3/4 cup unsweetened nonalkalized cocoa powder
3/4 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, such as Land O’Lakes, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
Orange liqueur soaking syrup:
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
2 pints fresh raspberries
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
12 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur
Crème frâiche or whipped cream
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted*
*To toast the almonds, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Spread the nuts in a single layer in a jelly roll pan and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the nuts are golden, shaking the pan two or three times during the baking. Allow the nuts to cool completely.
Make the chocolate cake:
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter a 10-inch-by-2-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper and butter the paper. Dust the inside of the pan and the parchment with flour, tapping out the excess.
2. Place the cocoa powder in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk in the boiling water to make a smooth paste. Whisk in the vanilla extract and set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, using a wire whisk, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt until blended. Sift the dry ingredients.
4. In a 4 1/2-quart bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on
medium speed for about 7 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
5. Remove the bowl and paddle from the mixer stand. Using a rubber spatula, stir in one-fourth of the flour mixture, making sure it is completely incorporated. Stir in one-third of the buttermilk. Repeat this procedure, alternating the dry and liquid ingredients, ending with the flour mixture. Thoroughly fold in the cocoa mixture.
6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until the center is just firm to the touch. Allow the cake to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
7. Run the tip of a knife around the edge of the cake pan. Place a wire rack on the top of the cake and invert the cake onto the rack. Carefully remove the parchment paper. Invert the cake onto another rack and allow to cool completely. Transfer the cake to a platter; wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate. (At this point the cake may be held for up to two days in the refrigerator).
Make the orange liqueur soaking syrup:
8. In a small heavy saucepan, combine the water and sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil; remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool. Stir in the liqueur. Place the syrup in a covered container and store in the refrigerator until needed.
Make the raspberry sauce:
9. Combine the raspberries and sugar in a medium non-reactive bowl. Crush the raspberries with a fork and allow the mixture to macerate for 15 minutes.
10. Place the mixture in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until puréed. Force the raspberry purée through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing down hard on the solids. Discard the seeds.
11. Place the raspberry sauce in a covered container and refrigerate until cold.
Make the chocolate ganache:
12. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl.
13. Place the cream in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the cream comes to just under the boil. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate. Let stand for 3 minutes to melt the chocolate.
14. Stir gently until smooth. Stir in the liqueur. Cover with plastic wrap and cool to room temperature.
Assemble the dessert:
15. Line a 10-inch-by-2-inch round cake pan with plastic wrap. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and unmold the cake onto a work surface, top side up. Using a sharp serrated knife, slice off the domed top of the cake so that it is level. (Reserve this piece for chocolate cake crumbs.)
16. Place the remaining cake layer into the lined pan, cut side up. Using a pastry brush, brush the cake with the orange liqueur soaking syrup. Let the cake stand for 10 minutes to absorb the syrup. Pour the cooled ganache over the cake layer and spread evenly. Place in the refrigerator until the ganache is cold and firm, at least two hours. Remove the cake from the pan and place it onto a platter; the cake layer should be on the bottom.
17. To serve, cut the cake into twelve slices. Place each slice on a dessert plate along with some raspberry sauce and a dollop of crème frâiche or whipped cream. Garnish the dessert with a sprinkling of toasted sliced almonds.
Bistro Lancaster, The Lancaster Hotel, 701 Texas Ave., Houston, TX; 713-228-9502.
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