Baking – like reading and blogging – is an activity I enjoy immensely, and one of my goals for the year is to bake my way through The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, an infamous (U.S.) dessert recipe book and baking guide. I thought it would be fun to incorporate my love for baking into my blog, so the idea for Reviewing The Cake Bible was born. The following review, as the title of this post indicates, is for the Perfect All-American Chocolate Torte recipe.
Let’s start with the answer to a question this novice baker had: what is the difference between a chocolate torte and a chocolate cake? First, all tortes are cakes, but not all cakes are tortes. While they can be baked in a standard cake pan, tortes are typically baked in springform pans (like a cheesecake). Food52 has a great breakdown of all the classic types of torte, and establishes that while America has its classic cake, tortes are well-known and loved in Europe (Germany and Austria specifically) – can any of my European friends confirm or deny this?
I have also deduced from my internet research that one torte is made up of several layers with jam or cream in between; it doesn’t seem like a classic torte has just one layer (where you could still call a cake a cake if it had just one layer). Of course, for my fellow novice bakers, the number of layers is ultimately up to you, and as you can see in my photos below, I only baked one this time around.
While these are basic (but important) technical differences, the things that set a torte apart from other cakes is of course, the ingredients. Tortes are made with less flour than a standard cake, or [more likely] flour substitutes in the form of breadcrumbs or ground nuts.
Thanks to ProFlowers and Food52, I have learned so much about tortes. Which is to say that The Cake Bible let me down a little bit in that respect. Based on Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Perfect All-American Chocolate Butter Cake recipe, I was able to deduce slight ingredient differences before I looked elsewhere for information. The ingredients in the torte are nearly all identical to those in the chocolate cake recipe, except the torte recipe requires less of each and instead of three whole eggs, requires four egg yolks. By noticing the decrease in volume of each ingredient (apart from the eggs), it was clear that they would yield less batter – which was confirmed in the notes/understanding portion of the torte recipe. Which led me to the conclusion that this is really just a thin chocolate cake with the density of a torte (thanks to the egg yolks).
Why am I rambling on about this? Because I think it’s interesting, and because understanding these differences makes me better understand the title of this recipe: Perfect All-American torte. With its similarities to the All-American Chocolate Butter Cake recipe and its use of flour, Rose Levy Beranbaum’s torte recipe is perfectly named.
So how did my experience with baking this torte go? I’ve made dozens of cakes, and this one was like mixing and baking those. Because this torte only had egg yolks, I knew the risk of getting a dry cake was high – among other things, eggs contribute to the moist property of cake. Tortes are infamously dense, too, so I also had that in mind when setting my timer to 30 minutes (the low end of the recommended 30-40 minutes in the recipe). I took the torte out of the oven right at 30 minutes and after a toothpick inserted into the middle came out clean, I was excited but also a little nervous that I overbaked it. After slicing a piece and taking a bite, I knew I overbaked it, albeit slightly. 28 minutes is probably the magic number for this torte in my oven; I now know for next time! To moisten what was left of my slice, I added some raspberries, which complemented the chocolate, brownie-like elements so well, of course.
And if you’re wondering what I did with the leftover egg whites: they made for a delicious omelet the next morning, alongside another piece of torte…