Chocolate almond torte

I made a cake to celebrate a special anniversary!  Five years ago today, I hit "publish" on my first post on this blog and here I am today - still baking, cooking, learning, snapping, writing, and sharing here in my own small way.
Five years of anything seems like a big deal somehow.  In this instance, it means over 500 recipes and corresponding posts; it means a lot of playing in the kitchen, and a lot of learning (not to mention, eating).  
The beauty is I've barely scratched the surface though in the last 5 years, I've tried and learned so much.  This picky eater is no longer all that picky, and for that alone, I'm grateful. In the last year, there have been moments of blog fatigue but then something new I haven't tried, some craving, or a new recipe will inevitably spark my interest and I'm back at it.  This little blog continues to motivate me to try things out in the kitchen. That, in turns, creates moments and memories with my family as we sit around the table.  I love making food, like creating a blog post from nothing, and that is still true today, five years after I started typing.
Ultimately, I just feel very lucky - lucky to be able to indulge in my hobby.  I'm going to continue to be a student in the kitchen, cooking and baking away, reporting back on some of those experiences here for as long as the urge continues.

I'm also particularly thankful for my husband, to whom everything always sounds good.  He's always eager to eat what I cook up - regardless of how it turns out - and offer words of praise and encouragement.  The little guy must learn from dad because he's much the same way (at least when it comes to things he likes to eat).  And last but not least, thank you for spending a few moments here once in a while, looking around, maybe mentally comparing notes with me, and not taking me too seriously. To those of you who often share words of encouragement, I truly appreciate it!  
But wait...we need to cut the cake! The cake seems to be a bit of an afterthought today but it's symbolic for a celebration and I wanted to make one as the backdrop to this anniversary post.  And for this occasion, I made what I'm calling a "chocolate almond torte".  

Frankly, "torte" may not be the right word here.  To me, this cake looks like a torte, which I associate with small, short layer cakes featuring some kind of rich chocolate coating.  Tortes are usually rather rich, however, and while this cake is filled and coated with chocolate ganache (I choose to use a water-based one), the layers are actually sponge cake, which is quite light since there aren't any fats in the form of butter or oil involved.  This cake is flavored with cocoa as well as vanilla and almond extracts, and the layers were brushed with an amaretto syrup for added flavor and moisture.  I wrapped the cake in some sliced almonds and topped it with toffee bits. That's my way of saying, Happy Anniversary, this year. 


Now, more details on this little cake.  I based it off of a recipe called "chocolate toffee crunch cake" in the book, Chocolate Cakes.  I decided to call mine a torte after the adjustments I made and seeing how the cake turned out.
I baked a chocolate-almond sponge cake in a 6x3 inch cake pan
The original recipe starts with a chocolate-almond sponge cake baked in a tube pan. The cake is then spliced into 3 layers, each brushed with amaretto syrup. It's then filled and coated with chocolate ganache and finally, toped with toffee candy.  I took a lot of that premise but made a number of changes.  First, I scaled the recipe down by half and baked the cake in a 6x3 inch round cake pan instead of a large tube pan. 
Split the cake into 2 layers and brush each with amaretto syrup
I now understand the wisdom of baking this cake in a tube pan if you plan to slice and fill it.  A tube pan allows for quicker and more even baking throughout.  Baking it like I did in a normal cake pan, I found it really important to make sure the cake is set throughout - i.e., the center is well baked and not still wet in any way.  To that end, give it an extra minute or two and make sure the entire cake is fully dry and set. Mine could have used an extra couple of minutes to firm up the center more.
Spread (water-based) chocolate ganache between the layers and over the cake
I went with just two layers so I split my cake into halves.  The amaretto syrup is a simple mixture of sugar syrup with some amaretto liqueur stirred in.  A syrup like this is just what a sponge cake welcomes; it fairly soaks it up like it was waiting for it.

For the ganache filling and frosting, I made a water-based one.  Last year, for the blog's 4th anniversary, I made a pistachio-orange chocolate cake where I used a water ganache then as well; that cake is one of the favorites I've ever made.  When it comes to the ganache, a water based one is convenient to make and it allows the flavor of the chocolate to shine.
Finally, press sliced almonds and chopped toffee onto the cake to finish
I decided to press sliced almonds around the sides of my little cake to reinforce the almond flavor hidden within.  I thought about adding some more chopped almonds and chocolate shavings to the top of the cake (since I wasn't sure if the toffee crunch was a great fit) but the toffee does give it a bit more pizazz so I decided to go with it in the end.  It does add a nice crunch and some extra sweetness.  I did consider making a batch of homemade toffee for about 5 seconds before practicality settled in and I simply chopped up a Heath toffee bar and cascaded the bits over the top.  (I also thought chopped Almond Roca would be another option; growing up, it was a popular candy around Chinese New Year and a favorite of my mother's.) 
My family and I enjoyed this little anniversary cake.  Before digging in, I think you expect a very rich, dense cake but it turns out to be rather light thanks to the sponge cake. The amaretto syrup definitely helps add moisture and contributes flavor you clearly taste.  The richness in the ganache is a great balance to the lightness of the sponge while the crunchy topping adds another dimension.   
Overall, I was happy with how my little anniversary cake turned out.  I do love a good anniversary for an excuse to make and enjoy cake with loved ones!
Thank you and continued happy cooking, baking, eating, and sharing to us all!

