Recently while talking to a friend, I stumbled upon something I couldn’t believe: He had never seen in person, let alone touched, a cocoa bean. What could be described as an over-the-top surprise on my part turns out to be a genuine reaction. I grew up in Venezuela, in the midst of natural cacao plants that grew wild as well as in a planned manner on the slopes of the Andes. At our farm, my mother and I used to make our own chocolate pellets, a painstaking multi-day procedure that entailed several steps (picking, fermenting, drying). These fragrant chocolate beads were then used for baking desserts or making hot drinks on frigid nights. Bizcochuelo de chocolate y café (Sponge chocolate coffee cake) was one such creation. Simple in ingredients but rich in flavor, this sweet dish goes well as a Shabbat dessert or as a show-stopping cake for birthday parties.
For the Cake
- 6large eggs
- 6tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 ½cup brown sugar
- ¾cup unsalted butter, softened
- ½cup all-purpose flour
- ½teaspoon rum
- 1tablespoon cooled coffee, dissolved in 1 Tbsp. hot water
- 2teaspoons baking powder
- ⅓cup whole milk, lukewarm
- Pinch kosher salt
For the Icing
- ½cup dark chocolate broken into small squares
- 4tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1cup confectioners sugar, sieved
Yield: Serves 6
To make the Cake
- Step 1
Preheat the oven to 350.
- Step 2
Place the egg whites in a mixing bowl and carefully begin to beat with a mixer. As bubbles develop, reduce the speed to medium and gradually add the sugar. Once all the sugar has been added, increase the speed of the mixer to high. Beat until the whites are firm, glossy, and hold a peak. Set aside.
- Step 3
In a separate mixing bowl, beat the yolks for 4 minutes before adding the butter, coffee, milk, and rum.
- Step 4
Fold at least a cup of beaten whites into the yolks, then fold in the remaining beaten whites.
- Step 5
Sift the flour; add the baking powder, cocoa powder, and salt. Sprinkle on top of the egg mixture and gently fold in until combined.
- Step 6
Pour into a lightly buttered 10-inch spring form cake pan and bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean and the sponge cake is gently browned. Invert the cake onto a cooling rack before cooling completely.
To make the Icing
- Step 1
Meanwhile, make the icing by melting the dark or milk chocolate in the microwave, or in a bowl over just simmering water.
- Step 2
In a mixing bowl, beat together the unsalted butter and half of the sieved confectioners sugar until light and fluffy.
- Step 3
Mix in the remaining confectioners sugar and melted chocolate until thick and creamy. Once the icing is cool, spread it on top of the cake leaving a 1/3 inch border around the edge.