Sour cream cakes are a dime a dozen, but using, German-style quark (a low- or nonfat fresh cheese that tastes like a combination of sour cream, yogurt, and cream cheese) takes this ordinary chocolate cake into the realm of the memorable. It's fudgy, yet slightly easier on your conscience. If you can't find quark, which is available in some supermarkets, you can make this cake with sour cream. Since this is a three-layer cake, plan to serve a lot of people or to have a lot of leftovers. This cake is best eaten the day it's made, though it will hold, covered, for twenty-four to forty-eight hours at room temperature. Do not refrigerate.
Yield: 12 to 15 servings
FOR THE FROSTING
1 1/4 cups heavy cream1 2/3 cups sugar6 1/2 ounces good-quality unsweetened chocolate, such as Scharffen-Berger or Callebaut, finely chopped3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened, cut into tablespoons1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
FOR THE CAKE
1/2 cup boiling water1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process), plus extra for dusting the pans4 ounces high-quality unsweetened chocolate, such as Scharffen-Berger or Callebaut, coarsely chopped1 3/4 cups cake flour6 tablespoons all-purpose flour1/2 teaspoon baking powder1/4 teaspoon salt1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened2 1/2 cups sugar1 whole egg5 large eggs, separated1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract1 cup quark, such as Ellen's Nonfat, stirred until smooth
To make the frosting:
In a medium-size saucepan, heat the cream and sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the chocolate and stir until it is thoroughly melted. Remove from the heat, cover, and let cool for about 10 minutes.
Using an electric mixer, mix the butter on medium-high speed until it is smooth and creamy. Turn the mixer to medium-low and add half of the chocolate mixture along with the vanilla. Mix well. Add the remaining chocolate mixture and mix until smooth and creamy. Set aside until it hardens slightly, to become a spreadable consistency, 1 to 2 hours. (Or, you can refrigerate the frosting for about 30 minutes, or until it becomes thickened and spreadable. Bring it to room temperature before frosting.)
To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Generously grease three 9-inch round cake pans. Cut a piece of waxed paper to fit the bottom of each pan and place inside the pans. Grease the waxed paper, and dust the pans with cocoa powder until well coated. Set aside.
In a small heatproof bowl, pour the boiling water over the 1/2 cup cocoa. Stir until the mixture is very smooth, and set aside to cool.
Melt the chocolate in a double-boiler or in a stainless-steel bowl set over a pan of hot, but not boiling, water. Stir occasionally until smooth. Remove from the heat.
Into a medium-size bowl, sift together both flours, the baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy, about 5 minutes. Add 2 1/4 cups of the sugar and beat until well blended, about 5 minutes. Beat in the whole egg and egg yolks, one at a time. Beat in the cooled cocoa mixture until very smooth, scraping down the sides as you go. Turn the mixer to medium-low and add the melted chocolate, beating until well incorporated. Add the vanilla. Turn the mixer to low and add half the dry ingredients. Then add the quark, mix well, and add the rest of the dry ingredients. Beat until smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes.
In a copper or stainless-steel bowl, and using clean beaters, beat the egg whites at high speed. When frothy, add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue beating until the egg whites form stiff peaks, 5 to 6 minutes.
Using a large rubber spatula, fold about 1 cup of the chocolate mixture into the egg whites. Then gently fold that mixture back into the chocolate mixture, just until the egg whites are well incorporated. Do not overmix.
Distribute the batter evenly among the pans, and bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Do not overbake. Cakes are done when the tops are just beginning to crack and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it. Let cool on a rack for about 15 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and let cool completely on a wire rack.
Place the first layer on a serving plate and frost the top only. Place the second layer on top of the first and frost the top. Repeat with the top layer. Spread the remaining frosting along the sides until the cake is completely covered with frosting. Cut and enjoy!
Source: The New American Cheese by Laura Werlin