My birthday was last week, and in keeping with tradition, Quinn baked me a cake. I feel a little bad because the recipe I picked involved a lot of steps including making caramel, which is usually a dicey proposition. I offered him an out, but he decided to dive in and make my initial cake choice.
I know that it was just a couple of days ago that I was extolling the virtues of simple cakes. Well, my friends, this one does not fall into the Simple Cake category. It’s not that any part of it is particularly difficult. There are just a lot of parts to it. It adds up.
The recipe comes to us from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey. It’s a cookbook I’ve had for a while, but I recently rediscovered it in the midst of our packing madness. Quinn followed the recipe closely with just one exception. Instead of trying to time the topping to be done just as the cake was done baking, he split the two components into two days. If I were making this, that is likely what my approach would be, just to make things a little simpler.
My biggest advice for making this cake is to be sure to read all the way through the recipe before baking. Now, I know that is one of the top rules of baking. Surely none of us ever just dive in without first reading every detail. You know, that’s my approach in theory, but I don’t always stick to it. But, trust me. You’ll want to read through this and avoid any surprises.
This cake is incredibly good. If you’re a fan of all things chocolate and caramel and pecans, this is for you. It’s also incredibly rich. That slice you see up there is in no way a serving suggestion, unless you’re sharing it with a couple of friends.
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
For the cake:
- 2-3 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup superfine sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
- 16 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 8 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons bourbon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
For the sauce:
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
- pinch of cream of tartar
- 1 cup pecan halves
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons bourbon
To make the cake:
- Preheat oven to 350°. Brush a 10-inch springform pan with melted butter and coat the bottom and sides with superfine sugar. Tap out excess.
- Place chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in microwave for 90 seconds at half-power. If chocolate does not melt when stirred, heat in 30-second intervals until chocolate melts when stirred. Stir mixture until smooth. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
- Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat egg yolks and salt until smooth. Gradually add 1/2 cup superfine sugar and beat until thick and pale yellow (4-6 minutes). Whisk in bourbon and vanilla. Gradually whisk egg mixture into melted chocolate and butter.
- Place egg whites and cream of tartar in a stainless steel bowl. Using an electric mixer on low speed, whisk until foamy. Increase mixer speed to high and beat until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1/2 cup superfine sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until stiff peaks form.
- Stir about 1/3 of egg whites into chocolate mixture. Carefully fold the remaining egg whites into chocolate mixture. Fold just until blended.
- Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until cake rises and is puffy and firm. The cake should be moist but not liquid in the center. A pick inserted into the center should come out with moist crumbs.
- Allow it to cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. The top will fall some as it cools. Remove the sides of the pan.
To make the topping:
- Combine sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a large, heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar has dissolved and starts to change color. Increase heat to high. Boil mixture 4-5 minutes, or until it turns a deep amber color. Be careful not to burn the mixture.
- Remove pan from heat and stir in pecans, cream, and salt. Place pan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, 3-4 minutes, or until caramel thickens. Remove from heat. Stir in bourbon. Set aside and keep warm if not using immediately.
- Spoon warm topping over cake. Allow cake and topping to cool completely before serving. Use a very sharp knife to cut cake.