It's not you, it's me

Are we close enough that I can be straight with you?

I didn't love this cake. I loved the name of the cake (chocolate tweed angel food cake), the idea of the cake, the photo of the cake in Rose Levy Beranbaum's lovely cookbook—but not the cake itself. How's that for an introduction?

Wait, before you go, let me explain. Chocolate tweed angel food cake wasn't my thing, but maybe it's yours. The recipe's great and, if you follow it to the letter, you too will arrive at a fluffy white cake speckled with chocolate and decked out in chocolate-almond tweed.

I think people who like cream puffs (ugh), for example, would be fans of this cake. Yeah, I could see that happening. Me? I just wanted to scrape off the whipped cream frosting, dump something fruity and flavourful—like strawberries—on top, and call it a shortcake.

Mmmm. Shortcake.

Chocolate Tweed Angel Food Cake

1 1/2 cups superfine sugar (or regular sugar whizzed in a food processor)
1 cup cake flour, sifted into the cup and leveled off
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 large egg whites, at room temperature (~2 cups)
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chilled and finely grated, then refrigerated

Chocolate-Spangled Whipped Cream:
2 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chilled and finely grated, then refrigerated
1/2 cup finely ground almonds, preferably toasted before grinding

Find a 10-inch (16-cup) two-piece metal tube pan and something that you can invert the pan on once the cake is cooked (e.g., a glass or wine bottle that can either hold or fit inside the centre of the pan). Or maybe your pan will have built-in pieces to prop the cake on its head, like this one. In any case, get it together.

Move your oven rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small bowl, whisk together half the sugar, the flour and the salt. Sift the remaining sugar onto a piece of wax paper.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar. Raise the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Gradually beat in the sifted sugar and continue beating on medium-high speed until very stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly. Beat in the vanilla until combined.

Lightly sprinkle the flour mixture over the beaten egg whites, 1/4 cup at a time. Use a large balloon whisk or silicone spatula to fold in the flour mixture quickly but gently. Fold in the grated chocolate until evenly incorporated.

Spread a thin layer of batter onto the sides of the ungreased pan to help ensure a smooth surface, then empty the rest of the batter into the pan. Run a knife through the batter to prevent air pockets and then smooth the top.

Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown, a wire cake tester inserted between the tube and the side comes out clean, and the cake springs back when lightly pressed in the centre. Don't be alarmed if the cake rises, then sinks, and ends up with deep cracks on top.

Remove the cake from the oven and immediately turn it upside down, as described above. Cool completely in the pan (about 1 1/2 hours). Carefully loosen the cake from the pan and allow it to sit at room temperature until the top is no longer tacky.

You can store the cake, covered, for up to 3 days at room temperature or 10 days in the refrigerator.

For the frosting, whip the cream and sugar in a large bowl on low speed. Gradually increase the speed to medium-high as the mixture thickens. When you begin to see the traces of beater marks, add the vanilla. Continue whipping until the cream mounds softly when dropped from a spoon. Gently fold in the chocolate and almonds with a silicone spatula.

Rose recommends slicing the cake into 3 layers, with frosting between each and covering the cake. I went with 2 layers instead.

Source: Rose's Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum.