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A Dazzling Easter Dessert: Marzipan Chocolate-Strawberry Torte

April 23, 2011

Isn’t it pretty? Can’t you imagine all the ooohs and aaahs when you bring out this cake following a fabulous Easter feast? This torte will definitely outshine any holiday ham. So go on, get to it! This treat is dazzling, but it takes a bit of time! I assure you, it’s worth the effort.

The idea for this cake came about as a need to create a recipe for this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge: combining chocolate and marzipan. It seemed an appropriate theme since marzipan, and almonds in general, are often associated with Easter. And it was rather serendipitous that only a few weeks ago I worked with marzipan for the first time for a class at Sur la Table, using it to cover a traditional Princess Cake. I decided to go all out. Using techniques and recipe foundations from culinary school, I set forth on a mission to create my own layered torte fit for spring. The result: a crunchy shortbread base, layers of soft chocolate cake and fluffy strawberry mousse, all coated with vanilla buttercream and wrapped up in sweet marzipan. And don’t forget the malted Easter eggs!

Though it takes a bit of planning to get this torte to the table, I promise you none of it is particularly tricky. But I know something with this many components can be overwhelming. Take a deep breath, click through the link, and follow my detailed instructions and photos. You’ll have a show stopper in no time!

MARZIPAN CHOCOLATE-STRAWBERRY TORTE

© Copyright 2011 Carly Sullivan, Tart to Heart

Almond Shortbread

Ingredients:

  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8- or 9-inch cake pan.
  2. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the flour, almond meal, salt and vanilla and mix until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl several times. The mixture will be crumbly, but should hold when pressed together.
  4. Add the slivered almonds and mix until distributed throughout the dough. Gather into a ball and press out into an even layer in the cake pan. Don’t worry if it crumbles, just keep working with it until it covers the bottom of the pan.
  5. Bake until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes. Cool completely.

Chocolate-Almond Sponge Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease an 8- or 9-inch cake pan.
  2. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and 1/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add the four egg yolks (reserving the whites) and beat until smooth.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, almond meal and salt. Gradually add to the wet mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl until combined. The batter will be very thick.
  4. In a separate bowl, whip the reserved egg whites until frothy. Slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and continue to whip to glossy peaks.
  5. Add 1/3 of the whites to the batter and stir lightly to combine. Add the remaining whites in two increments, very gently folding into the batter to keep it airy.
  6. Pour into the cake pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool completely.
  7. Once cooled, remove from the pan and use a serrated knife to level off the top of the cake. Cut the leveled cake into two even layers. To make sure your layers are level, it’s important to keep your knife parallel to the table. Gently pull the knife toward you, cutting about an inch into the cake. Rotate the cake and continue, working your way around, gradually cutting your way deeper into the cake until you cut through.


Simple Syrup

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp vanilla (optional)

Directions:

  1. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved completely.
  2. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla and set aside to cool.


Strawberry Mousse

Ingredients:

  • 2 heaping cups whole frozen strawberries
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream, divided
  • 1 (1/4-oz) packet gelatin

Directions:

  1. Combine the strawberries and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until the strawberries are thawed and falling apart and the mixture is bubbling.
  2. Pour into a food processor or blender and puree until smooth (be careful not to burn yourself with the steam!). Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and measure 1 cup of puree. Pour into a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. Pour 1/4 cup of the heavy cream into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the surface. Let sit for 5 minutes until the gelatin has softened. Microwave for 15 seconds, stir, and microwave another 15 seconds or until the gelatin has dissolved completely. Add to the puree and stir to combine. Set in the fridge to cool.
  4. Meanwhile, whip the remaining 3/4 cup cream to soft peaks. Fold into the strawberry mixture 1/3 at a time. (From this point, the gelatin will start to set up and firm the mousse. The shortbread and cake can be made in advance, but you’ll want to prepare the mousse right before you’re ready to assemble the torte).

Vanilla Buttercream

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (2-3) egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 10 oz (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or extract)

Directions:

  1. Place the egg whites, sugar and salt in your stand mixer bowl (or another medium, heatproof bowl). Set over a pot of simmering water and heat, stirring, until the mixture reaches 140 degrees F.
  2. Remove from the heat and attach the bowl to your stand mixer. Use the whisk attachment to whip the whites on high to stiff, glossy peaks. Continue to mix on medium speed until cooled to room temperature (the bowl should no longer be warm to the touch).
  3. While whipping on medium-low, add the softened butter in pieces until it is all incorporated. Don’t worry if the mixture deflates a bit. Whip on high for 30 seconds and it should fluff up again. Add the vanilla.

Marzipan

Ingredients:

  • 1 (8-oz) can almond paste
  • Scant 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • Food coloring

Directions:

  1. Break the almond paste into pieces and combine with the corn syrup in your stand mixer bowl. Beat with the paddle attachment until fully combined.
  2. Gradually add the powdered sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl several times, and beat until well combined.
  3. Remove about 1/4 of the marzipan and set aside. Add a drop or two of red food coloring to the remaining marzipan and mix well to color the marzipan pink (or do another color of your choice).
  4. Color the reserved marzipan with 2 drops green food coloring.

Putting it All Together!