Recipe:

Chocolate Almond Torte
Adapted from chocolate toffee crunch cake recipe in Chocolate Cakes by Elinor Klivans*

- Makes one 6-inch round layer cake -

* I made quite a few changes to the original recipe, scaling it down to a two-layer 6-inch round cake from a three-layer 10-inch cake baked in a tube pan.  I use a water-based ganache.  The result is a rich yet light chocolate-almond sponge cake, with a bit of crunch from the exterior coating of almonds and toffee bits.

For sponge cake:
6 tablespoons (50g) cake flour
2 tablespoons (13g) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup (100g) sugar, separated
1/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

For amaretto syrup:
1/4 cup (60ml) boiling water
1/4 cup (50g) sugar
2 teaspoons amaretto liqueur

For water-based ganache:
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/3 cup boiling water

For garnish: Sliced almonds, chopped toffee bits (such as chopped Heath bar or Almond Roca pieces)

Bake cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the middle position.  Butter a 6x3 inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper, greasing the paper (if your cake pan is not at least 3 inches tall, you can divide the batter and bake them in two 6-inch cake pans; adjust the bake time and checking for doneness when the cakes are fully set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean).

Sift cake flour, cocoa, and salt in a bowl and set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat egg yolks and 1/4 cup of the sugar until thickened and mixture is a light cream color, about 3 minutes.  Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, as needed.  Mix in the espresso powder, vanilla and almond extracts.

Using another clean bowl and the whisk attachment of the stand mixer, beat egg whites with cream of tartar on low-speed until foamy.  On medium speed, beat egg whites until shiny and smooth and soft peaks begin to form.  Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, a tablespoon or so at a time, until shiny stiff peaks form.

Take about one-third of the beaten egg whites and fold it into the yolk mixture.  Fold in the remaining whites.  In three additions, sprinkle the flour mixture over the egg mixture, folding and incorporated each addition before following with the next.  Scrape batter into the prepared cake pan and gently smooth out the top.  

Bake until the cake is set throughout, feels firm to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out completely clean, about 20-22 minutes.  If in doubt, give it an extra minute or two; it's important to make sure the center is fully cooked and not "wet" at all so the cake can be easily sliced later.  Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack for about 15 minutes before running a knife around the edges and inverting it onto the rack to cool completely.

Make amaretto syrup: Place boiling water into a 1-cup measuring cup.  Stir in the sugar and mix until sugar is fully dissolved.  Stir in the amaretto and set aside.

Make chocolate ganache: Place chocolate into a heatproof bowl.  Pour boiling water over the top and let sit for 1 minute.  Then, gently whisk mixture until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.  Let sit at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until thickened enough to spread (you can speed up the process by placing it in the refrigerator and stirring occasionally but don't forget about it since it can go from too loose to too thick very quickly).  

Assemble cake/torte: Place cake, bottom side up, onto a cake stand or serving plate. Tuck stripes of wax paper under the bottom of the cake for easy clean up.  Using a serrated knife, slice the cake across into 2 even layers.  Remove the top layer.  Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the top of each layer with the amaretto syrup.  Place about 1/3 cup or so of the ganache on top of the bottom cake layer and spread evenly.  Top with second layer of cake (I soaked both sides of this top layer with syrup) and spread the remaining ganache over the top and around the sides of the cake.  

Use your hands and pat on handfuls of almond slices around the sides of the cake. Top the cake with toffee pieces, gently pressing them into the ganache.  Remove the wax paper strips under the cake.  

The cake can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.  Bring to room temperature before serving.  



48 comments:

  1. Wow! 5 years...congratulations my friend. It has been a pleasure meeting you. You always make my favourite things and make them so well. I have a feeling that if we lived closer, I'd be at your doorstep frequently:-) The chocolate almond torte is gorgeous. Here's to many more years of delicious recipes and posts.

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    1. Hi Sonali - yes, hard to believe but I'm just still plugging away quietly here. : ) Thank you for all your kind words and for taking the time to visit. I love seeing your artistry over at your blog and I'm so glad I got to know you a bit. Thank you.

