Once again, from the annals of blog history comes a long-overdue recipe for a pretty cake I made 5 years ago (original post is here.) It comes from Dorie Greenspan‘s book, Paris Sweets, by way of Pâtisserie Stohrer. Sugar-wizard Nicolas Stohrer opened the shop in 1730 and it’s probably the oldest pâtisserie in Paris – we’re talking stagecoaches and rum babas and the heyday of Versailles, which is all rather excitante. He even patissiere’d for King Louis XV, and exiled King of Poland, Stanisław Leszczyński! The current owner, M. Pierre Liénard, is an innovator as well as a protector of tradition, and throws some modern things among the historic pastries the shop is so known for. Like this thyme cake. And like, I can’t ever resist an herbal dessert, ever, so…
It’s two thin layers of chocolate genoise soaked in thyme syrup layered with thyme-infused custard and rich bittersweet chocolate mousse, then dusted with a mossy carpet of cocoa and strewn with thyme leaves. And it’s beautiful. And, despite the recipe seeming superlong most of it is just thorough instructions, and both the cake and the syrup can be made up to 3 days ahead. The mousse is just a whipped ganache, and the custard is straightforward too, making this easy enough that even a baking novice can look like a genius. I can say this from experience, cause I made this forever ago when I was more clumsy in the kitchen than I am now.
Also, I promise this is the last Dorie Greenspan recipe I will post for a huge amount of thyme (haha, get it?).
Chocolate Thyme Cake / Gâteau Chocolat-Thyme
Makes one 8 inch cake; 8 servings.
From Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets, adapted from Pâtisserie Stohrer.
- ½ cup all-purpose flour / 70 g
- ¼ cup dutch-process cocoa powder / 25 g
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled / 45 g
- ¾ cup cold water / 180 g
- ½ cup sugar / 100 g
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme
- ½ cup whole milk / 125 g
- ½ cup heavy cream / 125 g
- ¼ cup sugar / 50 g
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme (or more or less according to your taste)
- 1 ¼ tsps powdered gelatin
- 2 tbsp cold water / 30 g
- 3 large egg yolks
- 3 ½ oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped / 100 g
- 1 cup heavy cream / 25o g
- dutch-process cocoa powder, for dusting (optional)
To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350℉. Butter an 8 x 2 inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a round piece of parchment paper, butter the paper and dust the pan with flour, tapping out excess.
Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda and set aside.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large heatproof bowl and set it over a pan of simmering water. Beat the eggs and sugar together without stop until they are foamy and warm to the touch; about 4 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat and whip until the mixture is cooled and at least doubled in volume; the batter should be thick and fall like a ribbon when the whisk is lifted.
With a large spatula, gently fold in the sifted dry ingredients. When they are incorporated, gently fold in the melted butter.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20 – 22 minutes, or until the cake is springy to the touch. Transfer the cake in it’s pan to a cooling rack for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edges of the cake and invert back onto another rack, then remove the parchment from the bottom and invert again onto the original rack to cool completely, right-side-up. (the cake can be tightly wrapped and kept at room temperature for 3 days, or frozen for 1 month)
To make the syrup: Put the sugar, water and thyme in a small saucepan and stir over high heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and remove from the heat, and cool. Strain out the thyme. (The syrup – minus the thyme sprigs – can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 week)
To make the thyme cream: Put the milk, cream, 2 tbsp of the sugar, and thyme in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and infuse for at least 30-60 minutes.
In a small bowl, add the gelatin over the cold water. When it is absorbed and spongy, heat it for 15 seconds in a microwave, or, set the bowl in slightly larger bowl and pour boiling water around (but not inside) it; set aside to liquify.
Whisk the yolks and remaining 2 tbsp of sugar in a large bowl set on top of a damp towel until light in colour. Heat up the thyme milk and strain into the eggs, whisking all the time. Discard the thyme and pour the liquid back into the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, until it reaches 180℉ / 82℃ (or until it coats the back of a spoon in a layer that leaves a track when you run your finger down it.)
Strain the thyme cream into a clean bowl and add the gelatin, stirring to dissolve. Chill the cream in the fridge, stirring periodically, until it begins to thicken just a bit. Pull it out of the fridge at this point and keep it at room temperature while you make the mousse. (When ready to use, it should be part pourable, part spreadable, like the mousse.)
To make the mousse: Put the chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring a ½ cup of the heavy cream to a fierce boil in a little saucepan and pour it over the chocolate. Wait a minute, then stir to make a glossy ganache. Cool the ganache, stirring periodically over the next 10 to 15 minutes, until it reaches room temperature
Meanwhile, whip the remaining ½ cup of heavy cream in a cold metal bowl to soft peaks. Stir 2 tbsp of the whipped cream into the ganache, then gently fold in the rest.
To assemble: Line the bottom of an 8 inch springform pan with parchment paper. Using a serrated knife, cut a thin slice off the top of the cake to level it. Cut the cake into two layers. Put the bottom cake layer into the ring, cut side up (if needed, trim it to fit), and brush with enough syrup to moisten it very well. Spread the thyme cream evenly over the cake with an offset spatula, going all the way to the edges, then top with the other layer of cake. Soak the second layer with syrup (there may be syrup left over) and top it with the mousse, spreading it smoothly. Chill the cake for at least 2 hours in the fridge. If desired, dust the top with cocoa powder and strewn thyme leaves before un-molding.
If the cake is very cold, let it stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving. Un-mold the cake and transfer it to a serving plate. (The easiest way to un-mold this cake is to warm the sides of the springform pan with a hairdryer or torch before undoing the latch.).
(The cake can be kept in the fridge for 1 day or wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 1 month. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator.)