- 16 prunes, pitted
- 6 tablespoons cognac, plum brandy or Grand Marnier
- 1 cup hazelnuts, blanched
- 2/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
- 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 5 large eggs, separated
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 teaspoon plus a pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
- 1 cup creme fraiche or
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped, plus 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate, melted in top of a double boiler
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
Makes an 8 1/2-inch cake.
Preheat oven to 375o. Butter the sides of an 8 1/2-inch springform pan and line the bottom with a circle of waxed paper.
Cover prunes with liquor and let soak for about 30 minutes. Drain, reserving liquid for future use in fancy coffee, gravy or pasta sauce.
Put hazelnuts in a shallow pan and toast in the oven until fragrant, about 8 minutes. Let cool and discard any skins that come off when you rub them. Place in the bowl of a food processor, add 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and grind until fine.
In a double boiler, melt chocolate over water that is just simmering– no steam.
In the large bowl of a mixer, beat butter and remaining C cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla, 3/4 teaspoon salt and melted chocolate. Then beat in hazelnut mixture until well combined.
In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form stiff peaks. Add about a quarter of the whites to the chocolatehazelnut mixture, and fold in gently. Add the rest of the whites and fold just until well combined.
Spoon half the batter into the prepared pan, then poke in the drained prunes, creating two concentric circles. Top with remaining batter and bake for 45–55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let cool completely on a rack, then slide a knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the cake before removing the sides. Invert onto a serving plate, remove the paper, and dust with confectioner's sugar.
Serve with generous dollops of creme fraiche or a mixture of half whipped cream, half sour cream.
For extra richness, glamour and just a touch of gilt, you can glaze the cake with ganache and decorate with edible gold leaf.
Blend cream into melted chocolate until combined. Then pour over the center of the cooled cake, allowing it to spread and run over the edges. Spread with an icing spatula to distribute evenly if necessary.
Dust with confectioners' sugar and garnish with 22-karat food-grade gold leaf (available at gourmet food stores).