Chocolate Amaretti Cake [recipe]

A friend invited Joe and me over on Friday night to check out her newly remodeled home. After admiring her beautiful home and going oohs and aahs over her heated bathroom floor, unique decor pieces, gorgeous granite counters and pretty much just her impeccable taste on everything, she cooked us a delicious lamb dinner with Swiss chard and roasted potatoes. I’m still thinking about the sweet balsamic syrup that went with the lamb and the chard. It’s so good that I will probably make it just to drizzle over everything and anything savory. We washed the dinner down with a bottle of Syrah from Zenaida Cellars in Paso Robles, California.

For dessert, I tried a new recipe from the FoodNetwork Favorites cookbook – Giada De Laurentis’ Chocolate Amaretti Cake. What intrigued me the most was that there is no flour added in this recipe, instead she uses amaretti cookies (which is flourless as well) and slivered almonds as the dry ingredients. Plus, the whole prep process is done in a food processor, how easy does that sound? It took me 15 minutes to get my mise en place, blend up the batter and get the cake into the oven.

Amaretti cookies can be hard to find, but they are usually available at fine supermarkets or specialty stores. I got mine in the cookie aisle at Whole Foods, $2.99 for a pack and I only used about half of the pack for one cake plus decorations.

In the recipe, Giada simply dusts the finished cake with some cocoa powder. But there I was again, thinking about how I can beautify the cake even further. I made a whipped cream with cocoa powder and Kona Coffee Liquer, spread that over the top and cover the cake with chocolate shavings, complete with amaretti cookies on top. (The cookies will get soggy over a few hours, so don’t top with cookies unless you are serving the cake immediately after.)

I imagined the cake to be dense, but it was actually quite airy and light, strong flavors of almond and orange, not so much of the chocolate though, but that was fixed by the chocolate shavings on top. The cake itself was perfectly sweetened, so I purposely made the whipped cream less sweet, and the two really complimented each other. Overall, just a great combination of flavors, a winner recipe! (Sorry, no pictures of an individual slice..)

The whipped cream1 Cup Heavy Cream, 2-3 tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 tbsp of confectioners sugar, 1 tbsp of coffee-flavored liqueur.

Mix the cocoa powder with sugar. While whisking the heavy cream with an electric mixer, gradually mix in the cocoa-sugar mixture. Add in the liqueur, beat until peaks form. Don’t over-beat or the cream will turn lumpy and granular. If you do over-beat the cream, slowly stir in 1 tbsp of heavy cream at a time until mixture no longer appear to be lumpy.

Chocolate Shavings – using a cheese slicer or a vegetable peeler, “peel” the chocolate. If you want to make chocolate “curls”, the chocolate will have to be warmer than room temperature but not melting. Curls will not form if the chocolate is too cold. Store the shavings and curls in an airtight container in the refrigerator until use.

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