Pumpkin pie? Yawn.
Apple pie? Snore.
Pecan pie? Stop it right now.
No offense, but what your boring Thanksgiving needs—and I’m telling you this as a friend—is Cranberry Chocolate Truffle Cake. We have enough fruit and nuts stuffed in pastry crusts, we need some down-and-dirty, too-rich-for-my-blood, pass-the-milk-no-not-a-glass-the-whole-carton chocolate desserts up in here!
It may not be the most traditional Thanksgiving dessert, but we all know that if the Pilgrims had access to glorious bars of semi-sweet chocolate on the regular, they would have made chocolate cake the centerpiece of their Thanksgiving table. I’m married to an American history professor, and that is an absolute fact.*
*The marriage part. The chocolate part I totally made up.
But we’ll save the fabricated facts for the next episode of Drunk History, and stick with what I know to be true: how awesome this cake is.
This is a chocoholic’s fondest dream, and a chocophobe’s worst nightmare. (But if you’re a chocophobe, you’ve probably given up this website long ago. And also? Seek help.) The cake is a relative of the deep, dense flourless chocolate cake, although it does contain a little bit of flour. Mostly, though, it contains chocolate. Sweet, sweet chocolate, mixed with eggs and butter and cranberry sauce, and yielding a moist interior with the texture of a rich chocolate truffle. Restrained it is not.
The cake is topped with a homemade cranberry jelly, the perfect balance of sweet and tart to cut through the chocolate, and is finished with a shiny chocolate glaze. Don’t be fooled by the large piece you see below—this baby is best enjoyed in small slivers, because it’s so rich. A 9-inch cake could easily feed 12-16 people, especially if they’re also sampling other desserts.
Finally, I finished the cake with some lovely chocolate leaves and fresh cranberries. The leaves are surprisingly easy to make (basically: coat leaves with chocolate, peel off leaves) but, when brushed with a light layer of luster dust, add the perfect glamorous gourmet touch.
I put together a chocolate leaves tutorial for the About.com Candy site, and since I try not to plagiarize myself too much, I’ll link to it instead of reproducing the photos here. So click here if you’d like to see some step-by-step photos showing how to make chocolate leaves.
Cranberry Chocolate Truffle Cake
For the Cake:
For the Cranberry Jelly:
- 12 oz cranberries fresh or defrosted from frozen
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water
For the Chocolate Glaze:
- 6 oz semi-sweet chocolate finely chopped
- 1 cup heavy cream
To Make the Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Use a 9-inch cake pan with a removable bottom, or a 9-inch springform pan. Line the pan with parchment paper and spray it with nonstick cooking spray.
- Place the chocolate and butter together in a large microwave-safe bowl, and microwave until melted, stirring after every 30 seconds to prevent overheating. Stir until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool to lukewarm.
- Combine the egg yolks and 1/4 cup granulated sugar in the bowl of a large mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. (Alternately, you can use a mixing bowl and a hand mixer with whisk attachments.) Whip the yolks and sugar until they’re thick, a light yellow color, and drip from the whisk in a thick ribbon when you pull it up out of the yolks.
- Fold the yolks into the lukewarm chocolate, and gently stir until most of the streaks are gone. Add the cranberry sauce, flour, vanilla extract, and salt, and carefully fold them in.
- Wash and dry the mixing bowl and whisk you used for the yolks, and place the egg whites in the bowl. Whip on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, then gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, a spoonful at a time, until the whites hold firm peaks and have the texture of shaving cream.
- Fold the whites into the chocolate in three batches. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and bake for 32-35 minutes, until puffed, dry on top, and there are small cracks along the sides.
- Remove from the oven and let cool completely at room temperature. The cake can be made several days in advance and kept, well-wrapped, in the refrigerator until ready to assemble.
To Make the Cranberry Jelly:
- Combine the cranberries, sugar, and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook the berries, stirring occasionally, until they all “pop” and you have a thick, bubbling mixture. Pour the berries through a wire mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing down on the skins to force all of the liquid through the strainer. Press a layer of cling wrap on top of the jelly, and cool to room temperature. Jelly can be made up to a week in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
To Make the Chocolate Glaze and Assemble:
- Place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl, and put the cream into a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring the cream to a simmer, and when it’s almost boiling, pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and let it sit for a minute to soften the chocolate. Whisk gently until the chocolate melts and the glaze is shiny and smooth. Make this right before you’re ready to glaze the cake.
- To assemble the cake, use a spoon to scoop out about a half-inch of the top of the cake, leaving a thin border around the sides, where the cranberry jelly will go. (If your cake has collapsed during the baking process, this is the one time when that isn’t a bad thing! Instead of scooping out a hole, and you can just put the jelly in the sunken area on top.) If the jelly has been chilled, stir it briefly and then spoon it into the cavity on top of the cake, smoothing it into an even layer.
- Place the cake on a cardboard round the size of the cake, then put it on a wire rack. Pour the hot glaze over the cake, using a spatula to spread it to the edge and push it down to coat the sides. Let the cake set at room temperature for several minutes before transferring it to the refrigerator to chill completely. Decorate with chocolate leaves, chocolate curls, cranberries, and/or whipped cream.
- This cake is very rich, so it’s best enjoyed in small slices. Use a large sharp chef’s knife to cut it in slices, and for the cleanest cuts, wash the blade with hot water between cuts.
- Store Cranberry Chocolate Truffle Cake well-wrapped in the refrigerator for up to a week.