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chocolate-sheathed praline cake
Makes 12 servings
Two 9-inch sponge cake layers: follows
Rum Syrup: follows
Chocolate Butter Cream: follows
1 cup whipping cream
Prepare the Sponge Cake layers. Spoon over the Rum Syrup and let cool. Prepare the Chocolate Butter Cream and Praline. Whip cream until stiff and fold in half the Praline. Spread one cake layer with half the whipped cream mixture. Top with a second layer and spread with remaining whipped cream mixture. Frost the sides of the cake with Chocolate Butter Cream and sprinkle with the remaining Praline.
Sponge Cake: Preheat the oven to 350F. Separate 6 eggs. Beat the egg whites until foamy, add 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar, and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form. In a bowl, beat the 6 egg yolks and 1 tablespoon lemon juice until thick and lemon-colored, then gradually beat in 3/4 cup sugar. Fold one-third of the egg whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it, then gently fold this into the remaining whites. Fold in 1 cup all-purpose flour, one-third at a time, folding each part gently. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with waxed paper or parchment, and then butter and flour the paper. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and the tops spring back when touched. Let cool on a wire racks, then turn out of pans.
Chocolate Butter Cream: In the top part of a double boiler, melt 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate over hot water; let cool. In a bowl, beat 4 tablespoons soft butter, at room temperature, until creamy, and mix in 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Stir in the melted chocolate and blend well.
Rum Syrup: Heat 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in 3 tablespoons rum.
Praline: Heat 1/2 cup sugar in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat until the sugar melts and caramelizes. Add 1/2 cup chopped almonds or hazelnuts and shake the pan to coat the nuts with syrup; Turn out of the pan onto a sheet of buttered foil. Let cool. Pulverize in a blender. Store in a jar tightly covered if made in advance.
©Lou Seibert Pappas