Jeweled Chocolate Cake by Ruth Reichl
(Adapted from Café Mezzo)
1/3 cup cocoa powder, plus more for dusting pan (not Dutch process)
3 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate
6 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup neutral vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
1 cup sugar
1¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Butter a deep 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the paper and dust it with cocoa powder.
Melt the chocolate with the cocoa, butter, oil, and water over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat and whisk in the sugar.
Cool completely, then whisk in the eggs, one at a time.
Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, and whisk into the chocolate mixture. Shake the buttermilk well, measure, and stir that in.
Pour the batter into the pan and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then turn out, peel the parchment from the bottom, and allow to cool completely.
½ cup slivered blanched almonds
½ cup blanched hazelnuts
¼ cup water
¾ cup sugar
Toast the nuts in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. (If you’re us¬ing hazelnuts with skins, put them in a towel and rub the skins off, but don’t bother being fussy about it. Whatever comes off easily is fine.)
Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Boil without stirring un¬til it begins to darken, swirling the pan until the mixture turns a beautiful deep gold. It takes a while for the mixture to darken, but once it does it goes very quickly, so don’t walk away or it will burn. Remove from the heat and stir in the nuts.
Pour onto a baking sheet that you’ve lined with foil, parchment, or a Silpat, spreading evenly. Use an oven mitt—a burn from hot sugar can be very painful. Allow to cool completely.
Break into pieces, put into a plastic bag, and smash with a rolling pin until you have lovely crushed pieces you can sprinkle over the frosting, adding both crunch and flavor.
Mix 2 tablespoons of sugar into a cup of mascarpone. Spread the frosting on the cooled cake and heap the praline bits on top.
From SAVE ME THE PLUMS by Ruth Reichl, published by Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.