Though this post should begin with chocolate since it is mostly about the dark brown elixir, I think it would be better to explain how I came to undertake this task. We were invited to our first chili tasting/cook-off this weekend which currently completed its 8th annual run. Since most of the people competing were seasoned veterans, it was probably a safer bet that I stay away from trying to venture out in competing. Needless to say, I loved my first chili contest, my particular favorite were a vegetarian chili with fennel seeds and white bean chili with chicken. I love the personalized chili cup bowls, great job Molly!
A quick rewind back to the morning before the chili take out, I have cocoa powder all over the kitchen and traces of melted chocolate on the counter. Preparing this cake, to me required a bit of alone time so I could focus and concentrate without any distractions, including doorbells, text messages, phone calls, cold-wet nose from beloved dog, and significant other. The minute I stopped pay attention to folding in the genoise batter, a disaster in the form of a solid door stopper of a chocolate cake was generated.
So it was worth it, no one complained about the final product. Especially at the cookout, so I think this was an endeavor well worth the effort. I had seen the chocolate goddess, Alice Medrich bake this cake on PBS' "Baking with Julia" several times on reruns and said perhaps this is a good time to try this. Out popped my copy of the show's cookbook and after making a few changes and a new true love was born.
Since the whole prep time for this cake takes a bit of time (at least for me) and getting the genoise cake correct the first time can be daunting, it is a good idea to practice making the cake a couple of times a few days ahead. This cake batter relies on the lecithin in the egg yolks to act as an emulsifier to trap the air in the cake and leaven the cake. After beating the eggs extensively to get the characteristic "ribbons" appearance or rather the stiff peaks, I found it to be an excellent idea to add the sifted flour/cocoa mix in 1/4 cup batches while folding it into the eggs. Sift the flour and cocoa at least three times before you fold it into the batter. Folding gently and patiently is the key to getting this cake to rise.
Putting the cake together was much easier than I thought after getting the challenge of the genoise cake down. Playing around with melted chocolate in the kitchen was fun an messy but so worthwhile. Creme fraiche can be hard to find but it makes the BEST filling/icing in the world. I can only describe the taste of creme fraiche reminiscent of a buttermilk-butterscotch combination but it has its own unique taste.
Though the original recipe called for eau de framboise, I made my own raspberry liquor of sorts. The raspberry-elderberry liquor was prepared by soaking 1 cup of raspberries in the refrigerator with St. Germain for two days and then draining and collecting the reserve liquid. I used this liquid to make my raspberry syrup and added some more St. Germain once it cooled down. I think the blend of the elderberry and raspberry flavors is delightful with the creme fraiche and chocolate.
Alice Medrich's chocolate raspberry cake (From Baking with Julia cookbook - written by Dorie Greenspan)
The Genoise Sponge Cake
3 tablespoons hot clarified unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sifted all-purpose flour
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sifted unsweetened dark cocoa powder
4 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 pound bittersweet or semisweet 75% dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 to cup St. Germain
1 cup fresh raspberries
Creme Fraiche Filling
3 cups creme fraiche
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons sugar
5 ounces semisweet or bittersweet
3 tablespoons boiling water
Three 5-ounce containers fresh raspberries
3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet
The Genoise Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Sift flour and cocoa together five timesand keep aside. Whisk eggs and sugar together in a large heat-proof bowl. Set bowl over direct heat and warm the eggs. Shake while doing this to prevent eggs from cooking or curdling. The eggs should be slightly warm to touch and not hot. Remove bowl from heat and with a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment beat the eggs on high until cool, tripled in volume, and able to hold a ribbon when whisk is lifted. Sift one third of the dry ingredients over eggs and fold in gently but thoroughly. When the color of the batter is almost uniform, fold in remaining flour-cocoa mixture. Pour the hot clarified butter into a 1-quart bowl and stir in vanilla. Spoon 1 cup of batter into the hot clarified butter and fold together until well blended. Spoon this over the batter and, using the large rubber spatula, gently fold it in. Spoon batter into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top springs back when pressed gently. Transfer pan to a rack and cool cake in pan. When completely cool, run a knife around the sides to release cake and unmold it onto a rack; invert right side up onto parchment paper. Note: If your batter starts to lose volume when you fold, it will reduce the sponginess of the baked cake.
