According to The Chocolate Bible, a Gentlemen's Torte is a many-layered Sachertorte that is soaked with booze. Other books on the subject say that almost any cake could be called a Gentlemen's Torte if it is doused with enough whiskey. In fairness, I think this type of cake could also be called a Whiskey Women's cake (a book I'm loving, by the way) but with Father's Day fast approaching I was inspired by the masculine title. There's nothing wrong with honoring our fine fellows with cake - as long as they share!
This sheet cake is generously brushed with whiskey and a covering of ganache helps retain a lovely damp crumb. When I spotted the "Décor Smoking" cake decoration tutorial in my new Patisseriebook there was no question it had to happen. It's as simple as cutting a triangle of fondant and folding in two edges - anyone can do it! I made a little video to show you exactly how easy it is, but I also wanted to show you how to transfer a cake like this from a drip rack to a cake board. Earlier this year someone had asked me how to transfer cakes easily, and here is my advice: chill the cakes before you try to move them and always use a cake lifter. The latter is a marvelous help, but due to it's oversized spatula head it's a pain to store. Believe me, I have two of them and even with the uncomfortable size, I now consider having at least one a necessity.
Video note! You'll notice that when I knead the red fondant for the "shirt" portion, I use vegetable shortening to grease the work surface. I also work just a little into the fondant. This may seem strange, but it makes the fondant soft and pliable without making it dry. It's not greasy at all, and I highly prefer it over messy powdered sugar and cornstarch. If you're not a fan of fondant, marzipan is a suitable substitute.
The chocolate cigarettes on the corner of the cake were an afterthought because - oops! I accidentally grazed it with my wedding ring. I was really sad when that happened because the cake's surface was so perfectly mirrored and shiny. I like them on the cake though, and I think they make sense on a cake dressed as a smoking jacket. Chocolate cigarettes are perhaps the least alarming cigarettes of them all, am I right? I found them at World Market in the baking ingredients section if you're looking to buy them.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I ate three pieces of this cake yesterday. It reminds me of a chocolate cake from my favorite Italian restaurant - but better! The whiskey gives it a sophisticated flavor, but it's not overly boozy on the tongue. The fact that it's a sheet cake makes it so simple to whip up, but if you're looking for layers, the batter can be baked in two 9-inch round cake pans. You can find baking times for both versions in the recipe below.
Gentlemen's Chocolate Whiskey cake
[click for printable version]
Source: Food.com and Patisserie by Christophe Felder
Prep: 1 hour 30 minutes, total time about 2 hours
2 cups/190g all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup/85g unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups/398g granulated sugar
1 cup/200g vegetable oil
1 cup/8oz hot coffee
1 cup/242g whole milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 oz. whiskey
1 1/2 cups/300ml heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
9 oz./250g bittersweet chocolate (60-70% cocoa)
3 tablespoons/ 50g unsalted butter
Bow tie and shirt decor
4 oz. ready made rolled fondant, red
1 oz. ready made rolled fondant, white
3 black pearl dragees
2 chocolate cigarettes, optional
- Preheat the oven to 325F. in a large mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add oil, coffee and milk; mix at medium speed for 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat 2 more minutes. Expect the batter to be thin.
- Pour the batter into a 13x9-inch greased and floured pan or two 9-inch round pans and bake the 13x9-inch pan for 40 minutes. If using the two 9-inch round pans, check them at 30 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then turn it out onto a wire cooling rack. Place the cooling rack on a large baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, coat the cake with the whiskey. Allow the cake to stand 20 minutes to absorb the liquor.
- For the glaze, bring the cream and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Finely chop the chocolate and place it in a bowl. Pour half of the hot cream into the chocolate. Let the mixture stand for 2 minutes, then stir the mixture slowly with a wire whisk. Add the remaining cream and whisk slowly until smooth. Add the butter and stir until the chocolate in smooth and shiny. Let the mixture cool slightly.
- Pour the glaze over the cake and cover it completely. Use an offset spatula to smooth the surface and wipe off any excess glaze. Lightly rap the rack on the baking sheet to even out the glaze. Refrigerate for 15 minutes, or until the chocolate is set. Scrape the excess chocolate from the baking pan into a bowl and heat it again in the microwave or on the stovetop until pourable but not hot. Place the cake on the rack on top of the baking sheet and cover the cake a second time with the ganache. Smooth with a spatula and rap the rack again to even the ganache coating. Refrigerate again until set.
- Run a sharp knife under the edge of the cake to loosen it from the drip rack. Use two cake lifters or two large spatulas to transfer the cake to a cake board or serving platter.
- For the decor, lightly grease a work surface with white vegetable shortening. Knead the red fondant until smooth and pliable. If it is too dry, then knead in a small amount of shortening. Roll out the red fondant to 1/8-inch (2-3mm) thick. Cut a triangle almost as long as the cake. Fold over the two upper corners to create shirt lapels. Lift the piece with a long spatula and place it on the center of the cake. Roll out the white fondant and trim it into a small rectangle, just long enough to make a bowtie. Gather it in the center to shape it. Cut a very small strip from the excess white fondant to make the center of the bowtie; wrap it around the gathered center of the bowtie. Pinch away the excess fondant strip on the backside of the bowtie. Place the bowtie in the center of the red fondant lapels. Press three black pearl dragees evenly spaced down the center of the cake to create shirt buttons. Cross the chocolate cigarettes and place them on one lower corner of the cake, if using.