I learned to make this cake in pastry school almost twenty years ago. Yes, I know that sounds like forever ago, at least to me it does, but this cake stood out as a favorite to us pastry students and over the years, I have made it for special occasions a handful of times at home. In pastry school we made nothing, but cake for one month. We measured, stirred, baked, glazed and frosted our brains out until we could hardly see straight, and the twelve of us learned proper French baking. Our instructor had previously worked at the White House and needless to say, she was pretty serious, and often times not so encouraging. I used to think it was a bit ridiculous (in a funny sort of way) when she stood behind people and said, “what you’re doing is making a mess,” but in the end we all learned how to truly bake.
French Cakes are different than American Cakes because they tend to be lighter, airier, and most often egg whites are involved. Whipping egg whites until soft peaks and folding them into a batter before baking is a traditional method used to add lift to baked goods. This technique works magic on creating cakes that spring back to the touch without adding baking powder or baking soda – it’s genius.
The Queen of California Cake has fluffy egg whites folded inside, but it also has a secret ingredient – macerated apricots. Chopped apricots are soaked in rum to add additional flavoring to the chocolate based batter. It’s hard to tell the apricots are in there, but if you get the perfect bite, you may taste a slight sweetness from them. However, chocolate is the star of the show inside and out with a moist crumb and rich chocolaty glaze. I think it’s scrumptious.
3 tablespoons minced apricots
1/4 cup dark rum
2/3 cup walnuts
6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons water
8 tablespoons butter
3 eggs, divided
1/2 cup granulated sugar + 3 tablespoons
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
10 ounces chopped dark chocolate
14 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoons corn syrup
(Makes 8-inch Cake)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 8 x 2 inch cake pan. In a small bowl, add apricots with rum, set aside. In a food processor pulse walnuts until ground, about 1 minute – set aside.
- In a microwave safe bowl, add chocolate, water and butter. Microwave for 1 minute on high, remove and stir. Place bowl back into microwave and heat on high for 30 seconds, remove and stir until smooth.
- In a stand mixer or large bowl, whisk egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar on high for 4 minutes, until pale yellow. Add chocolate mixture, flour and ground walnuts to egg yolks and mix on low for 30 seconds. Add macerated apricots and stir until combined.
- In a separate bowl, whip egg whites until soft peaks. Fold 1/3 of egg whites into chocolate batter, repeat until all egg whites are combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in oven for 30-40 minutes. Remove and let cool for 20 minutes. Loosen around edges and invert onto a wire rack with sheet pan underneath.
- To make glaze – in a microwave safe bowl, combine chocolate, butter and corn syrup. Microwave for 1 minute. Remove and stir until smooth (allow a few minutes for chocolate to melt into warm butter, keep stirring).
- After cake is completely cool, pour glaze over cake covering entire surface and sides. Place in refrigerator to set up. Remove at least 1 hour before serving. Enjoy!