A Wonderful Grownup Chocolate Dessert Treat
I know some women prefer to receive impressive jewelry, along with roses, on Valentine's Day. But I just don't get it. Why give jewelry when you can cook her something beautiful? After all, who likes the aroma or taste of a stone?
Make her a wonderful chocolate dessert like my Bourbon Fudge Cake, however, and you'll fill your kitchen and probably the rest of your home with a wonderfully romantic aroma. Then, you can offer a sensually delicious flavor you both will enjoy. (For ladies who are reading this, I can tell you that we men will also love this treat, should you be doing the cooking on Valentine's Day.)
This cake isn't one of those flourless chocolate cakes that have been popular for quite some time. But it is so rich with chocolate, butter, and eggs that the taste and texture are very much like fudge.
Adding to the romantic appeal is a generous dose of bourbon. It adds an intriguingly grownup hint of flavor without overpowering. And there's no need to spend a lot of money on the liquor since the subtleties of a fine bourbon won't be detectable in the final dessert. You can also feel free to experiment with the recipe, if you like, substituting whiskey or rum.
Don't stint, however, on the quality of the chocolate you use. This cake will be at its best if you select an excellent brand of bittersweet with a high percentage of cocoa solids, about 70 percent. Some of the brands I like to use include Valrhona (from France), Callebaut (a Belgian brand now based in Switzerland), and Scharffen Berger (from Berkeley, California).
Whichever brand you choose, take care to melt the chocolate over gentle heat so it doesn't scorch or "seize," turning lumpy. The classic way to do this is in the top pan of a double boiler or in a metal bowl, set over a pan of hot water without touching the water. Another way is to put the chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat it in the microwave at half (50-percent) power for about 30 seconds; then, stir it to see if it has fully melted and, if it hasn't, repeat the process of heating and stirring just until the chocolate is smooth.
To bake the batter, you'll also need a metal cake ring, like a cake pan without the bottom. Look for them in a well-stocked kitchenware store.
All that's left to do is bake, cool, and unmold the cake. Then, serve it in small, delicious wedges with you or your love's choice of whipped cream or ice cream.
Oh, and there's one more garnish you might want to add: a beautiful bouquet of roses.
Bourbon Fudge Cake Recipe
Makes 1 cake, 8 inches
1-1/4 cups pastry flour or cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
10-1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into small chunks
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 extra-large cage-free eggs, separated
1/3 cup bourbon, warmed slightly
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Ice cream or whipped cream, for serving
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and set an 8-by-2-1/2-inch ring on it. Wrap an 8-inch diameter circle of sturdy cardboard with foil and set it aside.
In a small bowl, sift together the flour and the baking soda. Set aside. In the top of a double boiler or in a metal bowl placed above simmering water, melt the chocolate. Keep warm.
Meanwhile, put the butter in the bowl of an electric stand mixer or in a mixing bowl. With the stand mixer's paddle attachment, or with a hand-held electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter, beating it until light and creamy. Gradually beat in 1 cup of the granulated sugar and continue beating until very light and fluffy.
Beat in the egg yolks, 1 at a time; then, beat in the bourbon and vanilla. Stop beating and scrape in the melted chocolate. Continue to beat until thoroughly combined. Remove the bowl from the machine and, with a rubber spatula, fold in half the flour mixture. Then, fold in the remaining flour until no streaks remain.
Put the egg whites into a clean mixing bowl. With the stand mixer's whisk attachment, or with very clean beaters, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks that droop slightly when the beaters are lifted out. Gradually beat in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue beating until the egg whites are shiny and firm but not yet stiff.
With the rubber spatula, stir 1/4 of the whites into the batter to lighten it; then, fold in the remaining whites. Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared cake ring and bake for 1 hour.
Immediately place the smooth foil-covered side of the cardboard circle on top of the cake. Firmly holding together the cardboard, ring, and baking tray with oven gloves or mitts, immediately invert the cake onto the cardboard and lift off the baking tray and paper. Run a small, sharp knife all around the inside of ring to loosen it from the cake, but do not remove the ring.
Leave the cake on the cardboard at room temperature to cool completely. Then, carefully lift off the ring.
Hold a small, fine-meshed sieve over the cake and spoon in some confectioners' sugar. Tap the side of the sieve to dust the cake with sugar. Cut the cake into wedges and serve with ice cream or whipped cream.
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