Monday, March 18, 2019

Chocolate Cake with Mascarpone and Praline

I recently read Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl (this comes out on April 2,) about her years as Editor in Chief at Gourmet Magazine. It fits nicely between her other memoirs, and goes up until Conde Nast closes the magazine with little warning.

Early on in her time there, as she was building relationships with the staff, they were working on a chocolate cake recipe for a YAFI (or a "You Asked For It") feature. She recognized the cake and was able to show them she really knew her stuff in that moment.

Of course I wanted to make the cake. It's a bit of an unusual technique, with boiling fats, water, and cocoa powder together first, then mixing those with sugar and chocolate, then letting the batter cool before doing more with it. I didn't have a high enough round pan so I baked it in an 8" square, and it worked just fine.

This recipe is more of a one-shot, make for a dinner party cake. If you assemble it too early, the praline will go soft, the mascarpone will need to be chilled, and the cake will dry out in the fridge. To bring it to my co-workers tomorrow, I'll bring everything separately.  

Chocolate Cake with Mascarpone and Praline
(recipe from Gourmet Magazine, April 1999, now available at, originally from Cafe Mezzo in London. Recipe is also included in forthcoming memoir.)


  1. For praline
    • 1/2 cup whole blanched almonds
    • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 1/4 cup water
  2. For cake
    • 3 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)
    • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
    • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
    • 2/3 cup water
    • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 1 large egg
    • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk
    • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese (about 1 cup) at room temperature
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar


  1. Make praline:
    1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
    2. In a baking pan toast nuts in one layer in middle of oven 10 minutes, or until almonds are lightly colored and hazelnut skins are blistered. Wrap nuts in a kitchen towel and let steam 1 minute. Rub nuts in towel to remove any loose hazelnut skins (do not worry about skins that do not come off) and cool completely.
    3. Line a baking sheet with foil. In a small heavy saucepan bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil syrup, without stirring, washing down any sugar crystals that cling to side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water, until it begins to turn golden. Swirl pan until syrup is deep golden and remove from heat. Stir in nuts and pour praline onto baking sheet, spreading evenly. Cool praline completely and break into pieces. Transfer praline to a sealable plastic bag and with a rolling pin coarsely crush.
  2. Make cake:
    1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Generously butter a 9-inch round cake pan (at least 2 inches deep) and line bottom with wax or parchment paper. Butter paper and dust pan with flour, knocking out excess.
    2. Finely chop chocolate. In a small saucepan combine cocoa powder, butter, oil, and water. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring until smooth, and remove pan from heat. Add chocolate and sugar, whisking until smooth, and transfer to a bowl. Cool chocolate mixture completely and whisk in egg. Sift flour and baking powder over chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Whisk in buttermilk and pour batter into cake pan, spreading evenly. Bake cake in middle of oven 45 to 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean, and cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes. Run a thin knife around edge of pan and invert cake onto rack. Discard paper. Cool cake completely and transfer to a plate. In a bowl stir together mascarpone and sugar. Spread mixture over top of cake and generously sprinkle with praline.

 Notes from JennyBakes:

-I used all hazelnuts because that's what I had... I also made shards from my praline instead of smaller pieces
-I used Guittard bittersweet chocolate discs
-I added an extra egg based on a discussion Ruth relayed in the book


Unknown said...

I made this cake today for a luncheon. I was disappointed that the cake wasn't more dense in flavor. Also, it tasted a bit dry. The icing was outstanding. Any suggestions?

Jenny Colvin said...

I don't think I was impressed with this one - I always struggle with butter cakes being dry; maybe I overbske them.