This is the final post about our New Year's eve dinner then back to baking.
To properly finish our Italian inspired New Year's Eve dinner I decided to bake one of my favourite cakes, torta caprese or chocolate almond cake from Capri. Capri is, gastronomically speaking, the home of some wonderful lemons: so what better than a strongly lemon flavoured custard to go with the cake? I tried some decoration on the custard, as you can see from the pic above, which was, as you'll see, easier than thought.
To start I prepared the custard: a standard custard recipe, any cookbook has one and they're all pretty much similar. I simply changed the classical vanilla flavouring to lemon by substituting a lemon peel for the vanilla pod. Normally the peel of one lemon would be enough for a custard made with 500 ml milk but I used it for half the amount, to get a stronger flavour. I wanted to serve the sauce cold so I continued stirring while it cooled to avoid the formation of the infamous "skin". In the meanwhile I talked a bit with Juliane, a friend of ours and one of the dinner guests, drinking a freshly made mango milk shake. Note to Daniela, my lovely wife: no reason to complain about the mango, that's what happens when some people cook and work and others sleep.
The cake itself is not pretty straightforward. The only challenging part, because it is so boring, was blanching and peeling the 250 grams (about 9 oz) almonds needed for the cake. Once done I put them in the oven to toast (I agree with what Deb said in one of her last posts, toasted almond rule!). Meanwhile I got started on the cake batter. First I whipped together 200 g. (7 oz) sugar with 150 g. (5.3 oz) butter till well mixed and fluffy and then added 4 eggs, adding each after the preceding one got incorporated in the batter. Then came the almonds, which I had taken out of the oven and ground to get pieces about as big as a peppercorn, and 200 grams (7 oz) of chocolate, melted in the microwave (great for melting choc). Last came 1 tsp baking powder and crumbled rusks. I used, following a tried recipe, 9 of these, crumbled very fine in the food processor. Unfortunately the cake was, at the end, a bit drier than I wished. I guess either my eggs were smaller than those I normally use or the rusks in Germany are bigger than the Italian ones. Either way I should have used one less probably. You could also used savoiardi biscuits (the ones used for tiramisù) crumbs. In that case I would take 12 biscuits (as they're much spongier).
The cake baked 40-45 minutes in a 180C (350F) hot oven, till firm in the middle, but not completely dry. Once ready, I turned off the oven and left the cake another 5 minutes and then moved it to a cooling rack. Once cool and before cutting it it got dusted with icing sugar.
For the finishing touch I first covered the cake dishes with a few tablespoon of lemon custard, then I drew, using a paper cornet, three concentric melted chocolate circles. To get the "abstract" effect I just ran a toothpick alternating upwards and downwards strokes. I had never tried this before and was surprised how easy and obvious this is. Still no need to spread the secret too much especially when it impresses the guests so much! :-)
The cake tasted nice (apart being slightly too dry), chocolate and almond taste well balanced and the lemon sauce was a good match... although if I think about it... next time I'll try orange and cointreau!. Should be even better!