I have been looking forward to this cake since I first received the book. I am very partial to composed cakes and this one was appealing because it has a complex but not overly sweet taste. It is perfect as a finish for a dinner party but equally at home on a tea table.
I found the cake very easy to make and assemble although a bit of time planning is needed to accommodate the cooling and chilling times. The cake base is very simple. Egg whites are beaten and sugar is gradually beaten in until the whites hold stiff, glossy peeks.
Next egg yolks are beaten in one at a time until combined and then the flour and baking powder are sifted on top and gently folded in. The batter is scraped into the prepared pan and baked until done. Simplicity itself.
While the cake is baking the syrup can be made. This syrup is basically a strong cup of tea intensely flavored with sugar, lemon and vodka.
For the pastry cream, Scrape the seeds of a vanilla pod into the sugar and rub them to distribute them evenly throughout the sugar. Combine part of the milk with egg yolks and whisk to combine. Combine the sugar with milk and the vanilla pod and scald the milk. Temper the egg mixture with the hot milk and then combine both mixtures and cook until the pastry cream is thick, Strain the mixture and cover with plastic wrap. Stir the cream occasionally while cooling, then chill.
While the pastry cream is chilling, soak the raisins, toast the nuts and slice them. Sift the cocoa and grate the chocolate. When the pastry cream is sufficiently chilled, divide it. To one part add the cocoa and blend until combined, then fold in the walnuts and set aside. To the remaining cream, fold in the raisins and grated chocolate and set aside.
When the cake is cool, brush the syrup on the top and bottom and chill to firm the cake. Scrape the cocoa pastry cream on top of the cake base, smooth the top and chill. Next add the raisin pastry cream, smooth and chill. As this cake base is very delicate once it has had the syrup applied, I use a trick I got from a local pastry chef. I freeze the cake as I assemble it. It does take a bit of time but it makes handling these delicate cakes so much easier. I froze the cake base, added the first layer of [pastry cream and froze it, then added the last layer and froze the entire cake. Once frozen, I unmolded the cake onto the serving plate and finished the cake,
To finish, I decided to forgo the grated chocolate and instead used cocoa nibs from a local chocolatier, Eclipse Chocolate. I discovered these a few years ago when visiting the shop and have been enamored with them ever since. I find their nubbly texture and extremely bittersweet taste the perfect foil for this cake.