First of all, let me just tell you, the last year of my life has been, well, absolutely, insanely, and extremely CRAZY! And this last week was no exception. Just to put it into perspective, I’ve had this post about 15 minutes away from being posted since Monday, and well, it’s Saturday and I’m finally having a chance to hit ‘Publish’. A new business opportunity, not a lot of time to assemble, a few stubborn hurdles to overcome, not a lot of sleep……but all worth it. Thank you wonderful husband Ben for being mom and dad this week and helping me get everything done! I am really a lucky gal.
Anyway, on to better things: Food. A few months ago, my friend, Jessica, posted the coolest picture on Facebook: a red and white checkerboard cake. I was intrigued. How in the world? So, I started doing some research and was amazed. What was it? A Joconde Sponge Cake. Its name is derived from the Mona Lisa, and yes, it truly is a work of art!
I’ve never felt like much of an artist when cooking or baking. I’ve been trying to be better at this. I can usually make something taste pretty good, but making it look AND taste fabulous? Well, it’s not always an easy task.
Like I said, this cake just had me obsessed. You see, the design is actually built into the cake itself. You make a decorative paste, lay out your design, freeze the paste to set it until firm, and then pour the “background” on and bake. Then the thin almond sponge cake acts as a wrap around all sorts of good filling – meringue, fruit layers, mousse, whatever you fancy. (For filling ideas, google ‘dacquoise’. Btw, look at me ripping out all these French words! Please don’t make me pronounce them though because I might just embarrass myself.) Anyway, I had to give this joconde a try.
You know, for a first attempt with these mini joconde, I was pretty pleased with the results. I used a mini cheesecake pan and lined each tin with parchment. To keep it simple since I was experimenting, I just filled the cakes with this easy lemony white chocolate mousse and threw some roasted cocoa nibs to top ’em off. After chilling, they were easy to remove by just pushing the bottoms out. Pretty, huh? The biggest issue I had was that a few of the cakes cracked a little bit since I had to wrap them so tight. You have to make sure not to overmix or overbake this cake batter! I tried another bigger cake a few days later and didn’t have any issues with cracking. That one I layered with a round of the chocolate paste that was leftover after making my design (I just spread the leftover paste out on a large sheet, baked it and cut to fit on the bottom) chocolate mousse, a layer of roughly smashed raspberries, and topped off with some white chocolate whipped cream. It was yummy, but maybe a little too rich for me (can’t believe I’m actually saying something was too rich for me, btw.) I don’t think I’ve found my favorite filling combo yet, but there are so many options!
To achieve the stripes on my minis, I used an adhesive spreader that I bought at Home Depot (you can also get one on Amazon here). The second experiment with the larger cake, I piped out a flowery design (similar to this idea at Dolcetto Confections). If you want to do more of a checkerboard like my friend, you can find stencils, or make a stencil of whatever you want! The possibilities are endless!
See the recipe for the cake below, and if you want some great pictures for step-by-step stripes, you can go to this tutorial on Baker’s Royale.
Joconde Imprime Entremet (Decorative Almond Sponge Cake)
Special Tools Needed:
- Adhesive spreader for creating design, decorating comb, stencil, or piping bag and tip
- Silpat or other non-stick silicone mat
- Metal ruler or other straight edge
- Pizza cutter
- Springform cake pan or mini-cheesecake pan bottom release
For the Chocolate Decorating Paste:
- 3/4 cup cake flour sifted
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder sifted
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 stick, softened
- 1 cup confectioner's sugar powdered, sifted
- 4-5 cup egg whites 1/2, room temperature
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Almonde (Joconde) Sponge Cake:
- 3 large egg whites
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup almond flour/meal
- 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar powdered
- 1/2 cup cake flour
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
For the Chocolate Paste:
Important! Any measurements that say 'sifted', should be sifted first, and then measured.
In a medium bowl, sift together cake flour and cocoa powder.
In another bowl, cream together butter and confectioner's sugar with a hand mixer on medium speed (or in a stand mixer) until light and fluffy.
Lower speed to medium low and add egg whites one at a time. Scrape and evenly mix after each addition.
Add vanilla extract.
Add in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
Place non-stick silicone mat on a baking sheet.
If creating striped design: using a spatula, spread chocolate paste evenly on mat to 1/16th inch thickness. Run decorating comb through paste to create desired pattern (straight, diagonal, wavy, etc.)
If creating using a stencil or freehand : Lay stencil over mat. Pipe and/or spread (with a spatula) paste over stencil. Remove stencil.
Place sheet pan in freezer to set paste until firm, about 20 minutes. Paste should be very hard.
For the Joconde Sponge Cake:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
In a clean, dry mixing bowl, beat the egg whites and granulated sugar to firm, glossy peaks. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, sift together almond flour/meal, confectioner's sugar, and cake flour.
Add whole eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition until batter is smooth and light.
Fold in 1/2 of the whipped egg whites into batter, in two additions. (The first addition may seem hard to mix in. Don't worry, it gets easier. Goal is just to try to keep as much fluffiness as possible.)
Fold in melted butter.
Fold in remaining whipped egg whites, trying not to overmix and preserving the fluffiness and lightness of the batter.
Remove your chocolate paste design from freezer. Paste should be very hard.
Spread almond sponge batter evenly over top of paste.
Bake cake for 5-7 minutes, or until sponge color changes slightly and cake bounces back when slightly pressed. Do not overbake! (Overbaking leads to cracking when assembling.)
Remove from oven and cool for about 5 minutes, or until you can handle, but still a little warm. (Do not cool too long so that you can still easily remove from mat.)
Invert cake over onto another cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper.
Slowly and carefully pull back the non-stick mat to reveal the design.
Cut cake to desired form (I recommend using a straight edge metal ruler or other straight edge, and a pizza cutter).
Shape cake to your mold(s). If you are worried about cake sticking, line your molds with parchment/waxed paper around the sides.
Fill with your desired filling(s) and chill until filling is set, usually about 2 hours.
Relish in your masterpiece......then enjoy!
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