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      RECIPE TITLE "Espresso Torte" Recipes from The Olives Dessert Table: Extraordinary Restaurant Desserts You Can Make at Home by Todd English, Paige Retus, and Sally Sampson. Copyright © 2000 by Todd English, Paige Retus, and Sally Sampson.

    yields serves 12 time --- difficultydifficult

    This is a popular birthday cake at Olives and one of our favorites. The cake is moist and sweet: The espresso is bold enough to stand up to the most assertive chocoholics, the espresso syrup adds another layer of flavor, and the bitter chocolate shortbread adds a nice texture change and whimsy to the outside of the cake.

    Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Chocolate Cake

    7 ounces semisweet chocolate
    3/8 pound (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
    3/4 cup sour cream or full-fat plain yogurt
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    2 1/2 cups sugar
    1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    3 large eggs
    3 cups all-purpose flour
    1 1/2 cups hot water or prepared coffee

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.

    Place the chocolate and butter in a double boiler and cook over medium heat until melted. Set aside.

    Place the sour cream and baking soda in a small bowl, mix to combine, and set aside.

    Place the sugar, vanilla, salt, and chocolate-butter mixture in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle and mix until just combined. Scrape down the bowl. Add the sour cream mixture and mix until just combined. Scrape down the bowl.

    Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until just combined. Scrape down the bowl. Add 1 cup of the flour, 1/2 cup of the hot water or prepared coffee, 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup water, and the remaining 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water, scraping down the bowl and stirring well after each addition. Do not overmix. Pour into the prepared pans and transfer to the oven. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake center springs back when pressed gently, about 25 to 30 minutes. Serve immediately or wrap and store at room temperature up to 3 days or freeze up to 2 weeks.

    Espresso Syrup

    1 cup brewed espresso
    1 cup sugar

    Place the coffee and sugar in a small pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Set aside to cool, cover, and refrigerate at least 20 minutes and up to 1 week.

    Makes 1 cup.

    Espresso Buttercream

    Basic buttercream with espresso flavoring. To make this a chocolate buttercream, omit the coffee and add 6 ounces cooled, melted semisweet or bittersweet chocolate after the vanilla is added.

    1 cup sugar
    1/3 cup prepared coffee
    Pinch salt
    4 large egg whites
    1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 tablespoon coffee paste (dissolve 2 tablespoons espresso powder in 1 tablespoon hot coffee)
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract

    Place 3/4 cup of the sugar, the coffee, and salt in a small pot and cook until it has reached the soft ball stage, about 236 to 240 degrees. Unless you are very experienced, use a candy thermometer.

    While the coffee mixture is cooking, place the egg whites and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk and whip until they have formed stiff peaks but are not dry. Gently pour the sugar syrup down the inside of the bowl with the egg whites, all the while whipping on high speed. Continue whipping until the bottom of the bowl is cool to the touch, about 7 minutes.

    While the mixer is still running, add the butter, in tablespoons, and mix until it is completely incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and add the coffee paste and vanilla. Use immediately or freeze up to 2 months.

    Bitter Chocolate Shortbread

    1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1/3 cup confectioner's sugar
    1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
    2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

    Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle and heat until creamy. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. Add the salt, flour, and cocoa and mix until well incorporated. Place the dough between sheets of parchment paper and roll out until 1/4 inch thick. Cut out 1 1/2-inch circles or shapes, such as hearts, spades, diamonds, and clubs. Transfer to the oven and bake until the centers are dry when touched, about 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on the sheets. Store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.

    Makes 36 to 48 cookies.

    Semisweet Chocolate Ganache

    8 ounces semisweet chocolate
    1 cup heavy cream

    Method One (to be used when you want to spread immediately): Place the chocolate in the top of a double boiler and cook until melted. Add the cream and stir until smooth.

    Method Two (to be used if you want to pour immediately): Place the cream in a pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Place the chocolate in a bowl and pour the hot cream over it. Cover for 2 minutes. Whisk until smooth.

    Both can be covered and refrigerated up to 1 week.

    Makes about 1 3/4 cups.

    To finish and assemble:

    1. Trim the top of the Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Chocolate Cakes.

    2. Slice each layer in half horizontally.

    3. Lay one layer, bottom-side down, on a cake plate.

    4. Brush with Espresso Syrup.

    5. Spread on Semisweet Chocolate Ganache.

    6. Spread on Espresso Buttercream.

    7. Repeat steps 3 to 6.

    8. Repeat steps 3 to 6.

    9. Turn the fourth cake layer bottom-side up and place on Espresso Buttercream.

    10. Brush with Espresso Syrup.

    11. Spread Espresso Buttercream on top and sides of cake.

    12. Randomly drizzle Semisweet Chocolate Ganache on top of cake, allowing it to drip down the sides.

    13. Stick the Bitter Chocolate Shortbreads randomly over the cake.

    14. Refrigerate until the buttercream sets, about 1/2 hour.

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