Monday, February 05, 2018

Queen Mum Revisited

I've baked Maida Heatter's version of the Queen Mother Cake a number of times and it is always a hit.

 After hearing a request for a chocolate cake, covered in chocolate...well, anything covered in chocolate actually, I had some fun paging through cookbooks and visiting online sources, too.

In the end the Queen Mother Cake sounded like the perfect thing to make, but with a slight variation. I decided to make it birthday worthy by including some sour cherries that had been bathed in cognac for awhile. It made for a surprise here and there in the cake rather than a dominant theme.

Of course the star of the dessert was the moist, dense but tender cake and that awesome ganache covering it. This is a flourless chocolate cake made with ground almonds instead of the flour. Spend plenty of time creaming the butter and the sugar and adding the eggs because that, plus the whipped egg whites, are what keeps the cake from being flat and too dense to enjoy. The finished cake was fragrant with chocolate and so rich that you only needed a small slice. To gild the lily (and provide a nice contrast to the intensity of the chocolate), those who enjoy dairy had a dollop of softly whipped cream with their slice. Decadent, and delicious. Happy Birthday G!

Queen Mother's Cherry Chocolate Cake with Ganache On Top
12 portions
A variation of Queen Mother Cake in Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts

6 oz. almond flour (I used King Arthur Flour's)
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces (I used Scharffen Berger's)
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
6 oz. (1 1/2 sticks) non-dairy margarine or butter, at room temperature
6 eggs, separated
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup pitted sour cherries, drained if needed
Enough cognac to cover the cherries, about 3/4 cup

Adjust a rack one-third up in the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 x 3-inch springform pan and line the bottom with a round of baking-pan liner (parchment works well) cut to fit. Grease the paper. Dust the pan all over the inside with fine, dry bread crumbs. Invert the pan over paper, and tap lightly to shake out excess crumbs. Set the prepared pan aside.

In a small bowl marinate the cherries for at least an hour, pouring the cognac over the cherries. When ready to make the cake, drain the cherries thoroughly. The liquid can be used in cocktails or discarded.

Sift the almond flour into a small bowl and stir in 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Set aside

Place the chocolate in the top of a small double boiler over warm water on moderate heat. Cover until partially melted, then uncover and stir until just melted and smooth. Remove top pan from double boiler and set it aside until tepid or room temperature.

In a stand mixer bowl put the butter. Beat the butter until soft. Add the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar and beat to mix. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary until smooth. On low speed add the chocolate and beat until mixed. Then add the almond flour/sugar mixture and beat, scraping the bowl, until incorporated. If you have only one stand mixer bowl, transfer batter to another large bowl. If you have two, leave batter in stand mixer bowl and set aside while you prepare the egg whites.

Wash and rinse out and dry the stand mixer bowl if there is batter clinging to the sides. In that large bowl of a stand mixer, with clean beaters (I used the whisk attachment) beat the whites with the salt and lemon juice, starting on low speed and increasing it gradually. When the whites barely hold a soft shape, reduce the speed a bit and gradually add 1/4 cup granulated sugar. On high speed continue to beat until the whites hold a straight point when the beaters are slowly raised. Do not overbeat. Whites should not be stiff or dry.

Stir a large spoonful of the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture to soften it a bit. Then, in three additions, fold in the remaining whites. Do not fold thoroughly until the last addition and do not handle any more than necessary.

Turn 1/2 the batter into the prepared pan and spread to sides. Scatter the marinated cherries over the batter evenly. Cover with the remaining batter. Rotate the pan a bit briskly from left to right in order to level the batter.

Bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees F. and then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F. and continue to bake for an additional 50 minutes (total baking time is 1 hour and 10 minutes). Do not over bake; the cake should remain soft and moist in the center. (The top might crack a bit, but that is OK.) NOTE: I found that I needed to check the cake after about 30 minutes and that it was done, so check early and often.

Let cake stand on cooling rack until tepid, 50 - 60 minutes.

Release and remove the sides of the pan. Do not cut around the sides with a knife - it will make the rim of the cake messy. Let the cake stand until it is completely cool, or longer if you wish.

The cake will sink a little in the middle as it cools. Use a long, thin, sharp knife and cut the top level, removing the higher sides. Brush away loose crumbs. (I skipped this part, iced the cake right side up, and was very happy with the results. When the icing goes on its a little thicker in the center, which we found to be fine.)

Place a rack or a small board over the cake and carefully invert. Remove the bottom of the pan and the paper lining. The cake is now upside down; that is the way it will be iced (unless you do as I did and ice the top). Place four strips of baking-pan liner paper (each about 3 x 12 inches) around the edges of a cake plate (although I forgot to do this and the drips were enchanting). With a large, wide spatula, carefully  transfer the cake to the plate; check to be sure that the cake is touching the papers all around. The paper help to keep the icing off the plate when you ice the cake. (I chilled the cake, still on the springform pan bottom, overnight, then turned it out onto my hand, finger spread, removed the pan bottom & the paper and set the cake on a cake plate. Because it was cold it wasn't difficult to work with.)

1/2 cup soy creamer (or whipping cream)
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces (I used Scharffen Berger semisweet for both cake and icing)
Scald the soy creamer  or whipping cream in a 5-6 cup saucepan over moderate heat until it begins to form small bubbles around the edges.  Add the chocolate and stir occasionally over heat for 1 minutes. Then remove the pan from the heat and whisk or stir until the chocolate is all melted and the mixture is smooth.

Let the icing stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until the icing barely begins to thicken.

Stir to  mix the icing and pour it slowly over the top of the cake, pouring onto the middle. Use a long, narrow metal spatula to smooth the top and spread the icing until a little runs down the sides, then use a small, narrow metal spatula to smooth that icing over the sides. The icing on the sides should be thinner than that on the top.

Remove the strips of paper by pulling each on out toward a narrow end.

If desired, sprinkle decorations on top while icing is still wet.

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