July 2, 2008

Sweet & easy

Empress Carlotta simpler to make than you'd think

At times, I get a bit intimidated by the requests that come in to Cook's Corner. When Jane Malone left a voice mail requesting the recipe for the Empress Carlotta dessert served at Uptown Cafe, 1624 Bardstown Road, I was a bit reluctant to even try. With an elegant name like that, from one of the top tables in town, I thought it must be a pastry chef's piece de resistance.

Well, in some ways it is. This is indeed an elegant dessert, but it is not particularly difficult to make. Jenna Miller, pastry chef for Uptown and its sister eatery, Cafe Metro, 1700 Bardstown Road, describes the dessert this way: "The Carlotta consists of one 10-inch cake sliced in half, filled with Kahlua-flavored whipped cream, frosted with chocolate mocha buttercream, topped with powdered sugar, edged with toasted almonds."

If you take this recipe one step at a time, and just think of it as a cake sliced in half, filled with whipped cream, with a chocolate frosting and a few nuts, the intimidation factor falls away. The result is a remarkably airy and luscious dessert. Don't tell your guests how easy it really was.

Empress Carlotta

Uptown Cafe's Empress Carlotta

For the chocolate genoise:

6 eggs

¾ cup granulated sugar

4 ounces cake flour

3 tablespoons cocoa

For the chocolate mocha buttercream:

6 tablespoons strong coffee

1½ tablespoons instant coffee

1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 pound butter, softened

6 egg yolks

1½ cups powdered sugar

For the Kahlua cream:

3 cups whipping cream

¾ cups powdered sugar

3 to 4 tablespoons Kahlua liqueur

For the topping:

½ cup powdered sugar

2 cups slivered almonds, toasted

To make the chocolate genoise:

Whip eggs and sugar on high speed for 3 minutes. (A stand mixer is very useful for this sort of technique.) Place the beaten eggs over a pot of simmering water, being careful not to let the bowl touch the water. Stir eggs constantly until warmed by the steam.

When the egg and sugar mixture feels warm to the touch (a bit over 100 degrees), mix again on high speed until tripled in volume, 5 minutes or more.

Sift together the cake flour and the cocoa. Gently fold dry ingredients into the egg and sugar mixture until thoroughly blended.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch cake pan. Line with a round of parchment paper, and butter the paper. Dust with flour, and tap out excess. Pour the genoise batter into the cake pan, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until cake tests done and sides pull slightly away from sides of the pan. Transfer to rack to cool.

To make the mocha buttercream:

Stir together the coffee and the instant coffee in a small pot, and bring to a boil. Stir until instant is dissolved. Remove from heat, and stir in chocolate chips until smooth. Cool.

Whip butter until light. Add yolks one at a time, beating until smooth. Slowly add sifted powdered sugar. Then add the mocha mixture. Beat until blended.

To make Kahlua cream:

Whip cream until foamy. Gradually add powdered sugar while continuing to whip to stiff peaks. Fold in Kahlua to taste. Chill.

To assemble cake:

Carefully slice the genoise into two equal layers. Sprinkle the bottom half with 2 tablespoons Kahlua to moisten the cake. Spread the Kahlua cream filling on the bottom cake half. Sprinkle the cut side of the top half with 2 tablespoons Kahlua and place top layer on cream filling. Frost top and sides of cake with the mocha buttercream. Sift ½ cup powdered sugar over top of cake. Press toasted almonds onto sides of cake.

Serves 8 to 10. (more than that, unless you're going to pig out) Made for 4th July 08