Clementine-Chocolate-Almond Torte with Chocolate Lace, Candied Zest, and Caramelized Fruit

A Winter Showstopper with Chocolate and Clementines

chocolate clementine cake slider

This stunning cake is what I call a project cake. There are several components, and it is geared towards the more advanced baker, but what a sense of accomplishment you will feel when you succeed. And your guests will swoon. The two 8-inch layers of cake are textured from the ground blanched almonds, and very moist and flavorful from the clementine zest and pulp. The baked layers are placed in a 9-inch springform pan and filled and topped with thick, generous layers of moist, lightly whipped chocolate ganache. Either Valrhona Manjari or Askinosie 70% Honduras chocolate is a great choice here for their acidic flavor profiles. The whole cake is encased in a lacy dark chocolate band and crowned with candied clementine peel and glossy, crackly, caramelized sugar coated clementine sections. There are several components, but many can be made ahead, so read the recipe thoroughly and take advantage. This is a cake to make in the winter when clementines are at their peak. This would be a showstopper New Year’s Eve dessert. I want to see pictures folks! Send them in!

Excerpted from Unforgettable Desserts, by Dédé Wilson. Published by Wiley. Photos by Alexandra Grablewski.

Clementine-Chocolate-Almond Torte with Chocolate Lace, Candied Zest, and Caramelized Fruit
Makes: Serves 10 to 12
Candied Zest:
  • 3 clementines, scrubbed clean
  • 2 cups sugar, divided into 1¾ cups and ¼ cup
  • 1½ cups water
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • 1 clementine
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons blanched sliced almonds, very finely ground
  • 1 cup sifted cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ½ cup whole milk, at room temperature
Chocolate Ganache:
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, such as Valrhona Manjari (64%) or Askinosie 70% Honduras
  • Pastry bag
  • ½-inch plain round decorating tip, such as Ateco #806, Wilton #1A, or a standard coupler
Chocolate Lace:
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, such as Valrhona Manjari (64%) or Askinosie 70% Honduras
Caramelized Segments:
  • Segments from 3 clementines
  • Bamboo skewers
  • 2½ cups sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • Pastry Bag
  • ½-inch plain round Decorating Tip, such as Ateco #806, Wilton #1A or a standard coupler
  1. For the Candied Zest: Wash and scrub the clementines. Remove the clementine peels in large pieces. Wrap the peeled fruit tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days; and you will be able to use them for the caramelized segment component. Cut the peel into strips ¼ inch wide and at least 2 inches long. Place the strips in a small pot of water and add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then drain. Repeat 2 more times.
  2. Line a jellyroll pan with aluminum foil and lightly coat with nonstick spray; set aside. Stir together the 13/4 cups of the sugar, the water, and the corn syrup in a small pot to moisten the sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the peel and maintain a low simmer until the peel is translucent, about 1 to 1½ hours. The sugar syrup will not be totally absorbed; it will lessen in volume and towards the end of cooking the bubbles will cover the surface and possibly look a bit foamy. Drain the peel, discarding any syrup. Spread the peel out on the prepared pan so that they are not touching and let sit at room temperature overnight. Toss the strips one at a time with the remaining ¼ cup sugar until coated. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week in an airtight container.
  3. For the Cake: Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350º F. Coat an 8 x 2-inch round cake pan with nonstick spray, line the bottom with a parchment round, and then spray the parchment. Also have on hand a 9-inch springform pan.
  4. Very finely zest the clementine over a small bowl. Slice the fruit in half and use a hand-reaming tool to extract the juice and pulp directly into the same bowl; set aside. If there are any seeds simply pick them out and discard.
  5. Whisk together the ground nuts, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl to aerate and combine; set aside.
  6. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy with flat paddle attachment, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar gradually and beat until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes more, scraping down the bowl once or twice. Beat in the almond extract. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down after each addition and, allowing each egg to be absorbed before continuing. Beat in the reserved clementine zest, pulp, and juice. The mixture will be very fluid. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternately with the milk. Begin and end with the flour mixture and beat briefly until smooth. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula.
  7. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake shows a few moist crumbs when removed. The cake will be light golden brown and will have begun to come away from the sides of the pan. Cool in the pan on a rack for 8 to 10 minutes. Unmold, peel off the parchment, and place the layer directly on the rack to cool completely. Trim the layer to be level, if necessary. The layer is ready to fill and frost. Alternatively, place the layer on a cardboard round and double- wrap in plastic wrap; store at room temperature and assemble and serve within 24 hours. The cake may be frozen for up to 1 month, well wrapped in plastic wrap and sealed in a zipper- top bag.
  8. For the Ganache: Place the cream in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat and immediately sprinkle the chocolate into the cream. Cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes. The heat of the cream should melt the chocolate. Gently stir until smooth. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to 3 days in an airtight container.
