Happy Birthday Kate!

Something you must know about Kate is that she loves celebrating birthdays.

Her birthday was the first to occur in our class after the start of med school last August. This was before we had become close friends and before I knew just how much import she placed on the fact that everybody has a homemade birthday cake. I will forever regret the fact that Kate baked her own birthday cake in 2011. But this year, things were made right. I had the privilege of spending Kate’s birthday with her in her hometown and indulging in a delicious cinnamon-tinged chocolate cake baked by her mom, every bite proving that baking prowess is certainly genetic. The next night, we had a celebration in Chicago and made sure that Kate did not lift a finger—a difficult task given her much-respected inclination to always provide for others.
So, what do you bake the girl who has poured her heart, soul, and countless bowls of batter and frosting into baking birthday cakes for friends all year long? One of the most decadent desserts out there: Double Chocolate Torte.
This torte was not a new recipe to Kate and I. In February, attempting to remedy Kate’s self-baked birthday cake situation, I made this rich torte to celebrate Kate’s half birthday. When her actual birthday rolled around, she requested the torte again, and I was more than happy to spend a rainy morning taking on this multi-layered baking challenge.
Layer 1: a nearly flourless chocolate cake, so dense it is almost brownie-like.
Layer 2: a fluffy semisweet chocolate mousse with that begins with a custard base and is lightened with egg whites.
Layer 3: slightly sweetened fresh whipped cream, topped with some of the plumpest and juiciest cherries I have encountered all summer.
Three layers are not nearly enough to encapsulate all the sweetness that Kate deserves for her 24th year, but they helped give a small slice of love, appreciation, and indulgence to her on her special day.
Double Chocolate Torte (recipe adapted from Bon Appetit)
8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup all purpose flourMousse:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 lb cherries, pitted and halved

For cake:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter 10-inch-diameter springform pan; dust with sugar. Melt chocolate and butter in heavy large saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Cool to lukewarm. Whisk in sugar. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time, blending well after each addition. Mix in vanilla and salt, then flour. Pour batter into pan. Bake until cake just rises in center (tester inserted into center will not come out clean), about 35 minutes. Cool completely in pan on rack. Cover; chill while making mousse.

For mousse:
Melt butter in medium metal bowl set over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water). Whisk yolks, 1/4 cup cream and vanilla in small bowl to blend. Gradually whisk yolk mixture into bowl with melted butter. Whisk constantly over simmering water until thermometer registers 150°F, about 6 minutes (mixture may appear broken). Remove from over water; add chocolate and stir to melt. Set aside. Beat egg whites and 1/2 cup sugar in large bowl to medium-stiff peaks. Whisk 1/4 of beaten egg white mixture into warm chocolate mixture to lighten. Fold in remaining egg white mixture. Pour mousse over cake in pan; smooth top. Chill torte until mousse is set, at least 6 hours and up to 1 day.

Run sharp knife around edge of pan to loosen torte. Release pan sides. Transfer torte to platter. Using electric mixer, beat 3/4 cup cream in medium bowl until peaks form. Spread whipped cream over torte. Top whipped cream with cherries.

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