Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Chocolate-almond meringue torte

Happy upcoming Mother's Day!  I thought a cake post would be appropriate because I wish all the lovely moms (and moms-to-be) out there a sweet day filled with happiness and treats.
Last April, I discovered this incredible chocolate-hazelnut meringue cake via Smitten Kitchen.  I couldn't stop going on and on about it because it was love at first sight and then making and tasting it confirmed my instincts.  That was the hazelnut version, which we've thoroughly enjoyed a couple of times.  This time, I decided to make an almond version.  
I adore anything with almonds and it seems to run in the family.  The little guy, who may not be a fan of the crunchy nuts alone, seems to judge all good desserts by how much they taste like almond paste or tri-color cookies.  His reaction to this was: "mmm...tastes like almond paste!" Translation: "this is good!"

If you love nutty, soft, chewy meringue, slicked with bittersweet chocolate in between creamy pillows of sweetened - in this case, almond-flavored - whipped cream, you will love this!  This cake is like a layered dacquoise you might find at European-style bakeries but what I love is it's a whole lot easier to make.  I like making a more manageable 6-inch version; the only downside is not having more of this to eat because it really goes down easy, especially with a cup of coffee on the side for the adults.
This almond version was even easier to make than the hazelnut one.  I used almond meal so I skipped the steps of toasting and grinding the nuts myself.  The meringue layers browned less and took slightly longer to bake but it all comes together to become a lovely, soft almond cake, interspersed with dark chocolate and filled with almond-flavored whipped cream.  I love a chance to break out the almond extract!  Call me crazy but sometimes, I just want to take the bottle out and give it a good sniff.  
I highly recommend this cake, whether you go with hazelnuts or this almond version, and for whatever occasion.  I actually made this cake recently to celebrate a milestone for my husband and I.  We take any chance we can to celebrate...and eat cake!  We both agree that the hazelnut version packs a bigger punch, a larger "wow", if you will.  For chocolate-hazelnut fans, it is truly a knockout.  This almond version is milder, the more subtle cake between the two.  It may not be quite as flashy as the hazelnut cake but it is quite delicious!  Either way and no matter what version you choose, you won't regret making and eating it!


I'll try not to be too repetitive and point out that I have a good deal of details on the making of this cake (the chocolate-hazelnut original) in this post.

For this almond version, I took a shortcut of using almond flour instead of grinding almonds myself.  I simply stirred it in with the sugar.  If you want to, you can lightly toast the almonds, then grind it in a food processor with the sugar.  Taking that extra effort should reward you with a bit more intense flavor, a little more color on your meringue.    
I found I needed to bake the almond meringue layers for about 20 minutes, versus about 15 minutes with the hazelnut ones.  This is likely due to more moisture in the finely ground almond flour I used. To determine whether they're done, the meringue should feel firm but still soft to the touch.  These will just lightly brown on top.
I love the soft yet slightly chewy texture to the meringue, all the better with a little texture from the ground almonds and the almond flavor, which I amped up with a touch of almond extract.  

Once you assemble the cake - adding a slick of bittersweet chocolate on top of each disc of meringue, followed by lightly sweetened whipped cream that's also flavored with almond extract, the meringue layers soften a bit more and it turns into a delicious almond cake with a bit of chew. 
I really think this would be a great Mother's Day cake, or just a great special-occasion cake for any nut-lover!
It's no where near as hard to make as most typical meringue tortes or dacquoise and that's because we keep it simple with a little chocolate and some whipped cream.  No buttercream to conjure up and there are no layers of meringue to cut through before assembling.
I could spend all day talking about cake but I'll sign off for now.  Have a wonderful Mother's Day weekend!


Recipe:

Chocolate-Almond Meringue Torte

- One four-layer 6-inch round torte -

For meringue layers:
Cooking spray for greasing parchment rounds
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups almond meal/flour*
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

* Instead of using almond meal, you can lightly toast 1 1/4 cups almonds, let cool, then grind it with the 1/2 cup sugar in a food processor until fine.

For chocolate filling:
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate (or 1/2 cup chocolate chips), coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder, optional

For whipped cream filling and frosting:
1 cup chilled heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Optional garnish:
Grated bittersweet chocolate

Meringue layers:
Position oven racks to the top and lower thirds of the oven.  Preheat to 325 degrees.

Take 4 pieces of parchment rounds (or cut from parchment paper) and draw 6-inch circles on each using the bottom of a cake pan.  Turn each sheet over (so that the pencil drawing faces down) and place onto baking sheets.  Lightly spray each parchment with cooking spray then wipe with a paper towel to evenly distribute and wipe away excess. 

In a bowl, whisk together the almond meal and 1/2 cup of sugar.  Beat egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whip until soft peaks form, then add almond and vanilla extracts, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar gradually.  Whip until whites are stiff but not dry (be careful not to over do it or whites will break).  Very gently, fold nut mixture into the beaten egg whites in 4 increments, trying not to deflate the whites too much.  Divide and spread the batter evenly among the 4 parchment circles using an offset spatula (again, don't over work it).

