by Stephanie Zonis
10 to 12 servings
Most seven layer cakes are made of thin layers of white spongecake, sandwiched with a chocolate buttercream, and I'm not sure I've ever had one I really enjoyed. So instead, this is made with chocolate spongecake, sandwiched with vanilla pastry cream; to keep it from getting too boring, there's also a decent dousing of hazelnut liqueur. Most likely, adults would appreciate this more than children, although any raw alcohol taste passes off during the chilling time. In any case, you'll want to serve small slices, preferably after a light meal and with a cup of good coffee.
Once assembled, this will keep up to 4 days in the refrigerator if tightly wrapped, but it doesn't freeze. Make sure to put nothing on top of the cake when it's in the fridge, as spongecake is delicate. Make the pastry cream first, as it must be well-chilled when used.
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. plus 1-1/2 tsp. all-purpose flour
4 egg yolks, from eggs graded "large"
1-3/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp. whole milk, divided
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into thin slices, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla
6 eggs, graded "large", separated and at room temperature
3/4 cup sifted cake flour
1/2 cup sifted unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
1 tsp. vanilla
8 Tbsp. Frangelico liqueur
Confectioners' sugar OR unsweetened cocoa powder OR a mix of the two
For Pastry Cream:
Makes about 2-1/3 cups
Have ready a strainer set above a heatproof bowl or measure of at least 2-2/3 cup capacity (I use a 4 cup liquid measure). Have ready a piece of plastic wrap, pierced with a knifeblade or toothpick in 10 to 20 places, that will be placed on the surface of the cooked cream to prevent a skin from forming.
In 1 to 1-1/2 quart heavy-bottomed pot, combine sugar, cornstarch, and flour. with slotted spoon or small whisk, mix thoroughly to combine well, pressing out as many lumps as possible.
In small bowl, combine egg yolks with 2 Tbsp. milk (reserve remaining milk). with fork, beat well to combine. Add to sugar mixture in pot. Stir gently to combine and to press out as many lumps as possible.
Gradually add remaining milk to egg yolk-sugar mixture, stirring it in as you go. Scrape bottom and sides of pot with rubber spatula; place pot over medium heat.
Stir gently but constantly with whisk or slotted spoon until mixture comes to a boil. There will probably be a layer of foam on top of this mixture as it heats; when the foam begins to incorporate into the cream, you'll know it's boiling or just about to boil. Stop stirring momentarily to check for a boil, then boil and stir for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes; cream should thicken substantially during this time. Remove from heat.
Immediately add butter slices. Allow to stand for a minute or so, then stir in gently with whisk or rubber spatula, scraping bottom and sides of pot gently. Stir in vanilla.
Pour into strainer, forcing through into heatproof container. Place pierced plastic wrap directly onto surface of hot cream. Cool briefly, then chill until thoroughly cold, at least 3 hours (much will depend on your container).
For Chocolate Spongecake:
Place egg whites in small bowl of electric stand mixer (or in medium bowl if stand mixer is not available). Place egg yolks in medium or large bowl of electric stand mixer (or large bowl if stand mixer is not available). Whites and yolks should be at room temperature. Adjust rack to center of oven; preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 round layer pans, each 9 inches in diameter and 2 inches deep. Line the bottoms with circles of parchment or wax paper cut to fit, grease the paper, and dust the insides of each pan lightly with flour, knocking out any excess. Set prepared pans aside.
Sift together twice the sifted cake flour, sifted cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda.
Add salt to room-temperature egg whites. If whisk beater is available, attach to stand mixer. Begin beating whites at low speed; gradually increase speed to high. Beat until white, very foamy, and increased in volume. Gradually add 3/4 cup sugar (reserve remainder). Beat at high speed until whites are almost at stiff peak stage. Set aside briefly.
