Torte: When any old cake won't do!

There are cakes, and then there are cakes! I’m not talking about the big themed cakes that you see on television. I am talking about a classic, rich, delicious and dare I say decedent cake called a torte! What better time to make such a cake than someone you love birthday?

Today’s your birthday!

Birthdays are important around the iCook household. I make treats for my friends and family to add something special to their birthday. Sometimes its cookies or candies, quite often its cake, and one person I know always asks for pie – he claims he isn’t a lover of cake.

As my wife asked for torte I did some research - cake and torte are different. Torte is a dense almost fudgy cake that contains very little flour. It relies on ground nuts or breadcrumbs as well as sugar and eggs for the batter. Tortes will generally have a layer of whipped cream, buttercream, mousses, jams, or fruits between the cake and then iced or glazed on the top and sides. They are rich, but depending on the filling, not overly sweet in most cases.

Patience is a virtue

This week I’m sharing a recipe with you for a chocolate and raspberry torte which is relatively easy to make, but requires a little time and some patience on your part. The recipe uses melted bittersweet chocolate in both the batter and the glaze. 

Melting chocolate of any kind is not something you rush. Overheating chocolate will cause it to lose its silky shine and become thick and muddy. The best way to melt chocolate is with a double boiler with hot, not boiling, water slowly with gentle stirring.

TIP: If you don’t have a double boiler, use a heat proof bowl like glass or stainless steel sitting on a pot of hot water. That’s what I do.

Live, Laugh, Love and Eat Cake on your Birthday!

Chocolate Raspberry Torte

Courtesy of Cooks Illustrated

For Cake and Filling:

  • 8oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I like Ghirardelli)
  • 1 ½ sticks or 12 TBSP unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp instant espresso powder (I substituted ½ tsp instant dark coffee)
  • 1 ¾ cups sliced almonds, lightly toasted
  • ¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 5 large eggs
  • ¾ cup caster or granular sugar
  • ½ cup fresh raspberries, plus 16 individual berries for garnishing the cake
  • ¼ cup seedless raspberry jam (I used jam with seeds and put it through a strainer)

Chocolate Ganache Glaze:

  • 5oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (again Ghirardelli)
  • ½ cup plus 1 TBSP heavy cream

Grease and line two 9-inch cake pans with butter and parchment paper on the bottom (cut to fit). In a double boiler or heatproof bowl set over a saucepan filled with about 1 inch of simmer water, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.  Stir in the vanilla and the espresso powder.

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 325°F. Process ¾ cup almonds in a food processor until coarsely chopped, six to eight 1-second pulses; set aside to garnish the cake. Process remaining almonds until they are finely ground, about 45 to 60 seconds. Add flour and salt and continue to process another 15 seconds.

Transfer the almond-flour mixture to a medium sized bowl. Process the eggs in the now-empty food processor until lightened in color and almost doubled volume, about 3 minutes. With processor running, slowly add sugar until thoroughly incorporated, about 15 to 20 seconds. Using a whisk, gently fold the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture until some streaks of egg remain.

Sprinkle half the almond-flour mixture over chocolate-egg mixture and gently whisk until just combined. Sprinkle in the remaining almond-flour mixture and gently whisk until just combined.

Divide the batter between the cake pans and smooth with rubber spatula. Bake until center is firm and an inserted toothpick in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs, about 14 to 16 minutes. Transfer cakes to a wire rack and cool completely in the pans, about 30 minutes. If necessary, run a paring knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Invert cakes onto cardboard rounds (I used the bottom of a 9-inch tart pan) the same diameter of the cake and remove the parchment paper. Using the wire rack, re-invert one cake so the top faces up and slide it back onto the cardboard.

Place ½ cup fresh raspberries in a medium bowl and coarsely mash with a fork. Stir in the raspberry jam until just combined. Spread the mixture on the cake that is top side up. Place the second cake on top of the first leaving the bottom side up. Transfer the assembled cake, still on the cardboard round, to a wire rack sitting in a rimmed baking sheet (trust me it will save you some cleanup).

Melt the remaining chocolate with the cream in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan like before. When smooth, remove from heat and gently whisk until very smooth. Allow to cool for 8 to10 minutes. Pour the ganache onto the top center of the assembled cake. Use a flat or offset spatula to spread ganache evenly over the top of the cake, letting it flow down sides. Spread ganache along sides of cake to coat evenly.

Using a fine mesh strainer, sift the reserved almonds to remove the fines. Holding the bottom of cake on cardboard with one hand, gently press sifted almonds onto cake sides with other hand. Arrange raspberries around top edge of cake. Refrigerate at least one hour, up to 24 hours, still on the wire rack until glaze is set. Transfer cake to serving platter. Allow cake to warm up about 1 hour before serving.

Click Here to download a printable PDF of the recipes for this week!