Bake until layers are lightly golden and dry to the touch (it will feel soft but dry), approximately 20 minutes in my oven.  Carefully rotate the baking sheets halfway between baking and keep an eye on them.  Remove from the oven and let sheets cool on the cooling rack.  You can speed up the cooling process by placing them in the freezer for about 5 minutes. 

Chocolate filling:
Place two-thirds of chocolate, all the water and instant espresso powder (if using) into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water.  Stir until smooth and remove bowl from the heat.  Add remaining chocolate and stir until melted.  The chocolate mixture should be lukewarm.

Divide and spread a thin layer of chocolate over each meringue layer.  Let sit until chocolate sets.  You can, again, pop them in the freezer for 5 minutes to quicken the process.

Whipped cream:
Beat cold heavy cream with sugar and almond extract in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a clean whisk attachment (I like to chill the bowl and whisk beforehand).  Beat until cream holds stiff peaks.

Assembly:
Gently peel the parchment off the back of each meringue round.  Place first layer onto cake stand or serving plate.  Tuck pieces of wax or parchment paper under the edge for easy clean-up later (if not, it's also easy to just whip away fallen whipped cream).  Spread a bit less than one-quarter of the whipped cream over the top of the first layer and repeat with the second and third layers.  Frost the top and sides of the torte.  (For better results, first crumb-coat the torte by applying a thin layer of whipped cream over the top and sides, then chill the cake in the freezer for about 5 minutes before applying a second, thicker coat).  You may have a small amount of whipped cream remaining (I think it's better to have extra to work with).

Garnish the cake with grated bittersweet chocolate.  Remove wax or parchment paper around the torte, if you used it. 

Serve torte immediately or store it in the refrigerator.  Torte can be stored in the refrigerator for about 24 hours.



61 comments:

  1. Love all the layers...and great idea using nutty meringue crusts.

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    1. Thanks, Angie. I love nutty meringue. :)

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  2. Monica, this cake is SO lovely!!! All those layers... I wish I could dive right in! I hope you have a wonderful Mother's Day!

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    1. Thanks, Marie! Enjoy the weekend and hope you're not too busy with the end of the school year rushing on...

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  3. Meringue...chocolate...almonds!!!! I wish I was celebrating Mother's Day with you:-) The torte looks wonderful. About the flavours...need I say anything! Happy Mother's Day to you Monica. I envy your little one, sampling such fabulous creations.

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    1. I suspect it's your family that has it good with all your amazing treats and food. Thank you and have a wonderful Mother's Day this weekend.

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  4. This is such a delicate, flavour some cake Monica, perfect for Mother's Day!! I love the layers (I have a thing about layers!!) and I know the texture is divine. I hope you are truly spoilt this weekend for Mothering Sunday! :-)

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    1. I rarely make layer cakes - well, no more than 2 layers...this is really easy though and I love, love a nutty meringue that's soft and chewy. Your fork goes right through - the meringue becomes cake but better because it's a bit chewy and full of nuttiness. : ) You have a wonderful weekend and thank you so much!

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  5. So beautiful and delicate! Pure heaven, Monica!
    :) ela@GrayApron

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  6. Hi Monica, this cake is gorgeous and looks like it was made with a lot of love. Happy Mother's day to you!

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  7. Oh wow this torte is gorgeous! I love anything with almond ... and especially almond extract! I've started adding some to my smoothies because I love it so much! : ) What a treat for Mother's Day!

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    1. Almond extract in a smoothie sounds great to me! I really do want to throw almond extract in everything! Thanks, Ashley.

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  8. This cake would make Mothers day the best day ever! Love all of those layers on your torte. Chocolate and almonds sounds delightful. You are a brave women for tackling all of those layers. Just pinned! Take Care, BAM

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    1. I normally don't make anything more than 2-layer cakes, Bobbi, but making the smaller 6-inch cake makes it manageable and it's a lot easier to make than it might look. Thank you and Happy Mother's Day to you, too!

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  9. This is so lovely Monica, love at first sight for me too. Happy Mothers day.

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    1. Oh, thank you! Have a great weekend!

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  10. This layers of this cake look very pretty and nice! Pinned! I didn't know you can use almond flour to make cake. How cool! Have a sweet Mother's Day with your family!

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    1. Thanks so much. Think of the meringue layers like French macarons. I love nutty meringues like this that are soft and chewy. I actually have made almond-flour cakes and it can be very rich and heavy though super moist. I prefer cakes with some flour in them but it's different with these meringues. It's chewy and somehow after coming together with the whipped cream, it's like an icebox cake where it softens and it's really like regular cake layers. Not sure I'm making sense there... : )

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  11. Almond-flavored cakes are my absolute favorite! This cake looks to die for! Hope you have a wonderful Mother's Day weekend :)

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    1. I love our mutual love of almond cakes, Christin! You savor Mother's Day and have a wonderful celebration!

