Chocolate cake

A Hazelnut And Chocolate Cake Too Good For Easter

Sharon as the flower girl

Being the bridesmaid at my mother’s younger sister Rebecca’s wedding to Anthony was probably the most exciting night of my life as a five-year-old. I wore a long white dress with a fuchsia velvet belt, white mesh gloves and pink rosebuds in my hair.

While my family was made up of immigrants from Baghdad via Israel, my new uncle Anthony came from what seemed like a very Australian family. His maternal great-grandmother Julie Gran, a descendant of Sephardic Jews who emigrated to Australia in 1883, was the epitome of refinement. Her daughter Judy, Anthony’s mother, had sparkling brown eyes, a wonderful smile and a lovely manner about her. She married Dennis Clifford, an Ashkenazi Jew from London. He emigrated to Sydney after World War II and got into the schmatta business. He was larger than life. A very, very successful maker of ladies’ dresses, he amassed the world’s largest collection of Royal Doulton, fine bone china plates and vases hand painted by craftsmen across England.

My grandparents would invite the Clifford family over for Friday night dinners and Jewish holidays. My grandfather made the kiddush over the wine in his deep voice, we said the blessing over the challah and then my grandmother served her incredible feasts. His menus included dishes like potato kubbah, okra stew with semolina kubbah, platters of roast chicken with saffron and turmeric, tomato infused rice sprinkled with almonds, raisins and caramelized onions, and many different salads.

After dinner, Anthony’s younger brother, Roger, would pull out his acoustic guitar and the whole mishpacha (family) would sing along for hours. Several years after Anthony and Rebecca got married, Roger married Susie.

Recently, Susie wrote to me: “Your grandmother Nana Aziza reminds me so much of my grandmother Omama Irma. They were both natural cooks and always happiest when feeding their family and guests. I doubt they ever looked at cookbooks – it was all in their magical hands.

Your grandmother’s table was always laden with irresistible Middle Eastern delicacies. It was always exciting to be invited to your grandparents house because the atmosphere was amazing and the food was amazing!”

Susie’s family

Omama Irma de Susie was born in Skycov, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1908. After her marriage to Layosh (Ludwig) Wohlstein, they moved to Vienna, the thriving center of Jewish life and culture. They lived there happily until the German Anschluss and the rising tide of Nazi anti-Semitism forced them to flee. Miraculously, Irma, Layosh, their two daughters Trudy and Lilli, her brother and her family were able to secure passage on a boat from Genoa to Sydney, Australia.

As refugees on the first ship allowed to dock in Sydney, their landing made the front page of the revered Sydney Morning Herald, the broadsheet. Before war broke out, Irma and Layosh capitalized on their own good fortune and sponsored family members and many friends for immigration to Australia.

An intuitive cook and baker, Irma loved to feed her family and friends. Using recipes she had learned at Skycov and Vienna, she quickly gained a reputation for her delicious cooking and delicious cakes and desserts.

An intuitive cook and baker, Irma loved to feed her family and friends. Using recipes she had learned at Skycov and Vienna, she quickly gained a reputation for her delicious cooking and delicious cakes and desserts.

On those wonderful Friday nights at my grandparents, Susie would bring Omama Irma’s delicious chocolate hazelnut cake to serve alongside my Aunt Rebecca’s amazing pavlova (recipe is on our website SephardicSpiceGirls.com ).

I have been making a flourless chocolate pie for a very long time. Whenever I’m invited to a meal and ask the hostess what she would like me to bring, the response is usually “Chocolate Torte, please!”

Rachel says she still has the piece of paper with the recipe I wrote down for her over ten years ago. It’s still her favorite dessert. A sure crowd pleaser. But to accommodate her parents’ health needs, she modified my recipe to using only the semi-sweet chocolate chips and omitting all the sugar. She says the results are just as moist and delicious.

This is a very good cake, but Omama Irma’s rich and decadent dessert has been etched in my memory for years. So I reached out to Susie and she generously shared the amazing recipe. (I tweaked it slightly.) We don’t know if it’s the crushed hazelnuts, coffee, or chocolate ganache that makes it better than anything you’ve ever tasted. But it’s so good!

Passover or not, this recipe is not to be overlooked.

7 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar, divided in half
1 3/4 cups ground hazelnuts
8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup of water
2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
1/2 cup avocado or safflower oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Chocolate icing
4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon oil
1/4 cup water

Garnish
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts
Fresh, washed and dried berries

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform cake pan with parchment paper.
  • In a clean, dry bowl, use an electric mixer to whip the egg whites until frothy. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Put aside.
  • In a medium saucepan, combine ground hazelnuts, 1/2 cup sugar, chocolate, water and coffee beans. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
  • Remove from the heat and add the oil, stirring well.
  • Pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl and let cool slightly. Add egg yolks, vanilla and salt, beating well to combine.
  • Gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven, unlatch cake pan and allow cake to cool completely.
  • To make the glaze, place the chocolate, sugar, oil, and water in a small saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth and shiny.
  • Place the cake on a serving platter and spread the chocolate frosting on top, letting it drip down the sides of the cake.
  • Scatter the hazelnuts around the edge of the cake and garnish with fresh berries.

Sharon Gomperts and Rachel Emquies Sheff have been friends since high school. The Sephardic Spice Girls project was born out of their collaboration on events for the Sephardic Educational Center in Jerusalem. Upcoming events include a Sharsheret Passover cooking webinar. Follow them on Instagram @sephardicspicegirls and on Facebook at Sephardic Spice SEC Food. Website sefardicspicegirls.com/full-recipes


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