When I think of spring, I think of fresh berries and citrus fruits. So what better way to celebrate a friend’s April birthday than with a spring-inspired cake?
I am a third generation newspaper and magazine recipe clipper. My grandmother has decades worth of these withered yellow gems stuffed into old cartons in spare bedrooms while my mother’s collection is shoved into kitchen drawers and old cookbooks. (Mine are in a massive folder above my cookbooks.) Despite our questionable filing system, when I needed a decadent and chocolate-y she knew just the recipe: Rich chocolate fudge baked into an amaretti cookie crust and topped with whipped cream. The recipe was originally featured in a 1989 issue of Gourmet Magazine as “Chocolate Fudge Pie,” provided by the Millbrook Inn.
Some notes on ingredients: Amaretti cookies are Italian meringue cookies made out of almond paste, or marzipan. They are small, about 2″ wide, and sold in bags in specialty grocery stores. I was feeling cheap and made my own in about the same amount of time it would have taken to go to the store, but it was not a great recipe (they came out chewy instead of dry and crispy), so once I get that sorted out I will post it as an option for this crust.
Amaretto liqueur is not a necessary ingredient; however, it will provide a nice underlying almond flavor. If you decide to omit the alcohol, replace with vanilla or coffee extract to enhance the flavor of the chocolate.
When baking with chocolate, be sure to use good-quality blocks of chocolate that you have to chop up and NOT chocolate chips. Chips have all kinds of added ingredients. You’ll get a better flavor with chocolate blocks.
A note on technique: To melt the chocolate, you can use a microwave or a double-boiler (AKA “bain marie”). I prefer the double-boiler, as there is minimal risk of burning the chocolate this way (you NEVER want to heat chocolate by itself above ~93˚F). To make your own double-boiler, you will need a small saucepan and a glass or stainless steel bowl that fits on top of the pot. Put about 1″ water in the pan, bring it to a boil, seat the bowl on top, and shut off the stove. Immediately add the chopped chocolate and walk away for about 5 minutes. Come back and stir the chocolate with a spoon or spatula. You’re using residual heat from the water to gently melt the chocolate and ensure it doesn’t burn. Just be careful — if any water from the steam below gets into the chocolate, it will seize up and be unusable. The bowl will also be hot — use mitts or a dry towel to remove it from the pot once the chocolate is melted.
Chocolate Fudge Torte Filling
3 ounce unsweetened chocolate
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large eggs, room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
¼ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons amaretto liqueur
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons Amaretto liqueur
1-3 tablespoon granulated sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
Grated chocolate, as needed
For the crust:
1. Over a double-boiler, slowly melt the first amounts of chocolate and butter, stirring periodically with a spatula. It will look curdled at first from the butter; it will melt, and everything will mix together nicely. Once melted, remove from heat and allow to cool.
2. Line a 9″x3″ round springform cake pan with a disc of parchment.
3. In a medium bowl, mix crushed cookies, sugar, and cooled chocolate and butter mixture together until well-mixed.
4. Put some of the crust mixture into the springform pan and, using knuckles, pack the crumbs first around the corner of the pan (between the bottom and sides), then along the floor of the pan. Pack remaining crumbs around the walls of the pan, coming up about 1″ up the sides. Set aside.
For the chocolate fudge torte filling:
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
2. In a double boiler, melt the second amounts of chocolate and butter together. Allow to cool.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whip attachment on medium speed, beat the eggs with the salt, then gradually add the second quantity of sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat the egg mixture until thick and pale. Decrease to medium-low speed. Beat in the corn syrup and scrape down the sides of the bowl again. Add the heavy cream, vanilla, amaretto, and reserved chocolate mixture, beating until blended.
4. Pour the filling into the reserved crust.
5. Bake torte about 45 minutes.
When done, it will barely jiggle in the center. Allow to cool. This can be done two days in advance. And don’t worry if your husband gouges a chunk out of the middle of the cake to taste it; you will hide it with whipped cream!
For the whipped cream:
In the chilled bowl of the stand mixer with the whip attachment, beat the whipped cream, sugar, and amaretto on high speed until peaks can hold their shape, but not until the fat starts to separate out from the cream. Reserve in the refrigerator until ready for use.
1. Remove the cake from the pan: Release the hinge on the pan. Place a 10″ or 12″ cardboard cake circle over the top of the pan. Invert the pan and allow the cake and cake bottom to drop out onto the cake circle. Remove the pan bottom and the parchment paper. Center another cake circle on the bottom of the cake and flip back over so that the cake is right-side up.
2. Spread a thin layer of whipped cream over the top of the cake, being sure not to drip the whipped cream down the sides of the cake.
3. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings.
4. Optional: complete decorating with thin cookies made out of tuile paste.
5. Chill until ready to serve. Once the whipped cream is spread on the cake, it should be consumed the same day for freshness. (You can still enjoy it within the week, but the whipped cream won’t be fresh-tasting.) Serves 8-10, or more if you cut small slices. You might have to — it’s very rich!