Saturday, September 24, 2011

Zuccotto, Dessert of the Gods

Just when I'm ready to write off all things cake, cup and otherwise, something comes along that completely changes my mind. This time it is a cake called zuccotto. It's Italian, as all good things are, and it is divine. 

The cake is constructed, something I love about pastries. It's layers pieced into layers; in the way a good tart has a crust, a filling and a garnish, this cake has a crust filling and more filling. I made the cake for a school presentation--because I had time and desire to make more cake last week (I was so over them until this moment). Look at my kitchen. It's a complete mess; I don't even want to talk about it. I had signed up for the cake on a whim from a list of 18 choices. When I did a quick look online about the cake I saw "semifreddo Italian confection" and I wanted to scream at Chef Mar, "You assigned a freaking ice cream cake?!" I was thinking of the quick Italian ice cream that doesn't need a machine to aerate it, but I was blessedly wrong. Semifreddo in this case refers to mousse.

Mousse has been my new sweet obsession since Sylvain Leroy visited the Institute. I made chocolate-raspberry-lime flavored mousse and plain vanilla for my pastries final, mixed berry for a catering order at work and a chocolate mousse pie with candied pecans and caramel sauce for the deli. This is a new incarnation that tops all the previous efforts, thanks, in no small part, to the inclusion of amaretto liqueur, which improves all baked good, if you ask me.

The cake starts with a pound cake base lining any sort of bowl. I followed Giada dii Laurentis' recipe, which recommended store-bought pound cake making the zuccotto that much simpler. I questioned things pretty whole-heartedly at this point. Martha Stewart's Real Simple makes the cake look so easy and beautiful, but you know the cake in the photograph could very easily be glued together with actual glue. Mine would not have glue and could feasibly fall apart once I turned it out. I had nothing to do though but continue on. I soaked the pound cake in amaretto liqueur and then lined the inside with a concoction of whipped cream, sugar, almond extract and ground almonds leaving a large well to be filled with the food of the gods, chocolate mousse. I closed the cake with more pound cake and refrigerated it overnight. 

The cake flipped out of the bowl in a snap and looked nearly as good as the Martha Stewart version (except for the visible uneven distribution of amaretto syrup in the pound cake). But the real life flavor of the cake was just perfection. The cake was soft with an aroma of almond and cherries, the whipped cream with almond was light and crunch and then the mousse, the mousse was light and fudgy. Just the absolute perfect combination. I won't speak badly of cakes for at least another week. 

Zuccotto: Giada dii Laurentis (with some help from me)
1 loaf store-bought pound cake
2 tablespoons amaretto liqueur
4 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup almond, ground
1 teaspoon almond extract
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate morsels

The proportions here depend on how large your bowl is. I used a fairly big on and had to increase the amount of chocolate mousse filling (what a shame). You can buy or make the pound cake for the shell. Slice the cake and arrange along the bottom of the bowl. Whip two cups of the heavy whipping cream with sugar and almond extract until stiff peaks. Fold in the almonds. Spread the cream across the pound cake, leaving a well in the middle. Whip the remaining cream until medium-stiff peaks. Melt the chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler. Combine the chocolate and whipped cream, being sure that the chocolate is just barely warm to the touch, not too hot or the whipped cream will melt and it won't be good at all. Fill the rest of the bowl with the chocolate mousse. Cover with the rest of the pound cake, wrap and refrigerate until the mousse has set. Turn out, slice and enjoy.


Jess said...

it's incredible, and could be due to the fact that I am already stuffed with cake (having eaten a slice and a half of Finn's bday cake), but this in no way looks good to me. if I were able to taste it I'm sure I would change my mind. and speaking of change, I'm glad you had a change of heart concerning cake. cake welcomes you back with open arms.

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