Brazil Nut & Chocolate Dacquoise Torte with Espresso Buttercream
Layers of soft, moist chocolate cake brushed with Kahlua (optional), interspersed with crisp Brazil nut dacquoise rounds and espresso buttercream, topped with dark chocolate ganache. This cake has several components, but they can all be made ahead somewhat, so take advantage of any do-ahead tips. The gilded Brazil nuts on top are also optional, but a nice touch.
Serves 12 to 14
Brazil Nut Dacquoise:
3/4 cup skinned, toasted hazelnuts
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
8 large egg whites
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
½ cup Kahlua (optional)
Dark Chocolate Ganache ( you need about 1 cup)
12 whole Brazil nuts
Edible Gold powder
Small artist brush
1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line two baking sheet pans with parchment and trace two 8-inch rounds on one parchment and one 8-inch round on the other. Flip parchment over (you should be able to see the traced circles).
2. Place nuts and flour in bowl of food processor fitted with metal blade. Pulse on and off about 5 times, then process nuts until they are very finely ground, but still fluffy.
3. Meanwhile, in a clean, grease-free bowl, whip egg whites with mixer on low speed until frothy. Add cream of tartar, increase speed to high and continue whipping until soft peaks form. Add sugar gradually and continue to whip until stiff, but not dry, peaks form. Beat in almond extract. Fold in ground nuts.
4. Use an offset spatula to spread an even 1/2-inch layer of dacquoise within the traced circles. Take time to make these as round and level as possible. There will be extra dacquoise leftover, which you should spread here and there outside the borders of the circles; this will eventually be crushed to apply to sides of cake during assembly, so the shapes aren’t important. (You could pipe the rounds out with a ½-inch round tip and pastry bag, but it isn’t necessary).
5. Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until very dry and crisp. It may very lightly brown. Cool pans completely on racks. Dacquoise is ready to use. Take care not to break round discs as you peel them from parchment. It is best to place them on 8-inch cardboards right away to protect them. Dacquoise may be stored in an airtight container until needed, up to 3 weeks ahead. (The extras can be stored in pieces).
6. Have two 9-inch cake layers baked and cooled and the buttercream ready to use. Level the cake layers if necessary. Crush extra dacquoise pieces by hand into small pieces; some will be powdery and some should be up to about 1/4-inch sized nuggets. Place crushed dacquoise in wide bowl. Assemble the cake as follows: place one cake layer on a 9-inch cardboard round and sprinkle or brush with half the Kahlua, if using. Allow to soak in, then spread with a layer of espresso buttercream. Next, layer with dacquoise, which will be smaller in diameter, a generous layer of buttercream going to the edges, another layer dacquoise, more buttercream all the way to the edges, last cake layer and brush that with remaining Kahlua. Apply a crumb coat over top and sides. Chill. Apply final coat, thickly on the sides. Hold cake in one hand (using the handy cardboard), hold over bowl with dacquoise and use other hand to scoop up dacquoise and press into sides, covering completely. Place on presentation plate. Use a large star tip to create a top edge border. It must be continuous in order to hold in the ganache, which will be poured on top. Chill. Melt ganache so that it is liquid but not hot. Gently pour in center of cake and allow to flow to edges. Try not to touch it. You can use a small pointy offset spatula to coax the ganche into the very edges near the buttercream border. Chill until serving time, at least 2 hours or overnight. If you want, you can dissolve a bit of gold powder with vodka in a small bowl and paint the Brazil nuts and place them on the cake as shown. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Baker’s Tip: Take advantage of any do-aheads: buttercream can be made way ahead; nuts could be painted a week ahead; cake and dacquoise baked the day before assembly.