Tuesday, March 3, 2009

TWD - Chocolate Armagnac Cake

The time has finally come! It was my turn to choose this week's recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie and let me tell you, for someone who has a hard time taking decisions, this was not an easy task. Baking from my Home to Yours is full of fantastic recipes, and every time I thought I had the one, I flipped a page and found another! But I kept coming back to the cake that got Dorie fired, Chocolate Armagnac Cake.

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.


Playing around


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.


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86 comments:

Megan said...

Excellent choice - and although I left out the prunes and nuts, it was still an unbelievable cake. One that I would definitely make again.

rainbowbrown said...

Absolutely fabulous choice. I've been keen on this one since the beginning.

Sara said...

I've been wanting to try this, it looks so amazing!

Marie said...

This was a really wonderful choice! I just loved it. Yours looks perfect. Thanks so much. I think this is my favourite one so far!

Melissa said...

Thanks for a great selection, Lyb!

Snooky doodle said...

this cake looks so chocoaltey and the addition of prunes and whiskey makes it top of the list :)

Kim said...

this looks so rich and decadent. i could sure use a bite! :)

Marthe said...

Great choice!! I loved it and yours looks absolutely perfect!

Jin Hooi said...

Thanks for choosing this recipe , we love it !!!

Cakelaw said...

Thanks for choosing this Lyb - it was absolutely devine!

Isabelle said...

merci beaucoup Lyb d'avoir choisi cette recette...je t'avouerai que j'ai hésité à le faire car je suis tannée de tous les gâteaux au chocolat qu'on a dû faire dernièrement....mais c'est le seul gâteau ( dernièrement ) sur lequel tout le monde a capoté ...en plus, c'était toi qui avait proposé..alors je ne voulais pas manqué ça ! merci encore :)

Lauren said...

I also loved this cake, who wouldn't? Pictures tell a real story too. Thanks.

dharmagirl said...

your cake looks delicious! an excellent choice--I didn't make it this week but will soon:)

Sarah said...

This was a great choice, and I love how wonderfully easy it was to make it gluten-free for my boyfriend with celiac's. Thanks for picking it!

Jennifer said...

Excellent choice, Lyb! You did an exceptional job on your cake! It's beautiful!!!!

Teanna said...

That cake is absolutely GORGEOUS! I love your frosting job!!! It was definitely an interesting cake and you made a fantastic pick!

Amanda said...

Thank you for choosing this recipe! Your cake looks gorgeous! I really enjoyed this recipe, but too many dishes LOL

Pamela said...

It was a fabulous choice! I'm so glad I decided to bake it, because I loved it!

Peggy said...

I love how you swirled your icing. Mine is so plain. But I really loved this cake - it was a great pick!!! I will definitely make it again. Thank you for your excellent choice!!!!

Steph said...

Great pick this week! I'm so jealous now seeing all these wonderful cakes. I have to make this when I have the time. Your pictures look so pretty!

vibi said...

Merci LyB, d'avoir choisie cette recette pour nous cette semaine!

Un très bon choix, malgré le fait que beaucoup venaient tout juste de faire d'autres gâteau au chocolat du même genre, pour les Daring Bakers... mais tu pouvais pas savoir. Le principal, c'est que celui de Dorie ait été et de loin, le meilleur de tous!

Le tien à l'air sublime, la glace super soyeuse! bravo!

steph- whisk/spoon said...

that is gorgeously glazed--just perfect! thanks for a fun and adventurous (prunes, booze, fire!) pick this week. :)

~3 Sides of Crazy~ said...

Thank you for choosing this recipe. It was well received around my house and turned out truly delectable.

Madam Chow said...

Fantastic choice - we loved it, even without the frosting!

chocolatechic said...

Thanks for picking this, and making me try prunes.

It was great.

spike. said...

Thanks for the pick this week! loved it

doughmesstic said...

Great choice! It really got me out of my comfort zone - so I am glad to have played along!

Cathy said...

Great, great, GREAT pick, Lyb!!! This is now in my top three favorite TWD recipes to date. I stuck as close to the recipe as I could (I couldn't find armagnac) and could not believe how fabulous this cake was. It will become a go-to recipe when I need a delicious, impressive dessert. Your cake looks gorgeous. Thank you for the awesome pick!

TourGuideJenn said...

A bold choice! It looks really delish - your pictures are very good and your cake looks fantastic. I did not bake along this week, but will certainly try this cake at some point (especially with such great reviews!).

Brilynn said...

You know how much I loooove this cake! Wonderful choice!

Bridget said...

Your glaze swirl is beautiful.

And you're right, this cake did make me appreciate prunes. I hadn't eaten them...ever?, but they were delicious in this cake.

Kimberly Johnson said...

Great pick this week! I didn't use prunes, but only because I was too lazy to go to the store and buy some! Next time though!

Tracey said...

Thanks for your pick this week! Your cake looks delicious. I love how beautifully you swirled the frosting!

Ginny said...

Looks fabulous! So rich and chocolately! :)

SiHaN said...

i loved it so much! and i'm so glad you made that choice too!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Good call. I've wanted to make this cake ever since I got Baking. I, too, love the story that goes with it. Now I just need a reason to make it.

Karen said...

This was a fantastic choice! :) I loved it!

Secret Server said...

Thanks for choosing this, it was fun and delicious.

pinkstripes said...

Thank you for selecting this recipe. It was great! So good.

Your cake looks gorgeous.

Katie said...

Yum Yum Yum! I love the classy brownie description!

Jules Someone said...

Lovely cake and lovely choice! Thanks!

Jules Someone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jillian said...

that frosting looks like satin! Very yummy!

Barbara said...

Thanks for choosing this recipe! We loved it!

Flourchild said...

