February 10th, 2010

Fascinating and a little different: chocolate zucotta-domed chocolate cake

joanies cale

Wheeeee! This crazy, verging on Mardi Gras, merry-go-round of chocolate decadence, this Amazonian cupcake, was my creation for my mom’s 80th birthday–just celebrated Sunday. Its ingredients were inspired by her abiding love of chocolate in its myriad forms, and its wack-a-doodle look was inspired really, by her joyous take on life.

My mom has always had boundless energy and interests: watercolor artist, art and music teacher, girl scout leader, bowler, bridge player, NYTimes crossword puzzler. She turned her wedding dress into curtains, turned our garage into a craft cranny workshop, turned every picture in the house upside down to see if my dad would notice.

The little string of phrases underneath her senior picture (from the 1948 annual “The Crusader” Mary Louis Academy–an all girls Catholic high school in Jamaica, Long Island, New York) , particularly the last one, always makes me smile:

“pretty as a picture…plays a solid saxophone….laughing brown eyes…

…Fascinating, and a little different.”

Yes, ma’am. To honor this fascinating-and-a-little-different person, I made two cakes into one. The base was a triple-layered sour cream chocolate cake: dark, dense yet moist. The domed top was a chocolate-mousse filled zucotta–incredibly rich yet light: a spectacular (and simple) dessert alone.

From the Italian zucotto for “Skullcap”, a zucotta is a ladyfinger lined, mousse-filled bowl. When chilled and inverted, it makes a cool dome shape that can be further embellished with a smooth coating of ganache.

When placed atop an already over-the-top dessert it became a wild monument to chocolate: a monument whose assembly nearly ended in disaster . The dome almost toppled mid-flight before its precarious three-tier landing. And then, the construction reminded me of a thatched beehive hut we visited in Ethiopia. Yes, this creation was shaping up to be a contender for Cake Wrecks.

Be assured, there is much that can be remedied with more frosting, a long cake spatula, and a pastry bag filled with cocoa whipped cream. And the notion that, when something is meant to be ostentatious, More is Better.

The recipes that follow will make 1 large zucotta–which will serve 12-15, and 1 10″ layer cake to split or 2 9″ layers. Either Zucotta or Sour Cream Chocolate Cake is Lovely-Lovely by itself—you don’t have to go All Fascinating and Little Different if don’t want to!

giant cupcake cake

Chocolate Zucotta

one 4 qt. glass bowl
2 pkgs. plain Ladyfingers

9 oz. Bittersweet Chocolate, coarsely chopped
12 T. unsalted Butter, cut into small pieces
4 T. Espresso, or strong Coffee
2 T. Vanilla
3 T. Creme de Cacao liqueur
6 Eggs, separated
1/2 cup Sugar
1 cup Heavy Cream, lightly sweetened and whipped

Line the bowl with plastic wrap, with ends coming over the sides.
Then, line the interior of the bowl with ladyfingers. Brush with creme de cacao and set aside.

In a heavy 1 qt. saucepan under low heat, melt the chocolate and coffee together.

Whisk in the vanilla and creme de cacao. Then, stir in the butter, one chunk at a time, until it becomes smooth and shiny. Remove from heat.

Using an electric mixer and balloon whisk, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until the yolks become really pale yellow and thickened, almost triple in volume. This will take several (at least 5) minutes. The yolks will cling to the whisk.

Your chocolate mixture should be warm, but not hot.
Beat it into the thickened egg yolks, and pour into another large mixing bowl.
Clean and dry your mixer bowl and whisk. Beat the egg whites until stiff and glossy. Fold the whites into the chocolate mixture.

Fold in whipped cream. Pour mixture into lined bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

When well-chilled and set, unmold onto a platter or plate. Skim-coat with chocolate frosting and/or Cover with chocolate ganache. Decorate with fresh strawberries, whipped cream.

Chocolate Ganache
1 cup Heavy Cream
1 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 t. Vanilla

Heat cream gently–to a simmer. Stir in chocolate chips and vanilla. Stir until melted and glossy. Remove from heat. While warm, but not hot, pour over the zucotta. Chill and serve.

lining the bowl

I used a 4 qt. glass bowl, with a diameter similar to the cake. Short on time, I used packaged ladyfingers, although I have recipe posted here for them, if you’d like to make them yourself.

filled zuccota

This filling is similar to my basic wonderful chocolate mousse, although this recipe has whipped cream folded into the batch.

unmolded zuccota

After this sets up—-overnight is best—-it unmolds quite easily.

coated dome

Here, I “skim-coated” the zucotta with some sour cream chocolate frosting, left over from the cake. It’s now ready for the dark chocolate ganache.

