Chocolate-Almond Torte

Panamatorte

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    12

    servings

Appears in

This cake was invented to commemorate the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914. The chocolate-almond cake layers are wonderful, but this chocolate icing has become one of my particular favorites. Be sure to cool the egg mixture completely before incorporating the butter. And soften the butter just to the point where it is cool, but maleable and not shiny.

Ingredients

Panama Cake

  • 3 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • cups sliced natural or blanched almonds
  • cup dried bread crumbs
  • 7 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract

Chocolate-Almond Icing

  • 3 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream, optional

Assembly

  • ½ cup sliced natural or blanched almonds, toasted

Method

  1. To make the cake: Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350°F. Lightly butter the inside of a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment or wax paper. Dust with flour and tap out the excess.
  2. Melt the chocolate in the top part of a double boiler over hot, not simmering, water, or in a microwave at medium power. Cool slightly.
  3. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the almonds and bread crumbs until the almonds are chopped into a fine powder, but not oily.
  4. Beat the yolks and ¼ cup of the sugar in a large bowl with a handheld electric mixer on high speed until thick and pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Beat in the chocolate, vanilla, and almond extract.
  5. Using clean beaters, beat the whites in a large bowl until they form soft peaks. Gradually beat in the remaining ¼ cup of sugar until the peaks are stiff and shiny. Stir about one fourth of the whites into the chocolate batter to lighten, then fold in the remaining whites, using a large balloon whisk or a rubber spatula. In two additions, fold in the nuts. Spread evenly in the pan.
  6. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and the cake is beginning to shrink from the pan, about 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the inside of the pan to release the cake, then remove the sides of the pan. Invert on to the rack, and remove the paper. Cool completely.
  7. To make the icing: Melt the chocolate in the top part of a double boiler or in a microwave at medium power.
  8. Whisk the eggs and sugar in a medium heatproof bowl. Place over a sauce pan of barely simmering water (the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl). Whisk gently until the eggs are very hot (an instant-read thermometer will read 170°F). Remove from the heat. Stir in the chocolate. Using a handheld electric mixer on high speed, beat until completely cooled, about 5 minutes. One tablespoon at a time, beat in the butter, incorporating the first addition before adding another. Add the vanilla and almond extracts. If the icing seems thick, beat in the heavy cream.
  9. To assemble: Using a long serrated knife, trim the top of the cake to level it. Cut the cake horizontally into 2 equal layers. Dab a tablespoon of the icing in the center of an 8-inch cardboard round. Place the bottom layer on the round. Spread with ½ cup of the icing, then top with the other layer. Spread the top of the cake with a generous ½ cup of icing. Use the remaining icing to frost the sides of the cake, then smooth the top. Lift the cake with one hand, and use your other hand to press the almonds onto the sides of the cake. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

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