Four years ago at the beginning of February, The Gastronomer sent me an email asking, "Will you please make this cake for Valentine's Day?" She was totally kidding---the recipe was crazy complicated, involving repeated siftings, double boilers, overnight chilling, horizontal cake-cutting, alcohol and tea, mousse and ganache, and a strange baking container known as a "cake ring." I had baked a few cakes in my day, but this recipe was clearly way over my head. In the years that followed, we had a running joke about the heart cake being the most difficult recipe ever. Things got funnier in 2007, when a 12-year old had the audacity to post a review online saying that the recipe was easy. Talk about wounded pride...
After gaining experience and confidence in the kitchen over the past couple of years, I decided this would finally be the year that I tackled the challenge. A few weeks ago I purchased a heart-shaped cake ring and presented it to The Gastronomer on her birthday as a prequel to the Valentine's treat. I made the cake over a two-day period this weekend. The recipe was as complicated as it appeared, but the instructions were mostly quite clear, and while the end product wasn't as beautiful as it could have been (it's apparent that I need some more frosting practice), the flavor was excellent. The combination of chocolate, cherry jam, and chai spices works together really well.
I can assure you that if someone makes this cake for you, they probably love you a lot. Happy Valentine's Day, and chúc mừng năm mới!
Recipe by Bon Appetit, February 2003, courtesy of Epicurious
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 4 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
- 2/3 cup cherry jam
- 2 tablespoons kirsch (clear cherry brandy)
- 4 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon chai-spiced tea leaves or Lapsang souchong smoked black tea leaves (from 1 tea bag)
- 5 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
Bring whipping cream and cinnamon sticks just to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat; let steep 1 hour at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate cinnamon cream overnight.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place 8x8x2-inch heart-shaped cake ring on sheet of foil. Wrap foil up sides of ring. Brush foil and inside of ring with 1 tablespoon butter; dust with flour. Place on baking sheet.
Sift flour, cocoa, and salt into medium bowl. Combine eggs and sugar in large metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water). Whisk until sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Remove from over water. Using electric mixer, beat mixture until thick and billowy and heavy ribbon falls when beaters are lifted, about 5 minutes. Sift half of dry ingredients over; fold in gently. Repeat with remaining dry ingredients. Transfer 1/4 cup batter to small bowl; fold in 3 tablespoons butter. Gently fold butter mixture into batter; do not overmix or batter will deflate. Transfer batter to ring.
Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer cake with foil to rack; cool completely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and store at room temperature.)
Make Mousse and Glaze and Assemble Cake
Blend jam and kirsch in small bowl. Cut around sides of cake; lift off ring. Using metal spatula, loosen cake from foil and transfer to rack. Using serrated knife, cut cake horizontally in half. Using tart pan bottom, transfer top cake layer to work surface; turn cut side up. Spread half of jam on cut side of both cake layers.
Strain cinnamon cream into large bowl; beat until soft peaks form. Stir finely chopped chocolate in heavy small saucepan over low heat until smooth. Quickly fold warm chocolate into whipped cream (chocolate must be warm to blend smoothly). Immediately drop mousse by dollops over bottom cake layer; spread to within 3/4 inch of edge. Gently press second layer, jam side down, atop mousse. Smooth sides of cake with offset spatula. Chill assembled cake on rack while preparing glaze.
Bring cream, 1/4 cup water, corn syrup, and tea to boil in small saucepan, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; steep 5 minutes. Strain into another small saucepan; return to boil.
Remove from heat. Add coarsely chopped chocolate; whisk until smooth. Cool glaze until thickened, but still pourable, about 30 minutes. Place rack with cake over baking sheet. Slowly pour glaze over cake to cover, using spatula if necessary to spread evenly. Chill until glaze is firm, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day [during this step, it's a good idea to place the cake in an airtight container. I covered mine with a lid, but the bottom layer dried out a bit because it was still sitting on a cooling rack]. Place cake on platter and serve.
Yield: 1 cake
Estimated Start-to-Finish Time: Not given
Actual Start-to-Finish Time: 3 1/2 hours (not counting chilling time--this is a serious project)