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake
2 oz. Unsweetened Chocolate
1/2 cup chopped Bittersweet Chocolate
1/2 cup Cocoa
2 sticks Unsalted Butter
2 cups Sugar
1 cup Coffee
1 cup Sour Cream
1 T. Vanilla
3 Eggs
2 t. Baking Soda
1/2 t. Salt
2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour

In a microwaveable bowl, place the first 5 ingredients and heat for about one minute–until chocolate and butter is melted. Remove, stir, and heat again for another 1/2 minute, so that sugar is dissolved.

Stir in coffee, vanilla, and sour cream. Beat in eggs, one at a time.

Sift flour, soda, and salt together. Beat into wet mixture.

Pour batter into greased 10″ cake or springform pan or 2 9″ cake pans.
Bake in 350 degree oven 35-40 for the 10″/25-30 minutes for the 9″.

Cool. Split 10″ cake to frost.

Sour Cream Chocolate Frosting
1 1/2 cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1/4 cup strong Coffee
2 sticks softened unsalted Butter
1 t. Vanilla
1 cup Sour Cream
3 cups Confectioners Sugar

Melt chocolate chips and coffee together–stir until smooth.
Beat softened butter with vanilla. Beat in sour cream, cooled (but not hard) chocolate. Beat in confectioners sugar, one cup at a time.
Taste for sweetness and adjust.

cutting into the cupcake

Crazy-Messy, and Oh-So-Good. Voted best cake ever—and best party ever—by the River Rest residents….

Posted in Chocolate, Desserts, Recipes

16 Responses to “Fascinating and a little different: chocolate zucotta-domed chocolate cake”
  1. claudia @ ceF Says:

    i am speechless
    this is truly a thing of beauty
    (sigh)

    there HAD to have been leftovers, nancy…

  2. Allison Says:

    She sounds like a lovely lady (just like her daughter :-) and the cake looks too marvelous for words!

  3. rachel Says:

    BEAUTIFUL and really wonderful
    I hope somebody makes me a cake like this when I am eighty x

  4. Judy Says:

    Nance,
    A wild monument to chocolate and a wild monument to your wonderful mom. An instant replay will be in order for Mother’s Day. Congratulations for both!

  5. Nancy Says:

    Well, you certainly averted disaster! This is one of the most beautiful cakes I’ve ever seen, and from the cross-sectional shots you can tell it tastes every bit as good as it looks. Bravo!

  6. Barbara Says:

    Yes Claudia, there were leftovers! And big sis Nancy sent some home with me for her nephews–who fortunately for me, left to go back to school! So I had to eat it!!!!!!!!!!!! It tasted just as wonderful as it looked too. My sister did a wonderful job putting this party together and it was a great party and nice tribute to our mother.

  7. K-Run Says:

    Wow! How amazing both the cake and your Mom. Truly a masterpiece! Yummmmm.

  8. Fluffy Says:

    divine fluffy mooooooooooose
    too good too good
    just like you

  9. marva Says:

    OMG….I have never seen anything like that! Wow!….I don’t know what I would like to do first…meet your mom or eat that wonderful cake…I see where all your talents come from…you know what they say! “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”. I’m glad you have 10yrs (her 90th) to think about how to you are going to top this one!

  10. Tracy (Amuse-bouche for Two) Says:

    Oh my goodness. :)

  11. Christine @ Fresh Local and Best Says:

    This is quite a monumental dessert! Stunning!

  12. Leisa Hammett Says:

    Echo of one of the AP’s. OMG!Can you say decadent? Nancy, what a fun family! How lucky you are. I had fun envisioning the fun and love you had and put into creating this…this monster cake!

  13. Roger Says:

    Marvelous, heard all about it from a reliable source

  14. Madeleine Says:

    The cake was perfect.

  15. alisa Says:

    beautiful cake-a job well done!

  16. Good Food Matters » Blog Archive » Jumpin’ Jive, Joanie’s 85 Says:

    […] years ago, she celebrated her 80th with a big hullabaloo. This anniversary, however, she decided to observe on the […]



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