Chocolate cake perfection once was mine. Then I lost the recipe.
Eventually, I came across an almost-perfect replacement. Still, I looked, longed, lamented. Some day, I thought, I’d stumble on the right crumple and again achieve perfection.
The true heroine, studying this storyline, scoffs. The hunter doesn’t stumble on her prey. She stalks, snags and spears it. What slacker comic strip was I following?
So scolded, I dropped the search in favor of research. I recalibrated the cacao, vanilla and flour. I added a bourbon punch and sprinkled on a praline crunch. The new cake, like the old, remains dark and dense, but it edges one light step closer to perfection.
REVISED CHOCOLATE CAKE
Prep: 30 minutes. Bake: 32 minutes, plus time to set. Makes 12 servings
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60 percent cacao)
2 ounces milk chocolate
11 tablespoons unsalted butter
3⁄4 cup sugar
5 eggs, separated
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
1⁄2 cup sifted flour
Chocolate glaze, see recipe
Praline crumble, see recipe
1. Melt: Zap or heat both types of chocolate, the butter and ½ cup sugar.
2. Mix: Whisk in egg yolks and vanilla seeds. Whisk in flour.
3. Fluff: Beat egg whites in a separate bowl with remaining ¼ cup sugar to glossy peaks.
4. Fold: Stir one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate batter. Gently and thoroughly fold in remaining whites.
5. Bake: Pour batter into a 9-inch spring-form pan. Slide into a 350-degree oven and bake until the cake is springy, about 32 minutes. Cool completely. Release cake and invert onto a 9-inch cardboard or cake-pan round.
6. Glaze: Set cake (on its round) on a wire rack. Set rack over a rimmed baking sheet, to catch drips. Pour all the warm glaze into a big puddle on top. With an offset spatula, nudge glaze toward the edges and let it drip down the sides. Sprinkle with praline. Let set at least 20 minutes.
Chop 4 ounces semisweet chocolate and tumble into a medium bowl. Heat 1⁄2 cup heavy cream to boiling; pour cream over chocolate. Let rest 5 minutes. Gently stir smooth. Stir in 1 tablespoon pecan bourbon, optional.
Stir 6 tablespoons sugar, 1⁄4 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons water together in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Let bubble without stirring until syrup starts to color, 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; stir to a light brown, 1 minute. Stir in 1 cup toasted pecans. Scrape nuts onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Let cool. Slide candied nuts into the food processor; pulse to a rubble.