Melt chocolate in heat-proof bowl set over simmering hot water. Stir chocolate until fully melted and smooth. Hold the bottom of one baking pan over a burner and, moving it back and forth, heat until warm but not hot. Put the baking pan upside down on a flat surface and pour on 1/3 cup of chocolate. Use an offset spatula to spread evenly over the pan. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Repeat with remaining chocolate and pans.
Remove a pan of chocolate from refrigerator and let warm to room temperature. Place baking pan in front of you, a short side braced against your body. Hold the end of the blade of a thin, flexible 8-inch metal icing spatula in one hand and, with the other hand, grab the blade close to the handle. Using the top left corner of the pan as a starting point and imagining that corner of the pan as 12 o’clock, position one hand in that corner, and the other at 2 o’clock. Press the edge of the blade against the chocolate at a very shallow angle. Slide the blade forward, moving your hand down to 5 o’clock and then pivoting the blade to the left, all the way to the edge of the pan. As you scrape and ruffle the chocolate against the blade and then make the pivot, the chocolate will gather against the blade. Pinch the chocolate so the ruffles form a fan and the pinched part is a handle. Place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate. Make two more ruffles across the top of the pan, using the previously scraped area as your guide. Make the next three ruffles just below, then turn the pan around to get to the chocolate on the bottom and make three more. You can make ruffles that are large and small, just decorate with the smaller ones on the center and then use the larger ones as you move outside.
Soak 1 cup raspberries in 1 cup St.Germain for at least 24hours in the refrigerator. Drain the raspberries and then use the reserve liquid. Bring the liquid and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, reduce to half the original volume. Remove from heat and cool. Add 1/4 cup St.Germain. Taste syrup and adjust flavor; set aside in the refrigerator.
Crème Fraiche Filling:
Beat creme fraiche and vanilla to soft peak, then add 2 tablespoons sugar, beating until thickened. Taste and add more sugar if needed, then continue beating until cream begins to stiffen. Cover with cling film and refrigerate.
Cut cooled genoise into 3 even layers using a serrated knife and rotating the cake a turn table. Fit one layer into the bottom of an 8-inch round springform pan and brush the layer with syrup. Put chopped chocolate in a bowl with the boiling water, whisking until the chocolate is fully melted and smooth. Using a rubber spatula, fold 1/4 cup creme fraiche into the chocolate. Fold in another 1/2 cup creme fraiche, then quickly spread the chocolate creme fraiche evenly over the genoise layer in the pan. Moisten the second layer of genoise with framboise syrup and set it, moistened side down, in the pan, pressing gently to level it. Moisten with the syrup and top with an even layer of fresh raspberries. (Keep a few raspberries in reserve). Beat remaining creme fraiche until it holds its shape. Spoon 1 1/2 to 2 cups creme fraiche over the berries and carefully smooth the creme fraiche over and between the berries. Moisten the remaining layer of genoise with syrup and set it, moistened side down, into the pan, again pressing lightly to set it in place. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
Assembly: Run a knife around the sides of the cake, then remove the ring of the springform pan. Put the cake, still on its pan bottom, on parchment paper and set on a decorating turntable. Using freezer paper or parchment paper cut a strip 4 inches longer than the circumference of the cake pan (the one you baked the cake in) and 2 inches wider than the height of the cake. Place a larger piece of wax paper on the counter and put the strip on the waxed paper. Melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler, stirring once or twice until melted and smooth. Pour the chocolate down the center of the plastic strip, spreading it with an offset spatula across the entire strip. Lift the strip and fit it neatly around the cake, positioning it so that the chocolate side is against the cake. Press one end against the cake and leave the other end standing away from the cake at the point where it would overlap. Slip a small piece of waxed paper into this spot to hold your place. Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour, until the chocolate hardens.Place the cake on the decorating turntable and spread the remaining creme fraiche over the top. Remove chocolate ruffles from refrigerator and, beginning at the outside edge, arrange ruffles in a circle. Continue to arrange the ruffles in slightly overlapping concentric circles until the creme fraiche is covered. Put a few raspberries in the center of the cake and chill the cake for about 15 minutes, until firm. Remove the paper place keeper and peel away an inch of the plastic from the end of the band attached to the cake. Put a dollop of melted chocolate on that end to act as glue and overlap the other end of the band, pressing lightly to seal it. Carefully remove the plastic. If the plastic sticks, put the cake back in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes, then try again. You can also seal any uneven ends with left over melted chocolate and then refrigerate again to firm up.