Spiced Chocolate Torte with Chocolate Ribbons

I really didn’t think I’d be doing anything else that would be considered vaguely valentiny, but it happened anyway. I had an excess of the buttercream filling from the molded chocolates, so I figured that was a good enough excuse to make the cake the filling goes with. I first made this cake for my birthday a month ago, and it was amazingly delicious, almost illegally sexy in its chocolate loveliness. But I also kind of made a mess of it, mostly because I had no experience whatsoever with modeling chocolate. I have no idea what I was expecting when I tried to make the ribbons, but it turned out absolutely terrible.

Yeah, not much to look at, but oh! was it good. I had been hoping to revisit the recipe and see if I could make it turn out a bit better, and this was the perfect excuse.

Do beware that this recipe takes some time, not least because you have to melt about 42oz chocolate in various amounts at various points. I generally use Dove chocolates because they melt nicely and have a good flavor, but pretty much any decent chocolate will do. For white chocolate, I recommend Guittard or Ghirardelli chips.

Spiced Chocolate Torte Wrapped in Chocolate Ribbons

cake

1 1/2 cup (3 sticks) butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
8 eggs, separated, room temperature
10 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), melted, lukewarm
1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp each ground cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg
1 1/3 cups unbleached flour, sifted
pinch of salt
pinch of cream of tartar

buttercream

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup (agave syrup works wonderfully)
4 jumbo egg yolks
1 1/2 cup (3 sticks) butter, cut into small pieces, room temperature (cut into pieces before warming – makes things much easier)
6 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), melted and cooled (but still pourable)
1/4 cup dark rum

glaze

12 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
2 tbsp honey
3/4 tsp instant coffee powder

chocolate ribbons

7 oz high-quality white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup light corn syrup or agave syrup, divided
7 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), broken into pieces

I know, a whole lot of stuff. Make sure everything is ready before you start – you’ll regret it if you don’t.

cake

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter and flour three 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 11/2-inch-high sides. Line bottom of each cake pan with waxed paper; butter and flour waxed paper. (This is where the heart-shaped pans came in: I have no matching cake pans. I actually only have three cake pans, and they’re springform pans in three sizes. Yes, I could have just cut them down to the size of the smallest one, or done them one at a time, but I figured I’d go up to Mikal’s dad’s house to see what his cake pan selection looked like. The only two pans he had of matching size and shape were the heart pans, so I went for it. Frankly, you do need three pans for the batter – if you are gentle enough with folding the ingredients in, the batter expands quite a bit.)

Using electric mixer, cream butter in large bowl. Gradually beat in sugar until smooth. Beat in egg yolks 1 at a time. Blend in melted chocolate. Slowly mix in pecans, vanilla, and spices. Gently fold in flour in 4 batches (batter will be very thick and dense).

This is the batter before the flour. You’ll need a really large bowl for this stuff. 

Using electric mixer fitted with clean dry beaters, beat egg whites with salt and cream of tartar in another large bowl until medium peaks form.

Remember to start beating the egg white at a high speed. You’ll notice a lot of air bubbles 

Gently fold 1/4 of whites into batter to lighten, then fold in remaining whites. Divide batter among prepared pans, spreading evenly. Bake until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Run knife around sides of each cake. Let stand 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto racks. Cool to room temperature.

They came out a bit large. I would recommend doing three layers if you can. I forgot to butter and flour the parchment, it’s a bit pockmarked. 

buttercream

Stir sugar and corn syrup in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil 1 minute. Meanwhile, using electric mixer, beat egg yolks in medium bowl until pale and thick. Gradually beat in hot sugar syrup; continue beating until mixture is completely cool, about 5 minutes. Beat in butter 1 piece at a time, incorporating each piece completely before adding next. Blend in melted chocolate, then rum. (If buttercream looks broken or curdled, place bowl with buttercream over medium heat on stove burner and whisk 5 to 10 seconds to warm mixture slightly, then remove from heat and beat mixture again on medium speed. Repeat warming and beating as many times as needed until buttercream is smooth.)

Reserve 1/2 cup buttercream. Set 1 cake layer, flat side up, on rack; spread with half of remaining buttercream.

Since I had the orange and raspberry buttercream from the Valentine’s chocolates, I striped the two flavors across the cake rather than mixing it together or halving it or something. This way each bite will have a slightly different flavor. 

