Chocolate Almond Sponge Torte

  • Serves: Makes two 8- or 9- x 2-inch cake layers
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Making dessert for Passover can be a difficult task and many recipes do not taste great. No flour may be used, no corn (no cornmeal and cornstarch), no beans (no gluten-free mixes with garbanzo or fava bean flours) and, for some, no rice. In the absence of flour, finely ground nuts, potato starch or matzo cake meal step in to add structure, texture and flavor. With baking powder and yeast not allowed, stiffly beaten egg whites are incorporated into batters to leaven cakes, making foam cakes, such as the sponge cake, perfect! This cake is filled and frosted with a Dark Chocolate Mocha Icing and can be garnished with Candied Citrus Peel or Chocolate Curls, and sprinkled with toasted almond slices, if desired. This recipe is also gluten-free.

I have adapted the cake recipe from one of my favorite cookbook authors and bakers, Maida Heatter’s, from her "Book of Great Chocolate Desserts"” and rendered it perfect for Passover.
It uses a buttercream frosting, but for a non-dairy meal, you could fill and top the cake with melted apricot preserves or another fruit jam.

1 cup whole almonds, blanched

4 large eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup sugar; preferably superfine
2 tablespoons cocoa powder; can be Natural or Dutch-process
1 tablespoon rum or cognac, optional
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

To blanch almonds: Place nuts in a heat-proof bowl. Pour boiling water over them; let stand about 1 minute or until skins slip off easily. Drain; slip off skins. Dry thoroughly before using.

SARAH SAYS: I like to beat the egg whites, first, instead of the yolks, so you do not have to worry about them getting contaminated with fat from the yolks. Properly beaten whites
can sit for awhile after beating.
1. Position an oven shelf in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Grease two 8- or 9- x 2-inch round cake pans; line bottoms with wax paper. Grease the paper; dust insides lightly with cocoa powder. Invert pans and tap to remove excess.

3. Place blanched almonds in a food processor; pulse to grind to a fine powder to make almond flour.

4. In a dry, clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, with the mixer on medium-low speed, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar.
Continue whipping until the foam is white and opaque. Increase the mixer speed to high and add 2 tablespoons sugar at the side of the bowl, beating constantly until the whites are glossy and stand in firm peaks. Do not let the whites become stiff or dry.

Scrape whites into a clean bowl and set aside.

5. Using the same stand mixer bowl, with the mixer fitted with the same whisk attachment, at high speed, beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick and lemon-colored, about 5 minutes.
The yolks will "ribbon". That is when you raise the beaters, the mixture should fall in a ribbon pattern that sits on top of the swirl for seconds before sinking.
That's why it's called making the ribbon.

6. Add cocoa, rum, vanilla and almond extracts. Beat at low speed just until mixed. The mixture will be stiff.

7. On low speed, add ground almonds; beat just until mixed.

8. Fold a large spoonful of the beaten egg whites into chocolate yolk mixture to lighten it.
Lightly fold remaining whites in three additions into chocolate yolk mixture.

Evenly divide the batter into the cake pans; smooth surfaces.

9. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly pressed and cakes begin to come away from sides of the pans. Cool 5 minutes.
Run a knife around sides of each cake to release. Invert each onto a wire rack. Remove pan; carefully peel off the parchment paper.

10. Position each layer right side-up. Cool completely.

1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
8 ounces unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate; roughly chopped into 1/2-inch size pieces
1 to 2 teaspoons instant espresso coffee granules; can substitute with 2 to 4 teaspoons instant coffee granules such as Taster's Choice
1/2 cup boiling water; boil water and then measure
4 to 5 cups powdered sugar, sifted; measure and then, sift

1. Melt the butter and chocolate under on low heat . Dissolve the coffee in the hot water.

2. Add the powdered sugar to the mixer bowl. Fit the mixer with a paddle attachment.

3. With the mixer on low, add the chocolate mixture and the coffee alternately to the powdered sugar, beating until smooth.

Chocolate Almond Sponge Torte Cake Layers
Dark Chocolate Mocha Icing
Candied Citrus Peel or Chocolate Curls, if desired
1/4 to 1/2 cup almond slices, toasted

1. Spread about one-third of buttercream over cake layer on the plate. Cover with second layer, top side down.

2. Cover the top and sides of cake with remaining buttercream.

3. Garnish with Candied Citrus Peel or Chocolate Curls and toasted almonds slices right before serving.

Unfrosted or frosted: Cake can be stored at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. Can be frozen for a month or more.

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