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Tra Vigne’s Chocolate Tiarmisu

It looks so innocent: a simple square dusted with cocoa. And then your fork descends through the layers of rich, moist chocolate cake, chocolate mascarpone mousse, zabaglione, more cake. Irresistible. Tra Vigne’s tiramisu is actually a triple-decker, but I’ve made the assembly a little easier here. Serve this for a special occasion. Although it involves several separate steps, all can be completed well ahead of time. Use a decorative glass bowl for a pretty presentation or make individual desserts. We started using this cake recipe for our tiramisu in 1997. We had been searching for a very moist cake and this fit the bill. It is dense (but not fudgy) and rich with a terrific moist crumb. It makes a super birthday cake. Double the recipe for a double-layer cake. It would also be great as a base for a chocolate bread pudding. Both the mousse and the zabaglione may be served as desserts on their own. Garnish the mousse with a scattering of chocolate curls. Traditionally, zabaglione is served warm in a wineglass immediately after it is made. It is an unusual and rich addition to a tiramisù.

NotesThe shiny top of the cake will not readily absorb syrup. If you do not cut it off, you might find dry spots in your tiramisu. But don’t throw the top out. Crumble it into crumbs and place them in a 150°F to 200°F oven until thoroughly dry and crunchy. Use to decorate the top of the tiramisù, or save them to add to cookie batters or to scatter in pies and tarts to absorb juices.

If you use an 8-inch pan for the cake, it will rise over the edge by about ¼-inch. If you are planning to use the cake for birthday cake, you will have to trim the cake to get an even edge.

If you are concerned about using raw eggs in the mousse, use pasteurized eggs or a pasteurized egg substitute, using the equiualent of 2 whole eggs. The result will be lighter and delicious.

Serves8 to 10

Cooking Methodbaking

CostSplurge

Total Timehalf-day

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionBuffet, Family Get-together, Formal Dinner Party

Recipe Coursedessert

Dietary Considerationpeanut free, soy free, tree nut free

Equipmentelectric mixer

Mealdinner

Moodfestive

Taste and Texturechocolatey, creamy, rich, sweet, winey

Type of Dishchocolate dessert

Ingredients

  • Butter for buttering cake pan
  • 2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup real mayonnaise such as Best Foods or Hellmann’s
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate such as Valrhona, cut into pieces
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon light or dark rum
  • ¼ cup Marsala wine
  • ½ cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup fresh hot espresso
  • ¼ cup dark rum
  • 1 ounce bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, or 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder or powdered sugar

Instructions

  1. To make the cake, preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter an 8- or 9-inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the parchment (this allows it to peel more easily from the cake bottom).

  2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Let cool to room temperature.

  3. Combine the vanilla, mayonnaise, and sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light. Start beating on slow speed and increase to medium until the mixture is light and all the sugar has been incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Reduce the speed to low and add the cocoa mixture in a slow, steady stream. Add the flour mixture and fold in while turning the bowl to scrape the sides and bottom. Mix just until the flour disappears. You should have a smooth, velvety batter.

  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. With a small, offset spatula, smooth the top. Bake until puffed and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean or the top springs back when lightly pressed with a finger, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely in the pan. Run a knife around the edge to loosen the sides and invert the cake onto a plate. Peel off the parchment. You will have one 8- or 9-inch cake that will serve 6 on it’s own. (The cake maybe made a day ahead. Wrap well.)

  5. To make the mousse, combine the chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl and place over (but not touching) barely simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until melted, smooth, and shiny. Remove from the heat.

  6. In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and mascarpone with an electric mixer at medium to medium-high speed until soft and creamy. Pause occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. On low speed, beat in the chocolate mixture.

  7. In another bowl, with clean beaters, whip the egg yolks until frothy. Add the sugar and salt and continue to beat on high speed until the mixture is pale yellow and forms a ribbon when the beaters are lifted.

  8. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, mix together the yolks and cheese mixture until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble the tiramisù. You should have about 2 cups mousse. (Served on its own, the mousse will serve 4. The mousse may be made ahead, covered, and refrigerated for up to 1 day.)

  9. To make the zabaglione, prepare an ice water bath. Combine the yolks, rum, and Marsala in the top of a double boiler. Place over (not touching) barely simmering water in the lower pan and whisk vigorously, or beat with an electric mixer, until the mixture begins to foam. Add the ½ cup sugar and whisk continuously until the mixture triples in volume and thickens to form soft mounds when the whisk is lifted, about 7 minutes. Immediately place the top of the double boiler in the ice water bath to stop the cooking. Let cool, stirring occasionally.

  10. In a small bowl, beat the cream until it begins to foam. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar and continue to beat until the cream holds soft peaks. Fold into the zabaglione. Cover and chill for several hours before assembling the tiramisù. You should have about 2 cups, which will serve 4 on its own.

  11. To assemble the dessert, in a small bowl or pitcher, add the sugar to the hot espresso. Stir well to dissolve the sugar, then add the rum. Reserve.

  12. Cut off the top of the cake and reserve for another use (see Notes). Cut the cake in half horizontally. Arrange a layer of cake, cut side up, in the bottom of a deep 2½-quart bowl. Moisten evenly with some of the espresso syrup. Spread half the mousse on top, and then spread half of the zabaglione on top of the mousse. Arrange the second layer of cake, again cut side up, on the mousse. Moisten well with syrup. Spread the remaining mousse on top in an even layer, followed by the remaining zabaglione. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight before serving. With a vegetable peeler, cut curls of chocolate to garnish the top or dust with cocoa.

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