Chocolate Cake with Violets with a Twist

by Michelle

Hello again!

When I first started to write this blog, my friend Judith, predicted that, on days that I could not write I would feel panicked! She was right. Every day since my last post, I have wanted to write but other obligations have kept me from it. I’m back and happy as a clam!

Last Wednesday I made Christie’s birthday cake. She turned 50 this year so I wanted something special. I chose a recipe from the ‘New Basics Cookbook’ by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. Their intro for the recipe reads, “This sinfully luxurious cake deserves to be called a gateau – make this special dessert for a special person” I thought, ‘perfect’!

If you have lots of time or if you are a competent multi-tasker, try this recipe. I was working on a project, soon to be announced, so I had lots of time to spend on her cake.

Christie and I have been celebrating our birthdays, for over ten years with two other women. Every year on our birthdays, we have dinner together. We alternate hosting or we dine out. For Christie’s birthday, we decided to go to a new Thai restaurant called Splash. I was at the farm so I would drive into the city once the cake was done.

The cake turned out beautifully. I picked wild violets, to decorate it, just like her grandmother used to. I wrapped up the cake, put the flowers in water and off I headed to the party.

Thank goodness I left early. I did not consider the fact that I drive a Ford Ranger…a standard! As soon as I started down the driveway, I knew the cake was in trouble. We rattled and shook all the way to town. All of the motion caused the glaze to break and the next thing that I knew the pastry cream was oozing out from the sides of the cake. By the time I got to the city, it looked like a chocolate blob! A whole day spent preparing a beautiful cake that after a truck ride looked like a disaster… I had 30 minutes to figure out what to do!

Ramekins to the rescue. I cut four circles out of the cake and placed them in single serving ramekins. I decorated them with the violets and headed to the restaurant. I arrived first and asked our waiter  to serve them with a little whipped cream at the end of our meal. He was wonderful! When he brought them to the table, they were on doily lined dessert plates and piped with whipped cream.

Christie was delighted so mission accomplished.


serves 8

preheat oven 325*F

1 cup icing sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups butter, room temperature

4 eggs, separated, room temperature


1 cup milk

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 egg yolks

1/2 vanilla bean

1 tablespoon butter

1/8 teaspoon salt


1/2 cup whipping cream

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces

Butter and flour the bottom and sides of an eight inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with waxed paper. Butter and flour the waxed paper; shake to remove the excess.

Prepare the cake by combining 3/4 cup of the icing sugar with the cocoa, cornstarch and salt in a small bowl. Mix well.

Cream butter with an electric mixer until light . Add the yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then add cocoa mixture 1 tablespoon at a time, beat until smooth.

Beat the whites until frothy. Slowly add the remaining icing sugar, beat until stiff and glossy. Gently fold the egg white mixture into chocolate mixture until smooth, Transfer into prepared cake pan.

Place the cake pan in a larger pan and fill the larger pan with hot water coming half way up the sides of the smaller pan.

Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the middles of the cake comes out clean.

Transfer the cake pan to a wire rack and allow to cool. Then refrigerate it, still in the pan, until firm, four hours or as long as overnight.

To make the pastry cream, combine the milk, sugar, cornstarch, egg yolks, and the seeds of the vanilla bean in a medium-sized sauce pan. Place it over low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and salt.

Place pastry cream in a bowl and cover and cool. Then refrigerate it for one hour.

To prepare the glaze, heat the cream to a simmer in a heavy sauce pan. Add the chocolate and stir until smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature; it should be thick but still pourable.

Unmold the cake and peel off the waxed paper. Place the cake right side up on a work surface, and using a sharp knife, carefully cut it in half horizontally. Cover the bottom with the chilled pastry cream and replace cake top.

Set the cake on a wire rack[to catch the drips] Spoon the glaze over the cake, and spread it over the cake, and spread it over the top and sides. Transfer the cake to a serving platter and refrigerate until glaze is set, about two hours.

Bring the cake to room temperature before serving.

Thanks for reading.