When it comes to unusual cakes, this one takes the… well. I guess you could say it takes itself! 😉
The texture of this cake is decidedly European. Its structure comes from a blend of ground nuts and beaten egg whites – so, nuts and air. 🙂 This kind of cake is common in Europe, especially in older European recipes, but it is rarely seen in American cake recipes. The crumb is not as sweet as American palates are accustomed to; it is a subtle blend of almond and chocolate, owing to the inclusion of grated semisweet chocolate in the batter. Heightening the complexity of the cake’s flavour is the addition of Merlot. It’s mild-tasting only if you are used to the in-your-face sugary concoctions that define America; it’s stunning if your palate is more open to finessed flavours. The cake is filled and iced with a semisweet chocolate mousse which pairs perfectly with this cake, teasing out the mild chocolate flavour inherent within the crumb. I further enhanced the chocolate flavour by brushing the cake with a mocha raspberry simple syrup. Not only does this further moisten the cake’s soft crumb, it adds yet another subtle layer of flavour.
This sophisticated cake won the $25,000 grand prize of a heritage recipe contest held by America’s Test Kitchen. According to the recipe’s author, the cake was apparently borne of the desire not to waste bread! Indeed, the cake does include grated bread crumbs. I read the list of ingredients and almost didn’t bother making this cake, as it sounded weird. I’m so glad I took a chance and tried this cake out. It really stands out in a sea of oversweetened, one-note desserts. (My taste buds really woke up when I stopped eating sugar every single day!) I’m fairly certain that most people reading the recipe have the same reaction I did; a combination of “Bread crumbs? Huh?” and “That sounds like it would turn out kind of dry.”
Surprisingly, the cake does not come out dry, even without the application of simple syrup. It is reminiscent of an angel food cake. The simple syrup gives it the kind of moisture we associate with devil’s food cake, and that legendary texture coupled with the cake’s intriguing complexity of flavour makes it something unforgettable.
Despite the inclusion of 9 egg whites, the finished cake does not taste eggy. It tastes of chocolate, coffee, and mild sweetness. I urge you to try this, even though it probably sounds a bit odd to you, as it did to me. It’s a taste of Old World Europe, just waiting for you at the edge of a microplane zester. 😉
Grated Bread & Chocolate Cake
Yield: One 9″, two-layered cake
For the cake:
9 oz. (2 c.) almond flour
1/2 c. plain dried bread crumbs
2 TBS all-purpose flour
1 oz. semisweet chocolate (I used 70% Lindt), grated finely (I used a Microplane zester)
1 tsp. baking powder
9 large egg whites
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar, optional (use if your eggs are old, or if you aren’t sure how old they are; older egg whites simply won’t beat up as well)
6 oz. (1 1/2 c.) powdered sugar
1/4 c. Merlot or similar (I used a blend of Merlot and ruby port)
2 TBS lemon juice
For the simple syrup:
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. water
1 TBS Chambord liqeuer
1/3 c. coffee, cooled
For the icing:
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped fine (I used a blend of 70%, 84%, and milk Lindt)
2 c. heavy whipping cream, divided
1 oz. semisweet chocolate (I used 70% Lindt), finely grated, for garnish
For the cake:
Preheat oven to 325°F (350°F for electric ovens). Spray 2 9″ cake tins with nonstick spray and dust with flour. Line cake tins with parchment paper and spray parchment paper with nonstick spray. Set aside.
Stir together almond flour, bread crumbs, all-purpose flour, chocolate, and baking powder until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
Beat egg whites (and cream of tartar, if using) in bowl of electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment on low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to high and beat until whites form soft peaks, about 1 – 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and gradually add powdered sugar, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and beat until stiff, but not dry, peaks form, about 3 minutes.
Whisk wine and lemon juice into egg white mixture, being careful not to deflate whites.
Fold in 1/3 of the flour mixture until a few streaks of flour remain. Fold in half of remaining flour until a few streaks remain. Fold in remaining flour mixture until thoroughly combined.
Divide batter between pans and smooth tops. They will not smooth out during baking, so use a finger wetted with water to smooth them, if necessary.
Bake until cakes spring back when poked gently with a finger, about 20 minutes. Rotate pans around 12 minutes into baking. Start checking for doneness 16 minutes or so in; you do not want to overbake these cakes. If you poke with a finger and a dent remains in the top of the cake, they aren’t done yet.
When cakes are done, remove pans to wire rack and cool 10 minutes in pans. Release cakes onto wire racks and cool completely, about an hour to an hour and a half.
While cakes are cooling, make the simple syrup and chocolate mousse. Proceed as directed in “Assembly.”
For the simple syrup:
Boil sugar, water, and Chambord until sugar is completely dissolved. Stir in coffee. Cool completely.
For the icing:
Place chocolate in medium heatproof bowl. Heat 1/2 c. cream until boiling; pour over chocolate and allow to stand 2 minutes. Gently whisk together until completely blended. Allow to cool completely.
Beat remaining 1 1/2 c. cream until soft peaks form. Add all of chocolate mixture and whisk until completely blended; continue to whisk until stiff peaks form.
Slice each cake layer in half, for a total of four layers. Place four strips of wax paper on cake plate and place first layer, cut side up, on top of strips; you’ll pull these strips out after you’ve iced the cake.
Generously brush cake layer with simple syrup. You’ll use probably 2 – 3 TBS of syrup for this; it will seem like too much, but make sure cake layer is moist from the syrup. Spread about 2/3 c. of chocolate mousse onto cake layer and smooth. Place next cake layer, cut side up, on top of mousse; brush with syrup. Spread 2/3 c. mousse on top and repeat with third and fourth cake layers, ensuring that the fourth cake layer is placed cut side down. Ice top and sides of cake with remaining chocolate mousse. Carefully pull wax paper strips from beneath cake.
Decorate with grated chocolate. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Source: Cake barely adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Best-Ever Lost Recipes (January 2018), p. 84; icing from Chocolate Stampede Cake; simple syrup a KitchEnchantress Original. The original version of the cake can be found here.