Directions:

  1. Line the cleaned cake pan you used to bake your shortbread and cake with plastic wrap so that it’s smoothed against the bottoms and up the sides with plenty of overhang.
  2. Build the torte in the prepared pan from the top down (you will be inverting it later, so the top will become the bottom and vice versa). Start with one layer of cake. Liberally brush the cake with the simple syrup until it is completely moistened.
  3. Pour half of the mousse over the cake and smooth with a spatula. Tap the pan on the table a few times to release any air bubbles.
  4. Add the second layer of cake, moisten with the simple syrup, and top with the remaining strawberry mousse. Finish with the shortbread, bottom side up.
  5. Wrap the overhanging plastic wrap over the top of the pan and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours until the mousse is set. This is the point when you should make the buttercream (though it can be made ahead and stored in the fridge, just be sure to bring it to room temperature before using).
  6. Remove the chilled torte from the fridge and unfold the plastic wrap. It’s best to place a base of some sort under the cake (I used the removable bottom of my 8-inch tart pan, but you can pick up a cardboard cake circle at some kitchen supply stores or simply cut one yourself from an extra piece of cardboard. This just helps you move the cake without smushing it).
  7. Place your hand on the bottom and invert the cake, tugging on the plastic to release it from the pan. If you happen to own a cake turntable, set the cake on it. Otherwise, simple flip over the empty cake pan and set the cake down on the bottom of it. Unwrap the plastic.
  8. Cover the cake with the buttercream, smoothing the top and sides as best you can. It doesn’t have to be completely perfect since it will be covered with the marzipan later, but try to get it relatively smooth and even with no large lumps (there should be about 1/2 cup buttercream remaining). Place in the fridge to chill while preparing the marzipan.
  9. Once you’ve made and colored the marzipan, dust a surface with plenty of powdered sugar and roll out the larger (pink) portion of marzipan as you would a pie crust, to about an 1/8-1/4-inch thick round.
  10. Carefully drape the marzipan over the chilled cake. Smooth the top gently with the palm of you hand and work your way around the edges, very gently pressing to smooth out any creases (don’t be afraid, marzipan is flexible and forgiving, just patch up any tears and use your fingertips to smooth out any creases). Use a sharp knife to trim the excess marzipan from around the cake.
  11. Roll the remaining green marzipan into a log with your hands. then roll flat into a then strip. Use the tines of a fork to press one edge of the strip to look like grass, dipping the fork in powdered sugar to prevent it from sticking.
  12. Lightly brush the bottom edge of the torte with the leftover simple syrup to adhere the strip of marzipan “grass”. You can cut the grass into pieces and work a little at a time, just smooth the seams as you go.
  13. Color the leftover buttercream a pale brown/tan. Place it in a piping bag fitted with a small star tip. In the center of the cake, pipe the buttercream into a swirl to make a nest. Pipe 8 (or more) small stars evenly spaced around the edge of the cake. Fill the nest and top the stars with some egg-shaped candies.

Ta-da! You did it! And it’s beautiful!

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. April 23, 2011 8:27 am

    Wow! That is such a showstopper. It’s perfect. I’d have to be disciplined I think I’d eat too much of the buttercream or mousse before I even finished icing. Not that I could create this, but in theory….

  2. April 23, 2011 8:31 am

    Oh WOW!!! it is gorgeous and looks delicious. Do I get one 🙂 ?

  3. April 23, 2011 12:09 pm

    Wow, I think you’ll have stolen the show with this one. It looks amazing and must have taken you ages. All of those layers sound fantastic and I want some of that strawberry mousse. A creation to be truly proud of. Thanks for participating.

  4. April 23, 2011 2:55 pm

    Oh my goodness, may I come to your Easter dinner?? This dessert looks amazing!
    I considered marzipan to be an exotic thing that was hard to work with, but you make it look so easy. It reminds me a bit of fondant; do you have a taste preference between the two?

    And you take such beautiful photographs too! I really like the one of the cake batter with the reflection in the mixing bowl–very creative!

    • April 23, 2011 3:07 pm

      Thanks for the compliments! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and the photos.

      Marzipan really is pretty easy to work with. Like I said, it patches up pretty easily and the key is to just not get it too wet or it will fall apart. It definitely has a strong almond flavor, but if you like that (like I do!) then I think it’s better than fondant since it actually adds a flavor component to the cake rather than just being a decorative coating. Try it out some time 🙂

      • April 25, 2011 9:02 pm

        You’re welcome!

        You’ve convinced me. Almond extract has the most irresistible smell (and taste!), so I’m definitely going to give marzipan a try. Now I just need to bake a cake to go with it…

  5. Tisha P. permalink
    April 25, 2011 8:38 am

    What a masterpiece. There is so much clear how to information at each step which could translate into a group of desserts. When I have a need for that much butter and sugar it would be fun to try. Thank you. Yummmmmm.

    • April 25, 2011 1:13 pm

      I’m glad the instructions were clear and I’d love to know if you try this in the future! 🙂

  6. May 2, 2011 1:14 am

    This looks absolutely amazing! I’d be so tempted to just eat the strawberry mousse from the bowl before I could put the whole thing together… but I’m glad you didn’t because this really is a show stopping cake!

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