When the pandemic changed our world, I no longer could shoot close-up-and-unmasked with chefs in my home kitchen. So I changed my approach to filming videos.
For the time being I’m flying solo, cooking up some of my favorite recipes garnered from my decades of work in the food world.
Favorites – recipes that feel like best friends.
I’ll start with the Chocolate Candy Box Cake. Unapologetic in its decadence, this almost-flourless chocolate cake captures the spirit of celebration. It looks like a box of candy. Covered in a buttery chocolate glaze, assorted chocolate candies are pushed into place while the shiny glaze is soft.
It can be heart-shaped, square, or rectangular, depending on the theme.
Unfrosted, the cake can be frozen up to two weeks, but be sure to pour the glaze on with the cake at room temperature. And don’t refrigerate the cake again. Frosted, it will keep for two days left at room temperature. The glaze takes on a pretty patina and it stays really moist.
Candy Box Cake
Yield: 12 servings
3/4 cup ground pecans (ground the consistency of cornmeal)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 ounces semisweet chocolate
2 tablespoons water
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 eggs, room temperature, separated
Optional: 1 tablespoon rum or raspberry liqueur or orange juice
1 teaspoon sugar
Chocolate Butter Glaze:
4 ounces semisweet chocolate
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
Garnish: assorted chocolate candies (cream centered candies are easier to cut)
1. Position oven rack in the lower third of oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch heart-shaped cake pan with solid vegetable shortening or butter. Dust generously with flour; invert and tap out excess flour. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper. Use the pan to trace a heart on cardboard; cut out heart and set aside.
2. In a small bowl, combine pecans and flour; set aside. Melt butter and chocolate in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over very low heat. Stir in water and blend until smooth. Place chocolate mixture in a large bowl and stir in 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Cool 5 minutes.
3. Separate eggs, placing yolks in a small bowl and whites in a large bowl or large bowl of electric mixer.
4. Stir egg yolks, a little at a time, into chocolate. Add rum or liqueur and nut-flour mixture; stir to combine.
5. With an electric mixer or electric hand mixer, whip egg whites on medium-low speed until small bubbles appear and the surface is frothy. Increase speed to high and add 1 teaspoon sugar.
Whip until soft, white peaks form. Scoop 1/3 of egg whites into chocolate and fold with a rubber spatula. Add remaining egg white and fold.
6. Scoop batter into prepared pan and smooth surface with spatula. Bake 25 minutes or until it feels soft but not liquid in center. Do not overbake because chocolate firms as it cools.
6. Place cake on cooling rack for 20 minutes. Run a thin-bladed knife between cake and sides of pan. Place cardboard heart on top of cake and invert. Peel off and discard parchment.
7. Prepare glaze. Chop chocolate into matchstick-size pieces. Place butter in top of double boiler. Top with chocolate. Place over bottom of double boiler that has hot water in it (the water should not touch the bottom of the top pan). Stir occasionally to blend until mixture is smooth, shiny and liquid. If chocolate and butter don’t melt, place over very low heat and stir. Glaze cake, and top with an assortment of chocolate candies, pushing them into the glaze to stabilize their position.
Source: adapted from “The Simple Art of Perfect Baking,” by Flo Braker (Chapters Publishers, 1992, $19.95) and “Simca’s Cuisine” by Simone Beck (Knopf, out of print)