The name of this cake is decidedly not Italian. The truth is I have no idea why our family calls it this way, except for the fact that it's split in half the same way the Panama canal cuts through Panama. My grandmother who is Swiss & French but who has roots in Northern Italy told me the original recipe was an almond meal & chocolate torte, but she tweaked it by adding an amazing chocolate buttercream. It's rich, it's intense and it's delicious. —Culinista Annouchka
grams fresh almond meal - without the skins- (about 1 3/4 cups)
Butter a 9" spring form cake pan and line with parchment paper. Preheat oven at 325F.
In a stand mixer, mix the egg yolks and sugar together until pale and very creamy (about 10 minutes)
Then add the almond meal and grated chocolate little by little and mix delicately.
In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until stiff white peaks form, then slowly fold in the egg whites into the egg/sugar/chocolate/almond mixture.
Place the mixture in the cake pan. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. You can test the cake with a toothpick or knife inserted in the center, if it comes out clean then it's ready.
While the cake is baking, make the chocolate cream. In the stand mixer, whip the butter until soft and creamy, add the sugar and the melted chocolate little by little and mix to combine, after a few minutes add the eggs. The buttercream should be thick and glossy. Make sure to cool the chocolate before adding to the buttercream or it could curdle when adding the eggs.
Once the cake is out of the oven, let it cool unmolded on a wire rack. Cut the cake horizontally* and layer some of the chocolate cream in the middle. Place the top of the cake, then spread the rest of the cream on top and on the side of the cake.
* A good trick to cut a cake horizontally is to make an incision with a small knife and running it around the cake; then placing a piece of string around the incision and running it through the cake