I have a group of friends that I hang out with on a fairly regular basis these days, but our relationship revolves around food. It all started when we were recent alums in the same city, who had all been friendly with each other, but not much more than that. We started having dinners once a month, rotating hosting duties, giving us each a chance to try out new recipes on willing guinea pigs. Our monthly dinners have been going on now for 9 months and since we started we have added dinners for special occasions, as well as outings to restaurants we've wanted to try and pretty much any food related excuse we can find to hang out and eat delicious food. It's all very fun (and delicious), and we've all expanded our cooking knowledge in the process.
We joke about how we act so grown up, making fancy appetizers, complex entrees and extravagent desserts. But then there are things like the halloween themed paper napkins we use at Michael's or the table I (used to, yay) have that barely fit 4 plates on it, or the joke that no one can start dating someone, niether Alicia & Matt nor I have more than place settings. And best of all, the following phrases are most likely heard at least once per dinner: "sorry if this is a disaster", "oh no, I think I missed a step", "oh shit!" and last but not least "I swear, it's almost ready!". Because honestly, we don't know what we're doing.
So this brings me to the title of the post. Last weekend was Michael's birthday so we, of course, had a dinner to celebrate. I was in charge of choosing the cake that Alicia, Matt and I would make. Now usually I go for the classic three layer chocolate cake with the most fantastic Fanny Farmer chocolate frosting. But I needed something more extravagent for Michael, since he never ceases to amaze us with the meals he come up with. I was flipping through my cookbook The Birthday Cake Book by Dede Wilson when I came upon "Chocolate Almond Apricot Cake with Chocolate Glaze". Mmmmm mmmm that sounded delicious! The description made it even more appealing with adjectives such as rich and luscious, but the last sentence is what really sealed the deal. "This is a fabulous cake to serve at an adult birthday party". Perfect!
The cake was delicious, surprisingly easy to make, and last but not least....it looked so fancy and grown up! Here's the recipe, enjoy!
Chocolate Almond Apricot Cake with Chocolate Glaze
Cake Ingredients: 2 3/4 c toasted sliced almonds, 1/4 c plus 1 T flour, 14 T (1 3/4 sticks) butter, at room temp, cut into pieces, 1 c sugar, 1/2 t vanilla extract, 1/4 t almond extract, 8 large eggs, seperated and at room temperature, 7 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled, 1/2 c apricot spread (100% fruit, no sugar added).
Chocolate Ganache Glaze Ingredients: 1 1/4 c heavy cream, 12 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped. Whole dried apricots (for garnish).
Directions: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, grease a 9 x 3 inch round springform pan (a pan whose bottom is not attached, and the sides expand for easy removal) and line the bottom with greased parchment paper.
Combine 1 3/4 c of the nuts and the flour in a food processor and pulse a few times, then grind until nuts are very finely ground. In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add the sugar gradually and beat until very light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl once or twice. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Beat in the chocolate, blend in the nut-flour mixture in 2 additions.
In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold about one-quarter of the whites into the batter to loighten it; fold in remaining whites. Scrape batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake for 50-55 minutes.
Let pan cool for 10 minutes or so and then unmold the cake. Using a thin, long-bladed knife, slice the cake in half horizontally so there are two even halves. Spread 6 tablespoons of the apricot spread evenly over one of the cut sides, then put cake back together. Melt the remaining apricot spread and brush it all over the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate briefly to set the apricot spread.
Place the cake on a wire rack set over a clean pan. In a large saucepan, bring cream to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and immediately sprinkle the chocolate into the cream. Cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes, the chocolate should melt in this time. Gently stir the ganache until smooth. Let cool a little and then pour on top of the cake, gently spreading it evenly toward and around the edges. Allow excess to drip onto pan beneath, using later if necessary. Take the remaining almonds and press into chocolate glaze. Place dried apricots in a flower pattern in the center of the cake if you wish. Refrigerate the cake for at least an hour, allowing the glaze to set. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.