Queen Mother's Cake
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Toast the almonds in a single layer in a shallow pan for 12 to 15 minutes, shaking the pan a few times, until the almonds are lightly colored and have a delicious smell of toasted almonds when you open the oven door. Set aside to cool.
Raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Adjust a rack 1/3 up in the oven. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 by 3-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with a round of parchment paper that has been cut to fit. Butter the paper. Dust the pan all over with fine, dry bread crumbs, invert over paper, and tap lightly to shake out the excess. Set the prepared pan aside.
Place the chocolate in the top of a small double boiler over warm water on moderate heat. Cover until partially melted, then uncover until and stir until just melted and smooth. Remove the top of the double boiler and set it aside until the chocolate is tepid, or room temperature.
Place the almonds and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a food processor fitted with a metal chopping blade. Process very well until the nuts are fine and powdery. Stop the machine once or twice, scrape down the sides, and continue to process. Process for at least 1 full minute. I have recently realized that the finer the nuts are, the better the cake will be. Set aside the ground nuts.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft. Add 1/4 cup of the sugar and beat to mix. Add the egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating and scraping the side of the bowl as necessary, until smooth. On low speed, add the chocolate and beat until mixed. Then, add the processed almonds and beat, scraping the bowl, until incorporated.
Now the whites should be beaten in the large bowl of the electric mixer. If you don't have an additional large bowl for the mixer, transfer the chocolate mixture to another large bowl. Wash the bowl and the beaters.
In the large bowl of the mixer, with clean beaters, beat the egg whites with the salt and lemon juice, starting on low speed and increasing it gradually. When the whites barely hold a soft shape, reduce the speed a bit and gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Then, on high speed, continue to beat until the whites hold a straight point when the beaters are slowly raised. Do not overbeat.
Stir a large spoonful of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, to soften it a bit. Then, in 3 additions, fold in the remaining whites. Do not fold thoroughly until the last addition and do not handle any more than necessary. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan. Rotate the pan a bit briskly from left to right in order to level the batter.
Bake for 20 minutes, and then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F, and continue to bake for an additional 50 minutes. Do not overbake, the cake should remain soft and moist in the center. (The top might crack a bit - it's O.K.)
Wet and slightly wring out a folded towel and place it on the wet towel. Let stand until tepid, 50 to 60 minutes.
Release and remove the sides of the pan (do not cut around the sides with a knife, it will make the rim of the cake messy). Let the cake stand until it is completely cool. The cake will sink a little in the middle, and the sides will be a little higher. Use a long, thin, sharp knife and cut the top to make level, Brush away the loose crumbs.
Place a rack or a small board over the cake and carefully invert. Remove the bottom of the pan and then paper lining. The cake is now upside down; this is the way it will be iced. Place 4 strips of baking paper (each about 3 by 12-inches) around the edges of a cake plate, With a large, wide spatula carefully transfer the cake to the plate; Check to be sure that the cake is touching the papers all around (in order to keep the icing off the plate when you ice the cake).
If you have a cake-decorating turntable or a lazy susan, place the cake on it. Make the icing.
Stir the icing to mix it, and pour it slowly over the top of the cake, pouring it into the middle. Use a long, narrow metal spatula to smooth the top and spread the icing so that a little of it runs down the sides (not too much, the icing on the sides should be a much thinner layer than the top). With a small, narrow metal spatula, smooth the sides.
Remove the strips of paper by pulling each 1 out toward a narrow end.Icing:
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons powdered instant espresso
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
Scald the cream in a 5 to 6-cup saucepan over moderate heat until it begins to form small bubbles around the edges or a thin skin on top. Add the dry espresso and whisk to dissolve. Add the chocolate and stir occasionally over heat for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk until the chocolate is all melted and the mixture is smooth. Let the icing stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or a little longer, until the icing barely begins to thicken.
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