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Author Notes: This moist, rich cake was inspired by a Ligurian (Italian) recipe called "Torta di Noci e Canditi" from Michele Scicolone's book, La Dolce Vita. I used the same proportions of chocolate, eggs, and sugar in the recipe, but changed up the ingredients a bit to showcase my favorites: walnuts, which are traditional, with figs and grappa. For good measure, I also add a dollop of whipped cream spiked with cardamom. One bite and you'll know you've really found the sweet life. [A couple notes on ingredients: It makes a difference to use very soft dried figs; sometimes, though, you end up with tough ones, and in that case, you might want to try plumping the figs first in a bit of warm water. If you do this, make sure to drain and pat dry the figs, though, to avoid excess moisture in the cake. For the grappa, I like to use a lovely citrus tree honey grappa from Nonino Gioiello, but you should use whatever you have on hand; for baking, you do not need an expensive one.] —Allison Cay Parker
Makes one 9-inch cake
Chocolate Walnut Fig Cake with Grappa
- 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 1-1/3 cups walnuts
- 6 large eggs, separated
- 2/3 cup sugar, divided
- 2 tablespoons grappa
- 2/3 cup finely chopped dried figs (small dice), stalk ends removed
- confectioner's sugar for dusting (optional)
- With a rack set in the middle position, preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and lightly flour a 9-inch springform cake pan, tapping out excess flour.
- Place the chocolate in a food processor fitted with a steel blade (or in a blender with food-processing capabilities), and give it a few whirls to chop further. Add walnuts and process until finely ground.
- In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks until well blended. Gradually add 1/3 cup of the sugar and beat until fully incorporated; the mixture should be thickened, almost fluffy, and very light in color. Beat in the grappa, then beat in the chocolate-walnut mixture and the figs.
- With clean beaters on high speed, beat the egg whites until foamy. Beat in the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and continue until soft peaks form.
- Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate to lighten. Gradually fold in the rest of the egg whites, combining thoroughly but using as few strokes as possible.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the cake is puffed but the center is still moist. Cool completely on a wire rack. The cake will fall a bit and shrink away from the sides of the pan; that's fine. When the cake is cooled, run a spatula or knife around the rim and release the sides of the pan.
- If desired, sprinkled the cake with a light dusting of confectioner's sugar.
Cardamom Whipped Cream
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, chilled
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl and beat on high speed until soft peaks form (or to your desired consistency). Serve alongside slices of cake.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Italian Dessert
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Chocolate Cake