Monday, September 8, 2008

Tender Chocolate Cake

I love layer cakes as much as anyone. Give me a slice of a three-tiered chocolate cake oozing with frosting and I'll finish it off quicker than you can say "red velvet."
But I'm also partial to the cakes that are more common in Italy -- low, one-layer desserts that typically are served with just a dusting of confectioner's sugar or no embellishment at all. This is one of those -- dense, not too sweet, delicious, and easy to make in just ten minutes. Add a dollop of whipped cream on top, and you've got the perfect ending for a meal any night of the week or even for company.
The recipe comes from the handsome young newlyweds you see in the photo -- my cousin Matteo Passeri and his wife Silvia de Domenicis, who live in Piacenza, about 40 miles south of Milan. The cake served at their wedding in June wasn't chocolate, and it too, was very different from what you see at American weddings. Picture a giant sheet cake, with one very low layer of white cake, anchored on the bottom with puff pastry, then smothered entirely in whipped cream. Now picture rows of strawberries marching up and down the perimeter of the cake and you've got a dream of a confection that will make you forget you ever asked for a towering layer cake on your birthday. Maybe this recipe will become your annual celebratory request instead.
I've tweaked Matteo's recipe just a tad by adding a teaspoon of vanilla, which adds another layer of flavor and enhances the chocolate.

Torta Tenerina

3 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
***For the recipe, I used all but three small pieces of a 4.25 oz. bar of dark chocolate. Those I ate. (Well, the cook needs anti-oxidants too, you know.)

1 stick of unsalted butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour plus 2 T.
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
a pinch of salt

Place the butter and chocolate into the top portion of a double boiler. Let the ingredients melt over gentle heat. Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a mixer and beat for about a minute, then add the sugar and beat for about five minutes, or until the mixture is thick and pale yellow in color. Add the vanilla, salt and the flour and beat another minute until all ingredients are blended. Take the chocolate and butter mixture and stir with a whisk until smooth. Add the chocolate mixture to the ingredients in the other bowl. Pour into a greased and floured 8 inch cake pan and bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool in pan on a cake rack for 10 minutes, then loosen edges with a butter knife and invert onto serving dish. After cake is completely cooled, place a paper doily on top, sprinkle confectioner's sugar over all, then carefully lift the doily to reveal a beautiful pattern.
Serve with freshly whipped cream.

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