10 March 2012

Chocolate Torta Di Zabaglione

The original recipe for this cake is Delia Smith's Harry's Bar Torta Di Zabaglione from her website. I've had the recipe in my favourites folder for a while now, but this week I fancied making something chocolate themed (possibly because all the shops are gearing up for Easter and are imploring that we buy their chocolate) so I decided to incorporate the two. I also changed the method a little bit, as you'll see if you compare my recipe with Delia's.

So what is zabaglione? According to Wikipedia it is an Italian custard dish made from Marsala that is traditionally served with figs. It is also served in France as sabayon and was popular in 1960s US restaurants. My chocolate version was definitely worth the two-hour wait for the custard to get cold enough before incorporating the cream.

If, like me, you have the tendency to lick the bowl when you've scraped a reasonable amount of mixture out of it, you might get a bit of a shock to the taste buds if you try the custard before adding the cream. It tastes of nothing but Marsala - perhaps because of the 250ml in the recipe - so you might want to rethink tasting it if you're about to drive off somewhere, especially if all your stomach is filled with is dregs of cake mixture and marsala custard. Don't freak out that your cake will be too much for anyone but those with a penchant for hard whisky, though, because the later addition of cream mellows the flavour to one more reminiscent of tiramisu.

It's been a big week here in our student house because, after up to three months of waiting, things are finally starting to get fixed! I don't know if it's because it's a student house that everything has broken or if we're just unlucky, but since December we have had: a gate that broke in the strong winds of early January; a bedroom door that doesn't close; a toaster that won't work unless a stick is employed to hold the lever down; taps without hot water. Ok, so the last one didn't happen until about three weeks ago, but three weeks is still an atrociously long time to wait to get hot water back!

Our Broken Toaster
Anyway, on Tuesday we finally had our hot water fixed; fortunately the shower is electric so we could still clean ourselves but washing dishes had been problematic until E got so fed up that she bought dishwasher tablets. Just as I was calling the letting agent for the zillionth time to ask them to do something about our endless problems, the plumber finally arrived and it only took him half an hour to fix the problem. I complemented him on his continuous and impressive whistling, to which he replied that he has learnt to make a lot of noise when wandering around student houses because you never know when someone is wandering round in the nude!

Today someone from the letting agency came over with a toaster. This was good news, but surprising news because we had bought the (now broken) toaster ourselves and, as far as I know, nobody has told them that we have a problem with it. We weren't going to question the sparkly new toaster, though. The man from the letting agency also told us that someone would be round at the start of next week to fix everything else so hooray! Our house will be broken no longer!

The crumble from the other day has served as a nice breakfast treat, as well as a tasty pudding. It is basically an all-rounder, good for any time of day. There is no excuse not to make it! I had success with the reinvention of the Cherry Cake into leftover cookies and they were quite happily eaten. I actually sent some to my Gran for her 90th birthday - I hope she likes them!

Another thing that I changed about the cake recipe, without realising it, was the quantity of cream. As a result I had far too much zabaglione to simply spread between the two cakes and covered the whole cake in it. That's why the cake looks a little bit different to the one in Delia's recipe. It tastes just as good as hers looks, though! In the recipe below I prescribed the amount of cream that the original recipe asks for, but if you prefer my accident then double the quantity of cream (I just used two packs of Elmlea Double Light, 660mL.)

For the Zabaglione:
  • 3 Egg Yolks
  • 75g Light Muscovado Sugar
  • 40g Plain Flour
  • 30g Cocoa Powder
  • 250mL Marsala Wine
  • 300mL Double Cream
For the Sponge:
  • 2 Eggs
  • 60g Self Raising Flour
  • 110g Caster Sugar
  • 40g Cocoa Powder
  • 110g Butter
  • 1 Tsp Baking Powder
  • To make the zabaglione, whisk the egg yolks until they start to thicken, then whisk in the sugar until the mixture turns pale and thickens.
  • Add the cocoa and flour a tablespoon at a time, whisking in between each addition, until it has all been added. The mixture will get very stiff towards the end, but persevere as it will go runny again as soon as the Marsala is added.
  • Whisk in the Marsala a little bit at a time (unless you think your walls and outfit need some Marsala to spruce them up), then transfer the mixture to a pan and, stirring constantly, heat gently for about 2 minutes until the custard mixture thickens. If it doesn't look much like custard, don't fret because mine didn't either but it still turned out well.
  • Remove from the heat and leave to cool completely before putting in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
  • Meanwhile, make the cake: preheat the oven to 170C/160C fan and line two sandwich tins.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together and stir in the eggs. Sift the dry ingredients ( the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder) from a height to keep the mixture light, then mix them in . The cake mixture is supposed to fall off the spoon when it is tapped on the bowl. If you think it is a bit stiff add small amounts of water until you deem the consistency to be correct.
  • Separate the cake mixture between the sandwich tins and level the surfaces before putting them in the oven for 20 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
  • Turn the cakes onto a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely.
  • When the Marsala custard has been in the fridge for long enough, put the cream in a large mixing bowl and whisk to a stiff peak consistency.
  • Next, transfer the custard to the bowl with the cream in it and whisk until the two have fully mixed together.
  • Put one of the cakes on a cake stand or plate, then pile 3/4 of the cream on top of it. Spread it to the edges and make sure that it maintains some height. Put the second cake on top, pressing gently.
My Improvised Cake Stand
  • Smooth the edges of the filling and fill any gaps between the edge of the top sponge and the rest of the filling, then spread the remaining zabaglione around the edge of the cake. I had to put the cake on top of a pile of plates for this because I don't have a cake stand yet and it was too hard to do this part on the level of the kitchen counter.
  • Dust the cake with a bit of cocoa powder for decoration and store in the fridge.

For tips on whisking cream, amongst other things, have a look at The Basics. For ideas on how to limit the damage this cake will do to your diet, go to Healthy(ish) Baking.

Next week is St. Patrick's day. I don't know much about him, but I know that a lot of students use it as an excuse to drink all day so I'm going to make some green and alcohol themed cupcakes which will also incorporate nicely into this month's We Should Cocoa challenge.

I may also bake something with the yellow plums I impulsively picked up last week whilst in the supermarket, but we shall play that by ear.

Have a nice weekend!

[The contents of this post were edited on 22/03/2015.]

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