I love the story that goes along with the recipe about how Dorie got bored of making the same desserts every day, decided to change things up a bit and came up with this cake. Granted, she got fired for it, but I admire her for trying something different. I mean, come on, there are so many dessert recipes and variations in Baking from my Home to Yours, I can't imagine Dorie making the same dessert over and over again. And that's only one of her books!
So, anyways, I chose the cake because I liked the story, and I was lucky finding the ingredients. Out shopping one afternoon, I came upon a shelf full of Scharffen Berger chocolates, for a fraction of their usual price! There was milk chocolate, semi-sweet, dark and... bittersweet. Bingo! Then I found the moistest, fattest prunes ever, just like that, I wasn't even looking for them. And, I would get to flambé again, which is a plus. It was decided right then and there, I was making this cake, and so were all the other members of Tuesdays with Dorie who wanted to try it. I knew a lot of people would be put off by the prunes but I also knew that a lot of people would try it anyways and find out that prunes aren't so bad when they're mixed in with a little booze, loads of chocolate, butter and sugar!
So how was this cake, you ask? Like a really classy brownie. No ordinary brownie, a dense, moist, fruity, chocolaty, fabulous, divine, brownie. This rivals with the Gooey Chocolate Cakes, my friends. Served at room temperature, the cake and glaze just melt in your mouth, it's just fantastic. Served cold, it becomes the best fudge ever, with a hint of Armagnac in the background. I loved it both ways and if I had thought to buy some whipping cream, I could have made some Armagnac whipped cream to go with this. There's always next time...
I'm glad I didn't fiddle with this cake, it's perfect as is. I might just try the original version next time though, you know, just to change things up a bit. Thanks to all of you Tuesdays with Dorie members who baked along with me this week, I hope you had fun and discovered something new that you liked. And thank you Dorie, for daring to be different and inspiring us to try out new recipes every week.
Chocolate Armagnac Cake
From Baking from my Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
For the Cake
2/3 cup finely ground pecans (or walnuts)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 plump, moist prunes, pitted if necessary and cut into bits
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons water
1/4 cup Armagnac (or cognac, brandy or Scotch whisky)
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
3 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup sugar
For the glaze
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch springform pan, fit the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment or wax paper and butter the paper. Dust the inside of the pan with flour and tap out the excess. Put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.
To make the cake: Whisk together the nuts, flour and salt.
Put the prunes and 1/4 cup of the water in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook, being careful not to scorch the fruit, until the water almost evaporates. Pull the pan from the heat and pour in the Armagnac, stand back and set it aflame. When the flame dies out, transfer the fruit and any remaining liquid to a bowl and let cool. (If it’s more convenient, you can flame and steep the prunes up to 1 day ahead. Pack the prunes and their liquid in a covered jar and keep at room temperature.)
Combine the chocolate, butter and the remaining 3 tablespoons water in a heatproof bowl, set it over a pan of simmering water and stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are melted; or do this in a microwave oven. Remove the chocolate from the heat just as soon as it is melted and not very hot—you don’t want the chocolate and butter to separate.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Switch to a rubber spatula and, one by one, stir in the chocolate and butter mixture, the nut mixture, and the prunes with any liquid.
Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold firm, glossy peaks. Stir about one quarter of the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture, then gently fold in the remaining whites. Turn the batter into the pan.
Bake the cake for 28 to 32 minutes, or until it is puffed, firm on top and starting to come ever so slightly away from the sides of the pan; a thin knife inserted into the center will come out streaky—the cake should not be wet, but you don’t want it to be completely dry. Transfer the cake to a rack and let it cool for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove the sides of the pan. Invert the cake, pull off the paper and turn right side up to cool to room temperature. The cake should be absolutely cool before you glaze it.
Getting ready to glaze: If the cake has crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even the top. Turn the cake over onto a cooling rack—you want the very flat bottom of the cake to be the top. Put a piece of wax paper or foil under the cooling rack to serve as a drip catcher.
To make the glaze: Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, or in a microwave oven. Remove it from the heat and, using a small spatula, stir in the sugar, then the butter, a bit at a time, stirring until you have a smooth glaze.
Have a long metal icing spatula at hand. Pour the glaze over the top of the cake, allowing the excess to rundown the sides, and use the spatula to smooth the top of the cake if necessary—usually the glaze is a self-spreader—and to even it around the sides of the cake. Let the glaze set at room temperature or, if you want to speed it up, slide the cake into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. If you’d like the glaze to be more like a frosting, let it cool until it is thick enough to spread, then swirl it over the cake.
Serving: The cake should be served at room temperature—chill it, and you’ll diminish its flavor and compact its texture. That said, there are lots of people who like the cake cold, because then it becomes more fudgy. Cream, whipped or ice, is a welcome accompaniment.
Chocolate Whiskey Cake: The original cake by Simone Beck featured raisins and Scotch, rather than prunes and Armagnac. If you’d like to use that combination, put 1/4 cup raisins and 1/4 cup Scotch whisky in a covered jar and shake the jar a few times. Let the raisins steep for at least 3 hours (or for up to 1 day), turning the jar upside down and then right side up from time to time. When you add the raisins to the batter, add whatever whisky remains as well.