NIce cake, Im sorry I did not get to make it this time.

karen said...

thanks for a great choice, we loved it. your cake looks perfect!

Cafe Johnsonia said...

(I miss baking with you!)

This looks great. I love your pics of the process. This is one recipe I have yet to make from the book.

Great choice!

PheMom said...

So, even though it wasn't my thing, I think it was probably because the rum I used was just too strong? IDK, either way it was FUN to make and very different + hello!? I LOVED flambe-ing so it was still totally worth it! :)

Your cake looks totally fabulous!

Joy said...

Your cake is beautiful - I love the icing pics! I like the story, too.

dorie said...

Lyb -- you're cake looks great and I'm as happy as could be that you liked it. And thrilled that you used prunes and encouraged others to use them. I think they're an underated fruit and that they're fabulous to bake with, especially, as you pointed out, when you add chocolate and butter and booze.

Stephanie said...

Your cake looks fantastic! Thanks for making a great choice this week!

margot said...

Your cake is beautiful. And I actually enjoyed eating the extra prunes

Cynthia said...

I was unable to make the cake this weekend, but after reading your post and others' comments, I'm sorry I missed out. Your pictures are lovely and you have motivated me to try the cake. Thanks for your pick.

farah said...

Your cake looks delicious and your photos are great! I don't drink alcohol and chocolate gives me headaches, and for those reasons i did not make it. I really wish i could have though :)

Katrina said...

Great job, it looks delicious. Haven't seen anyone who didn't like it, since I skipped this one, I'll definitely have to try it sometime!

CB said...

Sorry I slacked on your week but honestly I would have baked just about anything pour vous but me don't do prunes. haha. Although your cake pictures makes me regret I didn't sub with raspberries or something. Your swirl is perfect! Thanks for hosting!
Clara @ iheartfood4thought

The Food Librarian said...

Great post! Thanks for letting us bake with prunes!!

mike said...

Beautiful looking cake - love your photographs, you really capture the dense, rich flavor! And I love your frosting technique! Thanks for choosing this great cake! Nicely done!

Emily Rose said...

Thank you so much for choosing this recipe- I loved it so much! It is my new favorite chocolate cake, I can't wait to make it again!

Carol Peterman said...

I love that this cake features prunes because they need some good press and this cake is just about the best PR prunes could ask for! So good. Your cake is beautiful!

Tartelette said...

Fabulous choice! I need to make it again soon....I am sure it would make my parents swoon!

Manggy said...

Yo Lynne! Great choice! I know lots of people find the fruit and nut combo (usu. in Cadbury and Dove) weird, but I am a total fan. And I know I'd just love this cake too :) (I love the swirl!)

Grace said...

i applaud you for your selection, lyb. yum--chocolate and fire. you finished it so nicely, too. :)

Julie said...

Ton choix de recette, tes photos et ton gâteau; tout est absolument superbe! Bravo, bravo, bravo!!!!!

Rebecca said...

Your photos are beautiful! Obviously made with love.

ChichaJo said...

You made a fantastic choice with this cake -- chocolate, armagnac, and prunes sounds like a fabulous combination to me! I actually like prunes and don't really see why people would be put off by them...they are certainly moister than raisins :)

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I have a powerful hankering for a hunk of this cake.

The Food Librarian said...

Great choice! This is one I probably would have skipped...if it weren't for TWD and I'm not disappointed! Thanks again!

Your cake looks lovely!!!!

Jill said...

What a great choice! I loved it and it's now one of my favorite TWD recipes!

Linda said...

A great pick this week. This was one of the first recipes that I bookmarked, and my only regret is not making this sooner. Wow, the prunes really add something special to this cake. Armagnac whipped cream --- sounds heavenly!

Piggy said...

Great choice, the cake is really yummy! :-)

TeaLady said...

Great choice. Yours look just perfect.

Shari@Whisk: a food blog said...

We devoured this cake (whereas some of the desserts we've enjoyed once but haven't finished the batch). It was delicious, so thanks for a great pick!

Aimée said...

Wow, wow, wow! I need to pick up some dark chocolate ASAP! This is so classy and the photos are top notch!

kimberleyblue said...

Did you find the chocolate at the dollar store? :) I know they had quite a supply.

The cake looks so wonderfully chocolatey and rich and delicious. I think you made a perfect choice!

Nicisme said...

Yay! Good to see you chose this one on your turn, it looks soooooo good!

jaysfavoritefoods said...

Thanks for choosing such a great cake!!!!

Engineer Baker said...

I was soooo glad someone finally picked this - it's in my top five chocolate desserts for sure. Fabulous pick, and beautiful cake!

suzanne cabrera said...

How can you do this to me first thing in the morning. Ahyayaya...I'm drooling!

Kayte said...

This disappeared so fast around here...my husband and sons were eating it straight off the cake plate...LOL! My first one, well...a little mishap and it fell apart but they did not CARE, they ate every bit of it and wanted another...fortunately they are all thin! Too many rounds of this cake, and I am not so sure it would remain so! Your cake looks so amazing...I love the swirling on the top.

Claudia said...

I'm nmot a great baker ... but looking at this makes me want to change my ways.

Di said...

Okay, it took me forever, but I finally got this made. What an awesome cake! I love it. I used prunes, scotch, and pecans. I love the underlying fruitiness that the prunes contribute. Thanks for picking this one!!

Liliana said...

I didn't get the chance to make this cake but after looking at yours, I have to make it at least once! It looks absolutely delicious!

Great choice and wonderful photos!

jack bauer said...

Kiitos herkullisesta ohjeesta. Thanks for a great recipe:)

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Tiff said...

Hello!

I made this recipe recently and have linked your recipe to my blog for those who would like to make it. I hope you do not mind.

Thanks and Happy Baking.

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