In the spirit of the Top Chef Just Desserts episode a couple weeks ago, I have also flambeed my dessert. The competitors had to make a dessert inspired by the Lucient Dossier experience, it’s basically like cirque de soleil with fire.
This is the first time that I have ever flambeed something and I was very excited. I was imagining something like they do in Top Chef with big flames, so I tried to prepare accordingly. In the end it was not as dramatic, though when I saw what they did on Top Chef Just Desserts, I realized that perhaps flambeing food as opposed to pastry might be very different, or perhaps wine flames more than liquor.
We took this dessert to our friends A. and E. (our Star Trek buddies). I was given a request to make something chocolatey, as A. is not so into fruit desserts, or peanut butter for that matter. I looked through Dorie’s cookbook for something interesting and I came across this cake. It is supposed to be made with Armangnac, but I haven’t the faintest idea what that is, so I used rum because rum goes well with the prune flavor.
I thought that adding prunes instead raisins was different and I agree with what Dorie said about prunes getting a bad rep. Everyone always associates prunes with old people and babies (yet another similarity between the two groups, hmmm) and they are really delicious even by themselves. People just need to give them a chance.
I made the flambeed prunes earlier in the day and then made the rest of the cake later (you have to wait for the prunes to cool anyway).
The cake came out nice and chocolatey-dense with a delicious chocolate glaze. I let the glaze cool a bit before spreading it on the cake so it came out more like icing. The prunes added something different to the cake that made it different from any other chocolate cake, something memorable.
The final pictures were taken by E. as I was unable to take pictures of the finished product before we ate it – she enjoyed it too!
Recipe (adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: from My Home to Yours):
2/3 cup finely ground pecans or walnuts
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
12 moist prunes, pitted and cut into bits
1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp. water
1/4 cup rum
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 stick (8 tbsp.) unsalted butter or margarine, cut into 4 pieces
3 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup sugar
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
3 tbsp. unsalted butter or margarine, at room temperature
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter an 8 inch springform pan, fit the bottom with a round of parchment paper and butter the paper. Put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.
Cake: Whisk together the nuts, flour and salt.
Put the prunes and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook, being careful not to scorch the fruit, until the water almost evaporates. Pull the pan from the heat and pour in the rum. Stand back and set it aflame with a match. When the flames die out, transfer the fruit and any remaining liquid to a bowl and let cool.
Combine the chocolate, butter and remaining 3 tbsp. of water in a heatproof bowl. Heat in a microwave on medium strength in 30 second bursts until the chocolate and butter are melted.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until they are thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Switch to a rubber spatula and, one by one, stir in the chocolate mixture, the nut mixture and the prunes with any leftover liquid.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until they hold firm and glossy peaks. Stir about 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten the batter, then gently fold in the remaining whites. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake the cake for 25-32 minutes, or until it is puffed and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out streaky. Let cool on a rack for about 10 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan, and continue to cool until the cake has cooled completely. Place a piece of foil or parchment paper under the rack to catch drips.
Once cool, if the cake has crowned, take a serrated knife and gently even the top, using a sawing motion. Turn the cake over on the cooling rack. The flat bottom will become the top of the cake.
Glaze: Melt the chocolate in a microwave on medium heat. Slowly stir in the sugar and then the butter or margarine. Stir until you have a smooth glaze.
With a long icing spatula, pour the glaze over the top of the cake, allowing the excess to run down the sides of the cake. Use the spatula to smooth the top of the cake if necessary. Let the glaze set at room temperature.
If you would like the icing to be more like a frosting, let it cool a bit before spreading it over the cake. Make decorative swirls in the icing once it is on the cake.