Top with second cake layer; spread with remaining buttercream. Top with third cake layer; use reserved 1/2 cup buttercream to fill in seam where cake layers meet. Freeze cake until buttercream is firm, about 2 hours.

glaze

Stir all ingredients in top of double boiler over gently simmering water until mixture is smooth. Remove from over water. Stir until glaze is thickened, about 5 minutes (do not allow glaze to set).

Pour 3/4 of glaze over top of cake. Carefully and quickly tilt cake back and forth so glaze coats sides; smooth sides with spatula, adding some of remaining glaze where necessary. Chill cake until glaze is set. (Let it completely set – trying to lace the ribbons when it’s not fully set results in sad marrings in the glaze.)

chocolate ribbons

Melt white chocolate in top of double boiler over gently simmering water; stir until smooth. Stir in 1/4 cup corn syrup. (Do be sure to scrape all the syrup out of your measuring utensil, otherwise your ribbon strips will tend toward dryness and be hard to bend.) Pour onto baking sheet. Chill until firm, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer white chocolate to work surface and knead several minutes. Shape white chocolate dough into ball. Wrap in plastic. Let white chocolate dough stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Repeat with bittersweet chocolate and remaining 1/4 cup corn syrup.

When you undertake this project, don’t start it in the evening unless you’re planning on being up a long time. By the time I got to the step of putting the modeling chocolate in the fridge for 30-40 minutes, I was tired, so I figured I’d pick it back up in the morning. When my alarm went off the next morning at five, I found that the chocolate had set and was absolutely useless. I had to restart that whole process and put some alarms on to remind me on timing for the steps. 

Cut white chocolate dough into 4 pieces. Flatten 1 piece into rectangle. Turn pasta machine to widest setting. Run chocolate through 3 times, folding into thirds before each run. Adjust machine to next narrower setting. Run chocolate through machine without folding. If chocolate is more than 1/16 inch thick, run through next narrower setting. Lay chocolate piece on rimless baking sheet. Repeat flattening, folding, and rolling with remaining chocolate pieces. Repeat process with bittersweet chocolate dough.

Cut four 8×1-inch strips from rolled white chocolate dough and four 8×1/2-inch strips from rolled bittersweet chocolate dough. Center bittersweet chocolate strips atop white chocolate strips to form 4 ribbons. Run 1 ribbon from base of cake to center. Arrange remaining 3 chocolate ribbons equidistant from each other in same fashion so ribbons meet in center (Step 1).

Cut ten 6 1/2×1-inch strips from rolled white chocolate dough and ten 61/2×1/2-inch strips from rolled bittersweet chocolate dough. Center bittersweet chocolate strips atop white chocolate strips to form 10 ribbons. Cut ends off 2 ribbons on diagonal. Starting at center, drape ribbons over top and sides of cake to form trailers. To form loops for bows, fold remaining 8 ribbons in half, layered side out. Cut ends into V shapes (Step 2). Arrange ribbon halves with V shapes at center of cake to form bow (Step 3).

The first time I made this cake, I guess I expected the modeling chocolate to set much more quickly than it did. My ribbons came out floppy and I had to prop them up with wine corks. I found that after an hour of driving and another couple of hours in a cold room that they set nicely…. it just takes a while. This time, I decided to manipulate them more purposefully, and let my ribbons set with a cork and a marker to preserve form. It worked quite nicely, though would have been better if I had refrigerated. 

Cut one 3×1-inch strip of white chocolate and one 3×1/2-inch strip of bittersweet chocolate. Center bittersweet chocolate strip atop white chocolate strip. Fold in ends of chocolate strips and pinch to resemble knot; place in center of bow. Carefully transfer cake to serving platter or cake stand.

I had to wipe the powdered sugar off with a damp towel…. Just be sure to do that step before you assemble the cake – you can see some spots I couldn’t get to because I didn’t want to mess up the glaze. 

This turned out much better than my first attempt as far as presentation, and my cake turned out fluffier this time. The only issue I have with beating the eggs is that while the top gets nice and fluffed with my kitchenaid mixer on setting 6 or so, there is still quite a bit at the bottom under the fluff that doesn’t get touched, and I ended up keeping that part back so that it didn’t weigh down the cake. I’m not sure if that’s a “normal” behavior for kitchenaid mixers… I use the whisk, so it shouldn’t happen. It doesn’t happen with whipped cream, at least not as far as I can remember. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Leave a Comment