cake will be too dry. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately run the tip of a small sharp knife around the sides of the cake to release it. Lay a sheet of parchment over the cake, cover with a large wire rack, and invert the two. Working quickly, remove the pan and peel off the paper. Cover the cake with another large wire rack and invert again. Remove the top rack and parchment, and let the cake cool completely.
To make the filling, melt the chocolate in a double boiler, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Take care that no water gets into the chocolate, or it will "seize" and be impossible to work with. Remove the pan from the water and cool the chocolate to room temperature. It should still be liquid.
Combine the cream, confectioners' sugar, cocoa, and vanilla in a large bowl, and whip until the cream is slightly thickened but pourable. Gradually fold about 1/4 of the cream into the cooled chocolate, then fold the chocolate into the remaining cream. Beat on medium speed just until the filling is thick and holds a definite shape; do not beat until stiff or the filling may separate and look curdled. If the temperatures of the chocolate and cream are about the same, the chocolate cream will be perfectly smooth and homogeneous; if the cream is a bit too cold, the chocolate may form small granules, giving the cream a speckled look. If this happens, it's fine - the filling will still be delicious. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to assemble the cake.
To make the glaze, in a small heavy saucepan, heat the sugar and water over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid comes to a low boil. The liquid should look perfectly clear. The sugar must be fully dissolved, or the glaze will be grainy. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir with a whisk until the chocolate is dissolved and the glaze is completely smooth. Let stand, whisking occasionally, until the glaze is thick enough to spread - a few minutes at most.
To assemble the cake, cut the cake crosswise in half. Put one layer onto a serving tray or a large flat platter. Use a pastry brush to coat the top with the apricot preserves. Pile the chocolate filling on top and spread it evenly, sculpting the sides with a narrow metal spatula so that they are smooth and squared off. Turn the second layer upside down and set it on top of the filling; press gently to make sure the cake sticks to the cream filling. Pour on the prepared glaze and spread it evenly over the top with a small offset spatula; do not let the glaze drip down the sides of the cake. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
About 30 minutes before serving, dip a sharp knife into hot water, shake off the excess water, and score the glaze into 20 squares, dipping the knife into hot water again as necessary. Score deeply enough so that the knife just reaches the cake layer. Then cut individual portions, at the scoring lines. Let stand 30 minutes.
To serve, decorate with flowers if desired and arrange on plates.