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  2. Congratulations Monica! I can truly and honestly say I enjoy each and every visit with you so thanks for always making me smile, and for every single honest review and evaluation of the recipes and processes. I love the way you bake and experiment and I have been inspired weekly to try new ingredients (chestnut cream!) and to bake more cakes for sure. I love hearing about your family and life in Jersey :) I am honored each time you come and visit me and appreciate all your lovely written comments and compliments. This cake is fantastic and I want some 6" pans!!!!

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    1. Tricia, I think I might cry! Thank *you* for your generosity. You have always been so kind with all the encouragement and I truly appreciate it.
      I love visiting your blog and seeing your amazing creations and hearing a bit about your (growing) family. : ) And the overwhelming feeling I feel when I see your food is "wow, this is how it's done!" Everything you cook and present to us is so lovingly and beautifully accomplished. It inspires me and I aspire to be as gracious as you are. Thank you, my friend! xo

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  3. Yay for 5 years!! I am so glad you are still here plugging away :) I've loved getting to know you these last few years! And I'm with you Trisha - you have definitely pushed me to try new things like chestnut cream! I probably wouldn't have even known what it was until you talked about it!! haha Happy happy weekend Monica!!

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    1. *I'm with Trisha (sigh - I try to type too fast!) lol

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    2. haha - I do go on and on about the same things and I do love myself some chestnut cream! : )
      So glad to get to know you via your blog, Ashley. You open up my mind to new combinations and ingredients (bulgar, for instance!) and remind me that it's totally possible to eat healthy without sacrificing or skimping. Keep doing what you do; I have a feeling there's a lot more success and milestones coming your way. : )

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  4. Aaw yay! Happy Blog Birthday, Monica! Congrats on 5 years! So happy that we connected through blogging! Your posts always bring a smile to my face because I love the treats you make and stories you tell behind why you made each treat. You are so sweet and genuine and always so supportive and I'm glad that blogging still brings you so much joy :) You always inspire me and yes, definitely opened my eyes to chestnut chestnut cream and so many delectable pastries. Can't wait to see what this year brings, my friend! Have a wonderful weekend! :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Kelly! You are the best and so, so sweet. Thank you for all your kind words and for taking the time to read my posts and to comment when you are so busy! Not only does your food always look scrumptious, you are such a wonderful mom. Your family is lucky! And I am so happy for all your success and can't wait to see your cookbook! It's incredible and well-deserved. : )

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  5. Happy Blogiversary Monica! I am amazed at all of the delicious desserts you have coming out of your kitchen. I love this beautiful chocolate almond torte. If you are ever on the look out for a quality assurance tester I know just the girl for the job. Have a super weekend. Take care, Bobbi

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    1. Hi Bobbi - the commenting is working! : ) Thank you for your kind comments. I so enjoy visiting your blog and seeing your creative, healthy recipes. I learn so much! And I get a taste of HK living again by reading your posts. Nice bonus, for sure!

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  6. Congratulations!!! The torte looks incredibly beautiful and delicious!

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  7. Wow, five years is such a milestone! This torte is absolutely stunning- love the flavors and presentation with the sliced almonds. Congratulations on all your blog success and all that you've gained through blogging- I'm so excited to continue to follow your delicious adventures :) Pinning!

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    1. It is a fun hobby and to be able to look back and see what I made and shared with my family really makes it special. Thanks, Medha. Keep cooking and sharing your joy. : )

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  8. Hi Monica, yea, 5 years thats a quite an accomplishment. Love all the works of art that come out of your kitchen, you are a great baker and cook.

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    1. Hi Cheri, I'm so lucky to have the time to indulge in this hobby the last five years. You are too kind and I appreciate your comments and for stopping by. I love seeing what you cook up - it's always so seasonal and healthy.

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  9. For some reason, I kept seeing Chocolate cake, all day…and your is irresistible on! Many congratulations for celebrating 5 years of blogging. You are doing great and I love your blog.

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    1. Seeing chocolate cake all day sounds like a good day, Bal. Thank you for visiting here when you can. I hope you keep on blogging and sharing your wonderful gluten free recipes. I always learn about new ingredients and recipes that I didn't know before.

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  10. Sorry for my belated reply, dear Monica! I haven't checked my blog during my holiday.
    What a beautiful cake I'm a big fan of your recipes. So wish you plenty of 5 years in your fab blog ;-)))) You are really a fabulous baker.

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    1. Not at all. Thanks for finding me and for your kind words. Much appreciated.

