So good, quite time-consuming, very much worth it.
The marjolaine was made famous by Fernand Point in Vienne, France, writes David Lebovitz. I found impressive photos and a beautiful painting of Point when I entered him in Google search. This recipe is adapted from Lebovitz's book, Room For Dessert. The changes include an all-almond meringue with altered proportions. The almond candy is simplified and lends a first hint of lemon. The ganache with citrus stirred in is very fruity. —HCR
For the nut meringue: Set the oven rack in the bottom half of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 14 by 14-inch baking pan with a baking mat or well-buttered parchment paper. Combine the ground almonds, 3/4 cups of sugar and cornstarch. Whisk the egg whites and the cream of tartar until frothy. Add the pinch of salt and continue whisking until they form soft, glossy and slightly droopy peaks. Fold the nut mixture into the egg whites. Evenly smooth the batter onto the baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes. The meringue should be pale or golden brown and feel a bit dry when you touch it. Cool.
For the slivered or chopped almonds: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine the almonds with 2 tablespoons of sugar and just 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Spoon them onto a lined baking sheet and bake for about 7 minutes until golden. Cool and chop into small pieces.
For the ganache: Heat 2/3 cups of crème fraîche in a saucepan just until it boils. Remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate, stirring until it is melted and combined. Add the zest of 2 lemons and 4 - 6 tablespoons of juice to taste. Set this aside so it can thicken slightly.
For the creams: Whip 3/4 cups of crème fraîche, cream and sugar until it holds its shape. Into 2/3 cups of this mixture, fold the baked and chopped almond candy. Add cognac to the remaining cream mixture. Whip again if it gets to soft. Refrigerate both mixtures until ready to use.
Assembly: Invert the meringue into another baking pan. Carefully peel off the baking mat or paper, maybe using a spatula or knife if it's sticky. If it breaks it can be patched together when assembling the cake. Cut the meringue into 4 square quarters. Place 1 piece of meringue onto a flat plate or sheet. Spread a good layer of ganache onto it. Cover with a second piece of meringue. Spread the cream with the almonds onto this layer. Add another layer of meringue. Top with cognac cream. Finish with last piece of meringue. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Before serving, trim rough edges of the marjolaine and gently reheat ganache over warm water so it reaches a spreadable consistency. Spread and smooth it over top and sides of the cake. When slicing, use a serrated knife and dip it in hot water before each cut. Keeps for several days in the refrigerator.