Add vanilla to egg yolks. Use the same beater(s)—no need to wash or rinse them. Start beating yolks at low speed; gradually increase speed to high. Gradually add reserved 1/2 cup sugar. Beat at high speed 4 to 5 minutes, scraping bowl and beater(s) once or twice with rubber spatula, until yolks are pale and very fluffy; when beater is lifted up, yolk mixture should form a wide, flat ribbon as it flows back into the bowl. Remove from stand mixer, if used.
Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold about 1/3 of the beaten whites into the yolk mixture—don't be too thorough now. Make your strokes count as you fold; fold gently and lightly. Gradually sift on about 1/4 cup of the sifted dry ingredients, and fold in, not too thoroughly. Continue alternating small amounts of the beaten whites and sifted dry ingredients, making sure you reserve some beaten whites to fold in last. Fold each addition in only partway before adding the next. Finally, with the final addition of beaten whites, fold everything together just the batter is an even color. The batter should be rather thick.
Divide batter evenly between prepared pans. To level, hold a pan so that one hand grasps a top edge on both sides (your hands should be about 180 degrees apart). Twist sharply in short back-and-forth motions.
Place in preheated oven. Bake 16 to 20 minutes, turning pans back to front and switching their positions on the rack late in the baking period. While layers bake, ready cooling racks, including one nonstick; if not available, spray a regular cooling rack very lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Layers are done when toothpick inserted in center emerges with a few moist crumbs still clinging to it. Layers may not come away from pan sides until out of oven. Do not overbake. Remove to regular cooling racks.
Let layers stand just 2 to 3 minutes. During this time, layers will begin to come away from pan edges and will lose some volume—OK. Cut around edges of layers gently with small, sharp knife to remove from pan. Invert one layer onto nonstick cooling rack, then re-invert to cool right side up onto regular cooling rack (do not remove parchment circle from cake bottom at this time). Turned out layers may have sides that slope inward somewhat—OK. Repeat with other layer. Allow layers to cool completely before assembling the cake.
Have ready a serving plate of at least 9 inch diameter. If the tops of the cooled sponge layers are not flat, level them with a very sharp, serrated knife, cutting gently with a sawing motion. Holding a cooled layer very gently on one flat hand, carefully peel the parchment circle from the bottom in small sections; repeat with other layer. If the sides of the layers are not straight (mine never are), trim with a very sharp, serrated knife so that the layers are about 8-1/2 inches in diameter, or trim as much as is needed until sides are straight. Split one layer in half horizontally. Remove pastry cream from refrigerator and stir to loosen slightly.
Place the top half of the split layer on the serving plate, upside down. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. Frangelico. Once the Frangelico has been absorbed (which should be almost instantly), place 1/3 of the pastry cream onto the cake, spreading it evenly to within 1/4 inch of all edges. Top the pastry cream with the bottom half of the layer, cut side up. Sprinkle with another 2 Tbsp. Frangelico, letting it absorb into the cake. Top with another 1/3 of the pastry cream, spreading evenly as directed above. Split the second layer horizontally.
Place the top half of the second layer upside down onto the pastry cream, then sprinkle with another 2 Tbsp. Frangelico and top with the last of the pastry cream. Top that with the bottom half of the second layer, cut side down. Sprinkle with the final 2 Tbsp. of Frangelico. with your hand, gently press down on the assembled cake to compact it slightly; the pastry cream should come just to the edges. Cover tightly with plastic wrap; chill at least 2 hours before serving.
If possible, remove from refrigerator and let stand at cool room temperature about 15 minutes before serving. Just prior to serving, sift a bit of confectioners' sugar/unsweetened cocoa powder all over the top of the cake (if you like, lay a doily gently on top of the cake, sift the confectioners' sugar/cocoa powder over the doily, then gently lift the doily off). To cut, use a sharp, serrated knife; cut the cake gently, using a sawing motion.
Copyright © 2001 Francesca Chocolate Productions. All Rights Reserved.
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This page created March 2001
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