23 April 2011

Tipsy Easter Nest Cake

Easter in Portugal is a serious event.  All week, delivery men, checkout ladies, work colleagues, and random passersby have been wishing me a Boa Páscoa. People have had holidays from work since Thursday afternoon, and Lisbon is fairly emptied as dutiful kids return to their relatives in the hinterlands to celebrate this weekend. It feels like Christmas without the presents and with much nicer weather.

Yeah, yeah, yeah-- this is all very nice.  The problem is that it makes me miss Easter with my own family.  Kielbasa and rye bread, Paas-dyed eggs eaten all day long, homemade baskets of chocolate bunnies, ham and scalloped potatoes... sigh.  Unfortunately, these are things which are not available in Portugal.  My old traditions don't have much of a chance here.

In my mind, then, it was very important to mark this occasion with a cake which deserves to be a new tradition.  A cake which would make me forget my Mom's sweet bread and be outstanding enough to act as a centerpiece for a four-day weekend.  

THIS is that cake.

If you are coming out of a Lenten abstinence from chocolate, I caution you-- do not eat this cake unattended. It has a sweet base layer, which caves like a chocolate crater as it cools.  It has a crisp, shattery crust with a soft and tender center.  It is like the Black Swan of the Pavlova family, all merengue-y and nonconformist and intensely imperfect.

Inside the crisp crater top of cake, there is no frosting-- something softer.  It is a thick, delicious, Bailey's Irish Creme mousse which is tart and dark and goes down very easily.  Especially straight out of the mixing bowl. And of course, to make this the festive, pretty nest it is meant to be, add some candy chocolate eggs, nestled inside the chocolate waves.  

Sometimes new traditions aren't so bad.  

Happy Easter!

Tipsy Easter Nest Cake
serves 8 (or just one hungry, deprived chocoholic)
adapted from Nigella's Feast

8oz. dark (70%) chocolate, in pieces
1 stick butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 eggs: 2 whole, 4 separated
1/3 cup sugar (for yolk mixture)
1/2 cup sugar (for whites)

Mousse Topping
4oz. very dark (80%) chocolate
1 cup creme fraiche
1/4 cup Bailey's Irish Creme Liqueur
1 cup of sugar-coated Easter eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C).  Line the bottom of a 8-inch springform pan with parchment paper, and do not grease anything.

2. Melt together the 8 ounces of chocolate with the butter, in the microwave is fine.  Set aside to cool while you take care of the eggs.

3. Separate the eggs: 4 whites in one very clean, cool bowl; 4 yolks and 2 whole eggs in another large mixing bowl. Set the yolks aside.

4. Beat the whites until almost firm, then gradually add the 1/2 cup of sugar.  Beat until they are shiny and hold their shape.

5. Now add the 1/3 cup sugar to the yolks and beat until frothy and light.  Add the vanilla and mix.  Add in the cooled chocolate, stirring to blend.

6. Take one scoop of the whites and add to the yolk/chocolate mixture, folding in to lighten it.  Then add the rest of the whites, one big scoop at a time, folding gently until just blended.

7. Tumble the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top doesn't wobble when you touch it.  Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.  Do not fear-- the falling center and cracking sides are exactly what you want.

8. To make the topping, melt the chocolate and set aside to cool.  Mix together the Creme Fraiche and Bailey's, and beat together until light and aerated.  Blend in the cooled chocolate until smooth.

9. To put it all together: Once the cake has cooled completely, release it from the springform mold and slide it onto the plate or cake tray you ware using.  Top with dollops of the mousse, smoothing and swirling it to make it look a bit like choppy waves.  Arrange the egg candies on top.

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