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Ibarra chocolate cake - how patience pays off


The cake, so fancy and terribly easy.

 There is something about the concept of try and try again. Sometimes you feel like you are hitting yourself over the head over and over again and sometimes all that trying pays off. You finally achieve that handstand in Yoga class (not me), a rock skips six times before sinking, or you conquer the flakey pie crust that tastes good.

No, this is not about pie. This post is about trying.

When it felt like my world was collapsing around me, I decided to start doing other things for self-preservation. I met some fabulous food bloggers and writers through Keren Brown, one was Jenise Silva (@licorous) from Twitter. She and I had a few of the same interests, community gardening, awesome restaurants and canning. I would see her on and off, she asked me to write a post for Canvolution and then she started talking about contests.

I hate contests, partially because I hate the attention and stress, partially because I hate to lose. However, the opportunity to challenge myself to make the perfect food item was intriguing; in this case it was a contest pairing pie versus cake. There are pie people in the world and there are cake people, you really can’t be on the fence with this one. Either you stand firm with the precise yet crusty pie camp or the crumby delectable cake camp. I love pie, but really, I like pie filling. The pie crust, while it has been bane of my existence, is usually what I leave to the side. I have a few friends who make awesome pies and pie crusts and for this I am truly grateful, but I stand firmly with cake.

Cake you say? Cake is something that brings me great joy. It is one of the first things you learn how to make, either as a quick cake with a few ingredients or a mix, which once you add all the things required – egg, oil, water, you might have just made a scratch cake.

I love the crumb of a cake – the mouth feel of a dense yet delicate cake. I am not into the fudgy moist cake with coyingly sweet frosting, I like my cakes a little on the dry side and with an appropriate 4 parts cake to frosting ratio. In fact, I like my cakes unfrosted, so I can enjoy the crumb and taste without the noise of confectioner’s sugar and butter.

And no, I am not a hoarder of the frosting rose.

What does this have to do with cake or when the hell are you getting to how this all fits into cake v. pie? Right, let me tell you.

In 2010, Jenise put on a great contest of Seattle bakers, who each selected a camp and went on to make their best example of a cake or pie to be judged by a group of food lovers and professional bakers. I was intimidated, but charged. I made my standby cake – chocolate cake with a mocha buttercream frosting, but I this time I paid rapt attention to detail. I made another kind of cake and had my colleagues try it, and then paired them next to each other. When the contest time came around, I felt I was on my game. I did not account for hot weather, uneven baking and inability to make a smooth frosting. Oh yeah, that by the time the judges got to my cake, they would be stuffed.


 The very full of cake and pie judges - 2011.


It was good, but compared to the rest, it was not great.


 When cake goes bad, from the Westinghouse cookbook.


But I learned a lot, I learned about my oven, rotating cake pans, and patience. It was a good experience for me which I repeated a few more times that year, by entering and losing pie contests galore.



Le cake, two layers, with ganache and marmalade between the layers.

When the Cake v. Pie rematch returned in 2011, I was on my game. I decided to try something different and used a recipe that I loved and was a little different. It was a gluten free nut torte (named a cake) that uses flavors found in Mexican chocolate – orange and cinnamon and combines it with bittersweet chocolate and beautifully toasted almonds. The recipe comes from the Mark Miller's Coyote Cafe Cookbook. The recipe works well as long as you are careful folding in egg whites and not overbeating the mixture. It is not an elegant creation. It has very little lift as it is has no leavening, but the taste is wonderful. The cake turned out great, I managed to get it to the site in one piece.  I hung around a bit, but since we had dinner guests, I skeedadled out there before they started judging the cakes. Partially out of the necessity to feed four humans and three hounds, but because I hate to lose.


 Some of the contestants representing team cake.


And you know something, I won 2nd Place in the cake category and became a better baker in the process. WIN. WIN.


Ibarra Chocolate Torte - Adapted from the Coyote Cafe Cookbook by Mark Miller, Ten Speed Press, 1999

Makes 12 servings.

Note: This recipe makes one layer of the cake. If you wish to get all fancy and make it as a two layer cake, then by all means do so. I myself am not comfortable doubling this recipe, so I make each layer separately. You may wish to throw caution to the wind and try it.

Almond Cake:

1 T cinnamon - yes one Tablespoon
zest of 2 oranges
4 T (2 oz) bittersweet chocolate grated
1 1/2 C unblanched almonds, toasted and ground ( I use the ground almonds at trader joes)
4 eggs separated
1/2 C sugar
2 T fresh orange juice
2 T Grand Marnier
2 T seville marmalade, thin cut
Rice flour for dusting

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease, rice flour and paper an 8-9" cake pan. Combine cinnamon, orange zest, grated chocolate and ground almonds in a mixing bowl and set aside. Beat egg yolks with 1/4 C sugar; stir in orange juice and set aside.

In another bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks while gradually adding 1/4 C sugar. Stir egg yolks and orange juice into the chocolate almond mixture, then fold in half the beaten egg whites. Blend well, and gently fold in remaining egg whites.

Spread mixture evenly in prepared cake pan and bake for 25-35 minutes or until cake pulls away from sides of pan. Let cool for 10 minutes and invert cake onto cake rack.

Warm marmalade until runny.

When cool, paint with Grand Marnier and brush on marmalade, let set for 10 minutes and cover with glaze. If you plan on adding the second layer, do it now, cover the repeat the grand marnier wash on the top, but skip the marmalade.

Chocolate Glaze

10 T (5 oz) bittersweet chocolate
1 T (1/2 oz) unsweetened chocolate
3/4 C softened butter
1 T corn syrup
1/4 cup chopped candied orange peel.


Place both chocolates, 1/2 C butter, corn syrup and in a double boiler over simmering (not boiling) water. Stir gently until just melted. Remove from heat, and stir in remaining 1/4 C butter. The glaze is ready to pour when it reaches the consistency of maple syrup (between 86°-96°).

Place cake rack over pan or wax paper, pour glaze over cake, tilting to coat evenly. Decorate with candied orange peel if desired.




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Reader Comments (1)

more pie for me!!

love you cake gurl

Pie Princess
March 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommentereM Oh

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