Fran’s La Rêverie

When Fran’s husband, Peter, who claims not to be a chocoholic, bit into this impressive layered walnut cake during testing for her cookbook, Pure Chocolate, he was immediately whisked back to the original Madison Street store and the cakes Fran used to make before chocolate took over her life. The inspiration was the Scandinavian Cloud Cakes they grew up with in Seattle.

Peter likes his cakes light and clean, with chocolate more an accent than the dominant flavor. This one fits the bill. Four crunchy, airy layers of walnut cake interspersed with thin layers of white chocolate-spiked whipped cream and the thinnest, finest layer of smooth dark chocolate to hold it all together. It is Peter’s favorite birthday cake.

Serves 16 to 20



To Make the Cake

  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 325F.
  2. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans (preferably flared) and line with parchment circles.
  3. Using a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, combine the egg yolks and half the sugar. Start whipping on medium-high speed. Once combined, scrape the sides of the bowl and increase the speed to high. Continue whipping until the mixture becomes thick, pale yellow in color, and the sugar has dissolved, about 5 to 6 minutes.
  4. In a small bowl, with a fork stir together the finely ground walnuts and ladyfingers.
  5. Using a rubber spatula, fold the walnuts and ladyfingers into the yolk mixture in 3 parts, making sure to thoroughly scrape the bottom of the bowl. The mixture will become very thick.
  6. Clean the whisk and, in a clean mixing bowl, begin whipping the egg whites on medium-high speed, increasing the speed and beating until quite frothy. Slowly add the remaining sugar, continuously whipping until the peaks are stiff but not dry.
  7. Lighten the yolk mixture by quickly folding in one quarter of the whites. Then gently fold in the remaining whites in 3 parts, trying not to overmix and lose the volume. Evenly spread the batter into the prepared pans.
  8. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden in color. A tester inserted in the center will come out dry. Allow cake layers to cool at room temperature in the pan for approximately 15 minutes.
  9. Turn the layers out of their pans onto 9-inch cardboard cake circles or tart pan bottoms. Chill completely. (The layers can be wrapped in plastic once cooled and placed in freezer up to a week prior to assembly.)

To Assemble the Cake

  1. Have ready the White-Chocolate Whipped Cream filling in the refrigerator.
  2. Unwrap the cake layers and remove the parchment. Using a serrated knife, split the torte layers in half horizontally. Remove the top layer of one cake and set aside.
  3. With the bottom of one layer still on the cardboard cake circle or tart bottom, lightly brush the top with one quarter of the dark rum. Then spread approximately one-third of the White-Chocolate Whipped Cream filling nearly to the edges. Top with the next layer, removing the parchment circle, and repeat layering with rum and cream filling until the last layer is brushed with rum. Trim any rough edges if necessary.
  4. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 to 6 hours.

To Finish the Cake

  1. Make the Dark-Chocolate Ganache Glaze.
  2. Pour about ¼ cup of the glaze into a small bowl and place in the refrigerator to chill for approximately 25 minutes. Allow the remaining ganache to cool about 30 minutes, gently stirring occasionally until it thickens and ribbons of the end of the spatula, 80 to 85°F.
  3. With an offset spatula, thinly coat the top and sides of the finished cake with the chilled glaze. Transfer to a cooling or pouring rack positioned over a rimmed baking sheet.
  4. Beginning 1½ inches from the edge of the cake, slowly and evenly pour the glaze around the cake, making sure that the sides are sufficiently covered. Then pour the remaining glaze onto the center. Working quickly, with a metal offset spatula spread the glaze evenly over the top, letting the excess run down the sides.
  5. Chill in the refrigerator until the glaze is slightly firm, about 5 minutes. Once set, slide an offset spatula under the cardboard circle, rotating the spatula to release any spots where the glaze has stuck to the rack. Carefully lift the torte and, supporting the cake’s bottom with your free hand, slide it onto its serving plate.
  6. Store in the refrigerator. Remove up to half an hour prior to serving and do not keep out longer than 2 hours.

Gilding the Lily: La Rêverie can be decorated by using excess ganache to pipe 16 rosettes with a #32 tip around the rim of the cake. Top each with a toasted walnut half. Writing chocolate can also be used for a border; to make dark writing chocolate, simply substitute dark chocolate for the white.

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