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  11. Congratulations and very Happy Anniversary dear. This looks gorgeous and perfect! Love Love all your recipes :-)

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  12. Happy 5th bloggoversary, Monica! Five is a big number and I'm so happy that you have created your little space in the blogging world so that all of us can enjoy your beautiful and tasty kitchen adventures. I've enjoyed every one of your posts, and I can appreciate what it's like to be always a student in the kitchen -- that's what makes it fun! As for the chocolate almond torte...what a beauty! I love the touch of amaretto and decoration. A cake like this is the perfect way to celebrate, and I hope there are many more occasions to celebrate in the future (:

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    1. Monica - you are so nice to continue to come by here and visit with me when you get a chance. I love hearing from you and thank you for all your lovely, thoughtful and kind comments! I am wishing you the best with all your school work and sending you wishes for lots of joy outside of all the hard work! Keep baking and sharing with us! Thank you!

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  13. Happy 5 years to you! It helps to have a supportive partner - I also have a husband who happily eats whatever I make, and that make the task of hunting for new recipes much easier!

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    1. Yes, it is absolutely wonderful motivation to have a family to cook for. My hubby is a great eater and I'm very glad for it. : ) Thanks, Beth.

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  14. Wow, congratulations Monica! What a beautiful cake to celebrate with <3

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  15. 5 years!!!! WOW!!! Big Congratulations to you my dear. I absolutely loved reading your post today. I've really enjoyed visiting your space and absolutely loved each and every recipe of yours. Filled with warmth and love, you ooze loveliness. I adore your baking skills and your family is a lucky one. Your hubby sounds like such a sweet person.
    Hugs to you my dear and for many more years of sharing your awesomeness. xoxo

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    1. Hi Asha - thank you so much. You are so kind and I adore your blog. Your food, writing, posts in general, are so thoughtful and creative. I always find something new and also interesting. You are so gracious. Thank you, my friend. You keep sharing and inspiring us, please!! : )

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  16. Wow! 5 years! Happy bloggiversary to you, Monica. Love your blog and loved reading your post today. It really nice to have a supporting partner. Love all your posts and this one sure sounds perfect for celebration. This torte is everything I want to have right now!

    Anu
    www.mygingergarlickitchen.com/

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    1. Thank you for stopping by, Anu. I'm sure you have a supportive and fun family to cook for too so you know what I'm talking about! : )

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  17. Congratulations Monica...and this chocolate cake is just a perfect way for such a celebration...
    The torte is beautiful...and I love the bits of the crunchy on it.
    Have a wonderful week :)

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    1. Thank you, Juliana. Maybe I will make bread as well as you one day? Somehow, I doubt it... ; )

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  18. What a luscious and elegant cake!

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  19. What a beautiful cake for a special anniversary! This chocolate almond torte looks absolutely scrumptious! And your photos are fantastic!

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    1. I wasn't sure what to make but this turned out nice and we ate it up quickly. Thank you!

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  20. Congratulations! Five years - amazing!! The torte looks wonderful, I can imagine how good it tastes!

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    1. I know! Where does the time go...I'm glad to have found your blog recently, Adina. You are such a great cook!

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  21. Five years already?! That's amazing!! It's been a pleasure to be following along on your blog journey! Keep up the good work :)

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    1. I know! And still so much I need and would love to learn! That makes it a fun journey. Thank you, Ashley.

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  22. Happy Blogiversary Monica! Time really flies! The rich chocolate is a perfect way to celebrate this special day. I love all your baked goods and stories over the years. Stay amazing, girl! xoxo

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    1. Thank you, my friend! I am glad to keep in touch with you. You are such a stylish cook and baker. I learn a lot from your posts. You keep posting, please! : ) xo

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  23. Many Congratulations to my most diligent blogging friend!! 5 years and 500 posts truly is a great achievement, well done Monica!! I always so enjoy reading your posts even if I don't get chance to respond to them ( I am so pleased you have a waffle maker and have really enjoyed your recent posts). I aspire to be a great blogger like you! I am very excited to share with you that we are visiting NYC later in the year so any foodie stops or walking tours would be much appreciated Monica. Xx

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    1. Hi Jo!!! Thank you, thank you!! You are so kind and I feel it all the way here. Thank you so much for reading and commenting when you can. It is not expected and much appreciated, believe me! : )

      I will write more (via email) soon...just got back from vacation (the little one was on spring break from school) and I'm still setting back in (and doing lots of home cooking). I am so excited about your upcoming trip to NYC!! I know you and your family will have a great time...you pretty much can't go wrong going anywhere you've read about. I always feel so lucky to be so close to NYC. Anyway, will write more in a follow-up separately. Thanks again!

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  24. Quite an adorable wedding anniversary cake! You really did a fantastic job with this cake. I love making cakes and did a three tier cake for my sister on her wedding. She got married at one of iconic wedding venues. Everyone loved entire ceremony and cake.

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