Chocolate Whiskey Trifle

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Trifles are one of my favorite desserts to construct. This is why:

1. It’s no-bake and thus super quick to assemble.
2. You can even use all store-bought, ready-made ingredients to assemble your trifle.
3. If your layer cake fails, turn it into a trifled “deconstructed” dessert.

This chocolate cake trifle was borne out of the third reason. I had made a chocolate whiskey cake, only I tweaked the recipe to double the amount of whiskey to 1 cup, and omitted the coffee chocolate chips. If I found the original recipe a tad too sweet, this new incarnation was excessively alcoholic. I legitimately felt tipsy after a slice, and would mostly eat it with a scoop of ice cream to offset the dryness and high alcoholic content.

The poor cake languished in my freezer for a while, until I chanced upon this chocolate sauce recipe. I loved that it didn’t contain any ingredient that couldn’t exist outside the refrigerator, which would imply that it’d have an extended shelf life much like a commercial chocolate sauce. I made a batch of it, and I saw it as the perfect solution to my dry and un-sweet chocolate cake. Then I had another great idea. I had some heavy cream left over from the Sachertorte. What if added a bunch of whipped cream to it and made it a trifle?

I made short work of it, both in making and eating it. I added some white chocolate chips for textural contrast and added sweetness. It ended up being a high whipped cream to cake ratio, which meant that the flavors ended up balancing out perfectly.

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Chocolate Whiskey Trifle
This is not so much a recipe as guidelines for freewheeling creativity. Go wild!

An amount of chocolate cake – I used this chocolate whiskey cake recipe
Chocolate sauce – homemade from this Allrecipes recipe, or store-bought is fine
1 cup of heavy cream
Granulated sugar to taste
White chocolate chips

1. Start whipping heavy cream on high with a mixer (or laboriously by hand if you don’t have a mixer – it is possible, just tiring) and add granulated sugar to taste.
2. Crumble chocolate cake into a container – ideally glass, so everyone can see the strata that make up your trifle. Spoon some whipped cream into it and even out. Squirt a bunch of chocolate sauce on to it. Sprinkle a handful of chocolate chips.
3. Repeat until a limiting factor presents itself – for me, the whipped cream ran out first.
4. Let sit for an hour so the cake moistens from the sauces and whipped cream. If you’re not patient enough, go ahead and eat it right there and then anyway.

Sachertorte – A Success

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About a year ago, I attempted my very first Sachertorte – a classic Austrian chocolate cake with an apricot jam filling and a chocolate glaze. Unfortunately, my version failed miserably. This cake is a really old-school recipe that doesn’t involve any chemical leavening, and since I didn’t have an electric mixer at the time, whipping egg whites into stiff peaks was an utter bitch by hand.

But things are different now. This recipe is in fact, quite a piece of cake with a stand mixer.

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My cake ended up with a tight crumb that was still light in texture, and soaked up all that rummy Stroh-apricot jam goodness. The chocolate cake itself is rather dry and not very sweet by itself, so liberal amounts of apricot jam mixed with rum (if you can use authentic 160 proof Stroh, even better) is imperative. Let the glaze harden and set before eating even though it might be tempting – I promise it will be worth the wait.

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I chose to go by Wolfgang Puck’s recipe because I knew he was Austrian, so he must know what he’s talking about. It didn’t fail me, but I have some edits that I made and I’ll recommend going forward.

  1. I used XL eggs, and hence just used an equal number of egg yolks and egg whites.
  2. My cake ended up rather thin, and without a specialized cake layering tool, it’ll be nearly impossible to cut it horizontally into thirds. Just make a half cake by slicing it all the way through and stacking it, like I did.
  3. To that note, I would halve the amount of apricot jam filling I make. I had quite a bit left over.
  4. I cannot emphasize more the importance of sifting your flour before mixing. This is a tight-crumbed cake that’s relatively low in fat compared to American cakes, so the texture of the flour will make an appreciable difference to the outcome of the cake.

Sachertorte
Makes 1 half 9-inch cake
Adapted from Wolfgang Puck

Cake:

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
3 ounces butter
4 egg yolks
1 ounce sugar, plus 3 ounces
5 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup flour, sifted

Apricot Filling:
3/4 cups apricot preserves
1/2 tablespoon apricot brandy or rum

Glaze:
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
1 ounce butter
2 ounces heavy cream
Schlagobers, or whipped cream

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9 by 2-inch cake pan.

In a bowl, combine the chocolate and butter and melt over a double boiler. Set aside to cool. In a mixer, using a wire whisk, whip the egg yolks with 1 ounce sugar until light and ribbony. Beat in the chocolate mixture.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining 3 ounces of sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks. Fold in the flour and then fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Fold in the remaining egg whites, gently but thoroughly. Pour into prepared cake pan.

Bake for 40 minutes or until done. To check for doneness, insert a paring knife in center of cake. It should come out dry. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

To make the apricot filling: puree the apricot preserves. Stir in brandy.

Slice the cake into half to get two half-moons. Spread half of the apricot filling on the bottom layer. Top with a second layer of cake. Spread a thinner layer of apricot filling on top, but scrape off any protuberant preserve pieces. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

To make the glaze: in a bowl, combine the chocolate and butter. Melt over a double-boiler. Bring the cream to a boil. Stir into the melted chocolate. Cool until it reaches glazing consistency. Spread over and around the cake. Chill for another 30 minutes before serving. Serve a slice with Schlagobers or whipped cream.

Chocolate Almond Granola

One of my favorite snacks these days is Trader Joe’s Chocolate Almond Granola. It’s chocolatey, it’s crunchy, it satisfies my breakfast and mid-afternoon snacking needs – it’s really a great product. What’s even better about it is how simple the ingredients list is. Just about everything can be found in the grocery store, and I decided that instead of buying this cereal over and over again, I’m just going to make it. It’s too simple not to.

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Enter my riff on Trader Joe’s chocolate almond granola. My version contains old-fashioned oats, almond slivers, cocoa powder, honey, and canola oil, and chocolate shavings. The only item that I cannot procure easily that’s within the Trader Joe’s version is barley malt syrup – but that’s okay. Honey does a decent job of gluing it all together.

Aside from the taste of honey, this is a pretty close replica in terms of taste. However, I still have to figure out how to replicate granola that will actually clump together. That remains an untested challenge. I suspect a lower temperature and quick-cooking oats will help with the agglutination.

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Chocolate Almond Granola
Makes approximately 4 cups of granola

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder
Chocolate shavings, as desired

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with greased parchment paper or a silicone sheet.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together oats, almonds, and salt.
Mix honey and oil in a small bowl and whisk in cocoa powder until smooth. Stir in vanilla extract. Pour over dry ingredients and toss to coat.
Spread granola onto prepared baking sheet in an even layer. Bake until granola is no longer sticky, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool. When granola is just barely warm, grate a chocolate bar over the granola.