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  12. How stunning is this?? Beautiful cake :)

    Sues

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  13. Oh my Goodness!!!!! I am IN LOVE with this torte!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love the layers of meringue and the almond cream filling!!!! I can almost taste how divine this is going to be! <3

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    1. Thanks so much, Samina. I do love the layers and textures, flavors of this little torte. :)

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  14. Almond flavored desserts are basically my favorite! And I think my mom likes them as well? Maybe I can make her like them. This cake is just too gorgeous not to LOVE.

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    1. Same here...anything with almonds (and hazelnuts) in it is almost bound to be good, in my book. Thanks, Joanne.

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  15. This is such a gorgeous torte for springtime celebrating, Monica! I love all those pillowy soft layers! Hope you have a great weekend and a wonderful Mother's Day.

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    1. Thanks, Georgia. You have a great Mother's Day weekend, too, mom-to-be! So exciting!

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  16. Oh Monica this is gorgeous. And you are not crazy at all - I could linger over an open bottle of almond extract for a long time. Love the stuff! I need this dessert in my life - it is so pretty and sounds amazing. Thank you and I hope you have a blessed Mother's Day!

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    1. You have a wonderful Mother's Day, Tricia! My weekend is terrific so far already! : )
      I'm glad I'm not alone on the almond obsession. Every time I make something, I turn around and say I want to try it next time with almond extract...

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  17. Hehehe, I totally take out the almond extract just to sniff it! And you know I love a good almond dessert. This sounds fantastic...meringues are one of my favorite things :)

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    1. Hey Amy! Yes - almond pastry lovers unite! I adore these kinds of soft meringue...better than marshmallows.

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  18. This cake looks fantastic! I love the combo of spreading both chocolate and cream between each layer. And I laughed at your son's description that it tastes like almond paste. I'm always SO tempted when baking with it to take a nibble. It smells heavenly! I hope you have a wonderful Mother's Day, Monica!

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    1. haha - thanks, Alyssa. He totally means to give something high praise if it tastes like almond paste! I'm with him all the way. We're all nuts for it.

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  19. I'm hardly ever tempted to make a layer cake, I'm the humble little 'snack cake' type of baker, but this is really calling my name. It looks so light!

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    1. Snack cakes, everyday cakes, muffins are usually my way to go, too. I love something like this with tons of nuts and texture though. Glad you like it. Thank you, Sue.

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  20. Wow, this torte is gorgeous Monica! All the layers look out of this world - I love all the almond and hazelnut treats you share - they are my absolute favorite too :) This would make such a delectable dessert for Mother's Day - hope you have an amazing one with your wonderful family - they are very lucky to have you :)

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    1. I do love almonds and hazelnuts so much, Kelly! You have a wonderful Mother's Day. I hope your family spoils you the way you clearly deserve! xo

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  21. Wow that is so pretty! I love meringue, it's just one of the magical things about the incredible edible egg. :)

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    1. I am a huge fan of the incredible egg myself. Thank you!

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  22. I love meringue, especially when combined with nuts. This is such a gorgeous cake. I rarely make layer cakes, but after looking at this one, I feel like I need to make one really soon!

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    1. Same here with the merginue and nuts combo. I think that's why macarons are so popular. Glad you like this one, Julia! Thanks!

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  23. What a lovely cake and we are sure the meringue tastes so delicious!

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  24. Monica, when I read "If you love nutty, soft, chewy meringue, slicked with bittersweet chocolate in between creamy pillows of sweetened - in this case, almond-flavored - whipped cream" I was nodding because yes I do!! :D Happy Mother's Day to all the mums out there!

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    1. haha - I knew you were a woman after my own heart, Lorraine!

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  25. wow, adorable almond meringue!!!
    i rarely love meringue and i guess i must be order this one if it's on the menu....

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  26. Absolutely stunning! I have always wanted to make a torte. So motivated and inspired to do after this post. Looks yum!!

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    1. You're very sweet, Asmita. With your skills, a torte like this would be a quick walk in the park. Hope you make a cake for yourself real soon. : )

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  27. Wow, this sounds like a truly delicious cake that I've got to try out. What a lovely treat for Mother's Day (:

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    1. I love it - either almond or hazelnut version are good. Hazelnuts pack more punch and flavor but this version using ground almond meal is easier.

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  28. Hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day... with this cake, it sounds like it! :D Such a gorgeous torte! You make excellent layered cake all the time. If you are in my neighborhood, I would already request for you to be my teacher... :)

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    1. Mother's Day was gorgeous and I had the whole day "off"...it was sensational. I had too much time on my hands, if you can believe it! : ) Hope yours was relaxing!

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  29. Gorgeous cake! I adore anything with almonds too and I've been looking for an excuse to cook with them again. Here it is! Really can't wait to try this.

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    1. So glad you like it. I hope you shake out your almonds and bake up something fun soon. Thanks for stopping by.

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  30. This looks awesome, i love almonds, so anything with them in gets my attention, thanks for sharing this...

    Simon

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