Croquet Bourbonnais

SHF #13 - Maida Heatter's Robert Redford Cake

For this month's Sugar High Friday, Kelli at Lovescool decided that we all should use deep, dark chocolate as the main ingredient for our entries. To prevent boredom, she stipulated that we try something new and interesting, not the everyday workhorse recipes that are foolproof and deja-vu (and -lu). I guess there is such a thing as too many molten chocolate cakes.

To cap off a Sunday dinner I had for some friends, I decided to make a recipe from an old issue of The New York Times Magazine - cut out and glued into my trusty little book. Once again, I don't remember much about the article, but the recipe came from Maida Heatter, a doyenne of American baking. In addition to calling for 24 ounces of chocolate and 10 whole eggs (I kid you not), it included honey as the sweetener. I thought this was an interesting twist on the average flourless chocolate cake recipe. An aside: the recipe heading says Robert's Redford Cake. But Googling it punctuated that way turned up nothing. So I have to assume that Maida intended this cake for Robert Redford himself and that The New York Times might have printed a typo. Minds blowing left and right on that one.

The cake was gorgeous to look at and tasted just fine. Of course, anything with that amount of chocolate and butter and eggs would be bound to taste just fine. But it didn't blow us away. The ganache was incredible - especially since it was still fresh and warm and sort of flopped luxuriously over each slice. But the cake itself was oddly devoid of much deep chocolate flavor. The consensus was that, all in all, this dessert wasn't all that special.

Robert Redford Cake
(Adapted from Maida Heatter)

For the cake:
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, plus additional for greasing the pan
flour for dusting
1 cup blanched hazelnuts or almonds
12 ounces semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup honey
10 eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the frosting:
3/4 cup heavy cream
12 ounces semisweet chocolate

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 10-by-3-inch round or springform cake pan. Line bottom with parchment. Butter parchment. Dust with flour. Shake out excess.

2. Grind nuts to a powder in a food processor. Set aside.

3. Break up chocolate and melt in the top of a double boiler over shallow, warm water on moderate heat. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.

4. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a mixer, beat butter until soft. Gradually add honey; beat until smooth. Add egg yolks, two or three at a time, beating until mixed after each addition. The mixture will look curdled, but this is OK). Add nuts and cooled chocolate. 

5. In another bowl, beat egg whites with salt until whites barely stand up when beater is raised. Fold egg whites into chocolate in three batches. Pour into pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 50 minutes more, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove and let cool. Remove from pan. With a long sharp knife, level top.

6. Break up the chocolate for the frosting. In a saucepan over medium heat, cook cream until it forms a skin on top. Add chocolate, reduce heat to low and stir with a whisk until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir occasionally until cool and slightly thick. Pour icing over cake and smooth top and sides until covered. Serve immediately, or store at room temperature overnight.

*To see all the other entries in this month's Sugar High Friday, go to Lovescool for Kelli's exhaustive round-up and the glorious chocolate whatsits that everyone else created for the event.