I Liked It and I Put a Ring on It: Chocolate Bavarian Torte

My friend Jim and I have had lunch together almost every week for the last ten years. We have a pretty set routine; there are only three restaurants in our regular rotation, and our lunch orders are fairly predictable. But last week was Restaurant Week in D.C., and so we did something we almost never do at lunch -- we ordered dessert. Jim, being the chocolate cake fan that he is, ordered a double fudge cake. It was one of the worst chocolate cakes that I've ever tasted, completely lacking flavor. Since Jim and his wife Colleen were kind enough to invite us over to their house for dinner a few days later, I decided that I should make them a nice chocolate cake.

I had the perfect cake in mind. Last week as I was browsing recipes to select some cakes for a retirement party, I became interested in making the recipe for "Chocolate Bavarian Torte" from The SoNo Baking Company Cookbook. However, I was missing a critical piece of equipment -- an 8-inch cake ring. The cake ring I ordered from Amazon.com arrived too late for the retirement party, but just in time to make the torte for Jim and Colleen!

The reason I wanted to make this torte is because it's just gorgeous. There are two full-page photos in the cookbook showcasing this sophisticated three-layer chocolate cake, filled and covered with chocolate mousse, topped with a thin sheet of chocolate ganache. You need a cake ring to make this recipe because there is a layer of mousse not just between each layer of cake, but also all the way around the sides of the torte.

You bake the chocolate sponge cake recipe (flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, eggs, vanilla, melted butter, buttermilk, and brewed coffee) in two 9-inch round pans. Even though the recipe makes two 9-inch cakes, you are supposed to only need one for the torte, split into three layers. I had a problem with my cakes coming out slightly underdone, even though I baked them a little beyond the specified time range. As a result, the top portion of each cake was unusable; the top of each undercooked cake stuck and came off when I unmolded and inverted the cakes to cool. So having an extra cake came in pretty handy, as I had to cut my three layers from what remained of the two cakes.

You use the 8-inch cake ring like a big cookie cutter to stamp out a circle of cake from one of the 9-inch diameter layers. You cut the other two cake layers into 7-inch circles (easy if you happen to have a 7-inch cake ring as well). After you cut the rounds of cake and make a chocolate mousse (from water, gelatin, egg yolks, sugar, milk, vanilla bean, chocolate, cocoa, salt, and heavy cream), you are ready to assemble the torte.

To put the torte together, you put an 8-inch cardboard cake circle into the bottom of the cake ring and then put the 8-inch round layer of cake on top of it. You pour a layer of chocolate mousse over the cake. Then you center a 7-inch layer of cake on top of the mousse, and pour more mousse on top of and around the layer. You follow with the final 7-inch cake layer and more mousse, and then freeze the torte overnight. Once it's frozen, you spread on a thin layer of chocolate ganache (chocolate, heavy cream, honey, salt, and vanilla), which sets immediately on the frozen layer of mousse underneath. You remove the torte from the cake ring by wetting a kitchen towel with hot water, wringing it out, and wrapping it around the cake ring to warm up the mousse... and voila! You get a torte with a layer of chocolate cake on the bottom, only smooth chocolate mousse visible all around the sides, and chocolate ganache on top.

The torte pictured in the cookbook has some additional ganache piped onto the top using a pastry bag and a star tip, but I didn't have a lot of ganache left over, and this step just seemed unnecessary -- it still looks quite professional even without any additional decoration. When it came time to transport the torte to Jim and Colleen's house, I wasn't quite sure how I could do this without having the sides of the torte smash into a cake carrier or cake box. I eventually figured out that I could drop the torte into the bottom of a 10-inch diameter pie pan (the flat portion of the pie pan was the perfect size to fit the 8-inch torte), so that the sloped sides of the pan acted like a spacer that would keep the sides of the torte from touching the sides of the cake carrier.

The torte sliced cleanly, and the cut slices were even more beautiful than I had envisioned. The layers of cake and mousse were even and level, and the ganache was flawless. This torte was quite tasty. I used only 72% chocolate for the mousse and ganache, because that's all I had on hand, and the torte overall was not very sweet. The cake itself was very chocolatey and moist, although it was quite dense. I think that I prefer the lighter texture of the cake from the Baked Explorations Chocolate Coffee Cake -- although I appreciate that this torte is likely more manageable (in terms of assembly) if you have a firmer cake, since the layers are so thin. While the cake and mousse are quite satisfying, I think the real reason to make this torte is to admire its good looks! This is definitely a dessert that will impress.

Recipe: "Chocolate Bavarian Torte," from The SoNo Baking Company Cookbook: The Best Sweet and Savory Recipes for Every Occasion, by John Barricelli.


Louise said…
What a clever idea! It makes a beautiful cake. I used to make a walnut torte with chocolate mousse filling. It was a bit of a mess, but tasted great. I think I need to buy a cake ring and dig out the recipe. :-)
Louise said…
Do you think I could use spring form pans and a knife to do similar stuff like a cake ring? I have a zillion spring form pans of all sizes. It probably wouldn't be as easy as using the cake ring like a cookie cutter, but it also doesn't seem like it would be too difficult either.
Louise -- I think you could use a springform pan, although it would be helpful if it's tall (I used a 3-inch tall cake ring for this torte and filled it right to the top). Also, if you are using just the ring portion of the springform, I would probably try using it upside down, so that you don't get anything caught in the rim that secures the bottom -- it is much easier to unmold a torte like this if you elevate it on a can and pull the ring down (as opposed to trying to lift the ring up), because you get some leverage that way -- if that makes any sense. Let me know how it works!