Zuccotto (Italian Sponge Cake)
4 ounces hazelnuts, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup Framboise or other raspberry liqueur (optional if omitting liqueur, substitute an additional 1/4 cup water)
Vanilla Sponge Cake (recipe follows)
2 cups chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
4 ounces coarsely chopped chocolate-covered toffee bars, such as Skor or Heath, plus more for garnish
1 pint raspberries, plus more for garnish
Chocolate Ganache Icing (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place hazelnuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet; toast until skins begin to split, about 10 minutes. Rub warm nuts vigorously with a clean kitchen towel to remove skins. Return skinned nuts to baking sheet; toast until fragrant and golden brown, about 1 minute more. Cool; coarsely chop. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine sugar, water and liqueur, if using. Bring to a boil; stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat; set aside to cool completely.
Line a 9- by 5-inch domed metal or glass bowl with plastic wrap. Cut rectangular sponge cake in half lengthwise. Cut each half into thirds to make 6 rectangles, and then cut each rectangle diagonally to form triangles.
Brush both sides of each triangle with syrup. Line inside of bowl with triangle slices, pointed ends toward the bottom of the bowl, to form a sunburst pattern. Fit slices snugly so bowl is completely lined. Use small pieces of syrup-brushed cake to fill in gaps. Trim the cake top to make it even. Transfer lined bowl to refrigerator.
Place cream and confectioners' sugar in bowl of an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until stiff, about 3 minutes. Gently fold in reserved hazelnuts, toffee and raspberries. Remove lined bowl from the refrigerator; fill with cream mixture and cover top with cake round. (This will become the bottom of zuccotto when unmolded.) Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate 12 hours or overnight.
Place a wire rack on top of bowl and invert zuccotto onto rack. Place on a rimmed baking sheet. Remove bowl and plastic wrap. Ladle Chocolate Ganache Icing over the dome letting excess drip down sides onto rack. Coat entire surface of the zuccotto. Cut into wedges. Serve immediately, garnished with chopped toffee, nuts and berries.
Makes 10 to 12 servings.
Vanilla Sponge Cake
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornstarch
6 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup plus 6 tablespoons of sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of an 11- by 17-inch rimmed baking sheet or jelly roll pan and a 9-inch diameter round cake pan. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper and butter again. Flour the pans and set aside. In a small bowl, sift together 3/4 cup flour and cornstarch; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg yolks, vanilla and 3/4 cup sugar on high until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Transfer egg yolk mixture to a large bowl. Wash and dry the mixer bowl and whisk attachment.
Combine the egg whites and salt in the mixer bowl, and beat on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 1 1/2 minutes. With the mixer running slowly, add the remaining 6 tablespoons sugar. Continue beating until stiff and glossy, about 1 minute.
Fold the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture. In three additions, fold the reserved flour mixture into the egg mixture. Transfer two-thirds of the batter to the baking sheet and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Transfer remaining batter to the round cake pan; smooth the top with spatula. Bake until light golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
Transfer the pans to wire racks to cool; turn out the cakes and remove the parchment paper and wrap in plastic wrap until ready to use.
Makes one 11- by 17-inch sheet cake and one 9-inch round cake.
Chocolate Ganache Icing
9 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Place chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat cream in a small saucepan until bubbles begin to appear around edges (scalding); pour over chocolate. Let stand 5 minutes, then stir until melted and mixture is smooth.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
Recipe by Annie France