Herbal Desserts For Valentine's Day: Chocolate-Rosemary Torte

| February/March 2007

  • The Chocolate-Rosemary Torte showcases the aromatic taste of rosemary in its rich, buttery frosting and infused mousse.
    Photo by Matthew Stallbaumer

Rosemary is the herb of remembrance, and rest assured, this is one unforgettable cake. Both its mousse filling and icing are infused with the pungent herb—if you prefer a less assertive rosemary flavor, simply reduce the quantity of herb in each recipe or omit it altogether from the icing. MAKES ONE 8-INCH THREE-LAYER CAKE, ABOUT 16-20 SERVINGS

Chocolate-rosemary mousse

• 1/4 cup loosely packed rosemary leaves, stems removed
• 2 cups heavy cream, divided
• 6 large egg yolks
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1/4 cup water
• 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped and melted
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Chocolate fudge cake

• 2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
• 2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
• 3 large eggs, at room temperature
• 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped and melted
• 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
• 1 cup sour cream, room temperature
• 1 cup boiling water
• 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

Rosemary buttercream

• 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
• 1/4 cup loosely packed rosemary leaves, stems removed
• 5 large egg whites, room temperature
• 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 1/2 cup light corn syrup
• 3/4 cup granulated sugar
• 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Garnish (optional)

• Fresh rosemary sprigs (at least sixteen)

1. To make mousse, put rosemary and 1 cup cream in saucepan and bring to scalding over medium heat. Turn off heat and steep about 30 minutes. In electric mixer with whip attachment, whip yolks on high speed until light and fluffy. Meanwhile, bring sugar and water to boil in another saucepan over medium-high heat. Boil 1 to 2 minutes until thick and syrupy. Turn mixer down to medium and gradually pour sugar syrup into egg yolks in slow, steady stream, mixer running. Shut off mixer and scrape down sides, working quickly so heat of syrup does not cook yolks. Turn mixer back on and beat at high speed until thick and fluffy, 5 to 10 minutes. Turn egg mixture into large bowl. Add melted chocolate, butter and vanilla extract, whisking until smooth. Strain cream mixture into chocolate base, pressing out excess fluid from rosemary. Whisk until smooth. Place remaining 1 cup cream in clean bowl of electric mixer with whip attachment. Whip cream to soft peaks. Fold into chocolate-rosemary base until cream is uniformly distributed. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours, until mousse is extremely firm. Note: A firmer mousse will make for much easier cake assembly later.

2. To make cake, move racks to lower third of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper; grease and flour paper. Tap out excess flour and set pans aside. Stir flour, soda and salt together in bowl. Set aside. In electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream softened butter and brown sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add melted chocolate and vanilla extract, mixing and scraping down sides to evenly incorporate chocolate. Add reserved flour mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour. Mix on low only enough to incorporate each addition (overmixing can lead to a tough, open-grained cake structure). Pour boiling water into measuring cup and stir in espresso powder to dissolve. Add immediately to cake batter and stir by hand until smooth and uniformly blended. Batter will be very loose. Divide batter evenly among pans, filling each no more than two-thirds full, as batter will rise. Bake about 45 minutes, or until skewer inserted in center comes out clean. Cool about 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, remove pans and paper, and cool completely before filling.

3. To make buttercream, melt 1 stick butter in saucepan. Turn off heat, add rosemary and steep about 30 minutes. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in electric mixer with whip attachment on medium-high until stiff. Meanwhile, combine corn syrup and sugar in another saucepan. Mix until sugar is completely coated with syrup. Bring sugar mixture to boil over medium-high heat. With mixer running on medium-high speed, pour hot sugar syrup into whipped egg whites in slow, steady stream. Beat until mixture has cooled, about 10 minutes. Strain melted butter into bowl to remove rosemary, pressing excess fluid from leaves. Add remaining 3 sticks softened butter and stir until homogeneous. Increase mixer to high and add rosemary-butter to meringue in small increments. Mixture will initially deflate, then turn grainy and eventually become glossy. If icing seems loose after last butter addition, refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes and beat again. Set aside until ready to use (refrigerate if not assembling cake immediately). If you refrigerate icing, soften to room temperature and beat again before spreading.

4. To assemble torte, trim any domes off cooled cake tops and split each cake into two, ½-inch thick layers. You will only need three layers, so fourth can be wrapped tightly in plastic and then foil and frozen up to 1 month. Fix bottom layer to 8-inch cake cardboard with dab of icing. Using pastry bag fitted with coupler, pipe mousse in concentric circles on top of cake. Level filling with spatula, add next layer of cake and mousse, and top with last cake layer. Trim cake back ¼ inch from edge of cardboard to leave room for icing. If mousse is soft or cake is difficult to work with, refrigerate 30 minutes before trimming. Spread buttercream on tops and sides of cake. Transfer to serving plate, and finish bottom with piped border. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Serve cake at room temperature, though, or buttercream will be hard. Garnish slices with sprig of rosemary.

Julia M. Usher is a food writer, recipe designer and food stylist in St. Louis. Visit her at www.herbcompanion.com/contributors .

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