Sometimes I am amazed by my own ingenuity, which may also border on weirdness. I had leftover eggplant (aubergine) and was wondering what to do with it, being weary of the usual eggplant pastas, eggplant stews and eggplant casseroles. How about… eggplant for desserts?
So maybe this is not a groundbreaking idea; the Italians have Melanzane al Cioccolato or Eggplant with Ricotta and Chocolate. This dessert consists of thin slices of eggplant being pan-fried then coated with cinnamon sugar, layered with sweetened ricotta and chocolate, then topped with almond flakes. On hindsight, eggplant has certain characteristics that imbues it with dessert course possibilities. While plain eggplant is bland, it metamorphosizes into a sweet smoky gooey mess when roasted, the classic flavor associated with baba ghanoush. After some brainstorming, I came up with an idea for a dense and deeply dark rich chocolate cake (torte) wherein roasted eggplants and banana would replace the copious butter and eggs.
However I think a good chocolate cake should have at least two dimensions going on to provide a contrast in flavours and to add curiosity to the palate. For example chocolate mole has chili for spiciness and berries in chocolate add a vibrant fruity twang. With apricots in season, I thought I turned them into a bright zesty apricot gelee to bring a stark contrast to the dark chocolate torte, both visually and in flavour.
This was my first time attempting a layered cake and it wasn’t that daunting after all, except that it requires more patience for the different layers to set. I was really excited to see the cake rise proudly like a souffle in the oven, but as it deflated out of the oven, so did my hopes fall with it. However, I later learnt that this is normal of tortes because of the lack of gluten to trap air. So if you get a sunken crater-like crackly top, do not be disheartened because this is indeed what it should be – a cake so dense with chocolate that it can’t even support it own weight. Indeed, a sign of promising things to come 😉
Also, be aware that you’ll need to let the torte cool for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator before you slice it and pour in the gelee because it is much easier and cleaner to slice a cold cake. No nasty crumbs falling out! The gelee itself takes another few hours to completely set, so be prepared to devote half a day to making this cake.
It was agonizing to do the photo-taking because all I wanted to do was sink my teeth into this torte. There wasn’t neither a hint of eggplant or banana at all, though I supposed they helped keep the cake superbly moist. The apricot layer was a delight, cutting through the rich fudge and bringing the cake alive. The texture of the gelee could probably do with some tweaking; I found it slightly too soft. Also, I think I would add more lime/lemon juice and zest and do away with the honey in the gelee because the apricots themselves were so naturally sweet it would be nicer for a more punchy zest flavour.
- For the Chocolate Torte
- 1/2 eggplant, roasted (76 g puree, see Notes)
- 80 g good quality dark vegan chocolate, broken into chunks (I used Green & Black's 85%)
- Heaping 1 tablespoon cacao powder
- Heaping 2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour or ground almonds for gluten-free)
- 1/2 large ripe banana (70 g), sliced into chunks
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- Pinch sea salt
- For the Apricot Gelee
- 1/2 cup apricots, skins removed (~1/3 cup or 70 g puree from 4 apricots)
- Heaping 1/4 teaspoon agar powder
- 4 teaspoons water
- 1/2 lime or 1-2 slices of lemon
- 1/2 tablespoon honey
- 2 apricots, sliced
- 1 lime or 1-2 slices of lemon
- Pre-heat oven to 400°F/200°C. Line a 4-inch spring-form pan with baking paper and lightly grease the sides with oil.
- Using the food processor. puree the roasted eggplant and banana. You could also manually mash them.
- Place the puree and chocolate chunks into a ceramic bowl set over a pan of simmering water to melt the chocolate. Stir often until the chocolate is melted and combined with the eggplant and banana. Stir in honey.
- Sift together the cocoa, flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl.
- Stir the melted chocolate mixture into the cocoa mixture until just combined. The batter should be fairly thick.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
- When you remove the torte from the oven it will have puffed up and deflated, but do not be alarmed. Allow the torte to cool in the tin for a couple of hours, then place into the fridge.
- Remove the cake from the fridge and slice into two halves. Set aside.
- Make the apricot puree. To remove the apricot skins easily, blanched them in boiling water for a few (3-4) minutes then immediately transfer to a bowl of ice-cold water. The skins should slip off easily.
- Puree the apricots in a food processor then transfer to a bowl. Alternatively you can mash them manually. Squeeze the lime or lemon into the apricot puree to prevent browning.
- Next prepare the agar mix. Bring a kettle of water to a boil. In a small bowl mix honey with boiling water. When the honey just about dissolves, add the agar powder and stir until the agar has completely melted and the mixture thickens. You may microwave the mixture briefly in 5-second pulses to thicken it.
- Pour the agar mix into apricot puree, stirring well to combine.
- Place one half of the cake back into the springform pan, pour the apricot gelee over, then sandwich with the second layer of cake. Return the cake to the fridge to allow the gelee layer to set. This will take 2-3 hours.
- Remove the cake from the pan. Using a palette knife, run over the sides of the cake to scrap away any excess gelee that is sticking out. Also, if the top of the cake is uneven (eg. sunken), slice away the top to create an even layer.
- Cut about 2 apricots into slices and squeeze lime or lemon juice over to prevent browning. Arrange the slices on the top of the cake in concentric circles, starting with the outer layer.
- Admire your work of art, serve and enjoy! (Best enjoyed after about 10 minutes out of the refrigerator.)
I would go so far to claim that this vegan Dark Chocolate Apricot Torte would please the most chocoholic of chocoholics, and even melt the hearts of the stoniest carnivore. So even if I’m not the first to use eggplants in desserts, I am still amazed by my own ingenuity to make an eggplant torte. Black bean brownies are passe; try this torte!