  9. For the Initial Assembly: Have the 9-inch springform pan assembled. Have the ganache chilled and scraped into a medium mixing bowl. Also have ready a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch round tip. Use a large balloon whisk to gently soften and whip the ganache. It will be thick, and you are not trying to incorporate air as much as soften it a little bit. Just a few rotations of the whisk will do it, and do not over handle or the ganache will become grainy and stiffen. Scrape about half of the ganache into the prepared pastry bag.
  10. Slice the cake layer in half horizontally. Center one half in the bottom of the 9-inch pan. Spread a good thick layer of ganache on top using an offset spatula, then use the pastry bag to pipe it around the edge of the cake, filling any space (remember you have an 8-inch cake, but a 9-inch pan).
  11. Smooth the ganache; you should not see any cake or any gaps between the ganache and pan sides. Center the last cake layer in the middle and repeat with the remaining ganache, smoothing the top well. Dip an offset spatula in warm water to make it easy to smooth the ganache. Cover the top of the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate the cake for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  12. For the Chocolate Lace: Measure out a piece of aluminum foil to 35 inches long; do not use heavy-duty aluminum foil. In fact, the cheaper, thinner brands are better here, as they are more flexible. Fold it in half lengthwise. Make a mark with a pen at the 32-inch point. Measure the finished height of your cake, add ½-inch, and make a mark at that point as well (most likely the cake will be around 2 inches tall). Trim the open edge along that mark. Place flat on a work surface and smooth out the wrinkles.
  13. Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in the microwave and scrape into a parchment cone; snip a small opening. Pipe a thick, lacey design all over the foil within your marked area. Go up and down and side to side to make the lace very inter-connected, which will give it strength and structure. Let sit to firm up partially while you proceed.
  14. For the Final Assembly: Have a flat display plate ready; it must be flat or you will not be able to apply the chocolate lace band. To unmold the cake, dip an icing spatula in very hot water and run it between the cake and the pan, pressing out toward the pan so that you do not shave off any of the ganache or cake. Open the springform, remove the cake, and place on the display plate and place in front of you. Pick up the aluminum strip from both short ends and place the center of the strip, chocolate side in, at the center rear of the cake (the side away from you). Make sure the bottom of the strip is aligned with the base of the cake. Bring the two ends of the foil around the cake and towards you. The wet chocolate will adhere the strip to the ganache; keep the strip as even as possible, aligning the bottom of the strip with the bottom of the cake. Position one short end so that it lies flat against the cake. The other short end should be left sticking out, by about 1 inch. Place in the refrigerator until the chocolate lace hardens, for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, you can make the caramelized tangerine segments.
  15. For the Caramelized Segments: This is a bit of a production, and there are several aspects to consider. First, separate the segments and strip them of white strings and pith as best you can. Pat dry with paper towels. Insert skewers into the segments. Line a jellyroll pan with aluminum foil and coat with nonstick spray. Stir together the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a small, deep pot to moisten the sugar. Have ready a bowl of ice-cold water handy that is large enough to accommodate the bottom of your pot. Bring the sugar mixture to a boil over medium heat and cook to 310°F. Immediately plunge the bottom of the pan into the ice water to stop the cooking. Quickly dip fruit one piece at a time into the sugar syrup, lightly scrape the bottom of the fruit against the pan rim to remove excess sugar, and place on the prepared pan. Repeat with the other sections. Take care to make a thin coating, (reheat the sugar gently if necessary to retain fluidity), and space the fruit apart on the pan so the pieces are not touching.
  16. After the sugar hardens on the fruit, twist the skewers and remove. Use the fruit as soon as possible (although on a dry, cool day, I have held these for up to 6 hours). Remove the cake from the refrigerator; carefully peel the foil away from the chocolate band, starting with end that is firmly against the cake. Take care as you reach other end, where the chocolate lace will not be supported by cake. After all the foil is removed, place the palm of your hand against the lace that is still sticking out. The heat from your hand will soften the chocolate slightly. This could take 10 seconds or up to a minute. Once the chocolate softens slightly, use your palm to coax it gently into place against the cake, and the band will slightly overlap as well.
  17. Arrange the pieces of candied peel around the edge of the cake, inside the band, which will be a little higher than the edge of the cake. Cluster the caramelized segments in the center of the cake and serve immediately.
  18. Tip: If the lacey band cracks or for whatever reason does not work for you, don’t worry. Just break it up into large pieces (at least 2 to 3 inches wide) and simply press them against the sides of the cake until they stick. Don’t mention to the guests what you had originally intended. No one will know, and it will look spectacular in its own right.
chocolate clementine cake

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One Response to Clementine-Chocolate-Almond Torte with Chocolate Lace, Candied Zest, and Caramelized Fruit

  1. Damon Herring January 6, 2015 at 10:05 am #

    Mmmmmmm. Love the Askinosie chocolate and the Clementine.

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