Saturday, April 4, 2009

Sweet Revenge - Trüffeltorte (Chocolate Truffle Cake)

Trüffeltorte (Austrian Chocolate Truffle Cake)

"Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." Congreve knew it. Euripedes knew it. Dickens knew it, too. And while Congreve and Euripedes set their themes to blood, Dickens worked his words around a cake. A wedding cake, specifically, "a bride-cake," as Miss Havisham called it. Her cake. While the Great Expectations of Dickens' novel belong to Phillip Pirip (Pip), Miss Havisham, one of the greatest and most grotesque eccentric characters in all English literature, once had her own high hopes, too.

Betrothed later in life, and jilted by a man only hours before they were to be married, Miss Havisham is frozen in time to the exact minute she receives word that her heart has been betrayed and her fortune swindled. She becomes a haunted and embittered figure, an intractable, long-suffering and self-pitying martyr ensconced in a dark and dank estate, shrouded in the faded, yellowed lace of her wedding gown, a permanent fixture hanging from her withered form. Her soul is as rotted as the ruins of her wedding cake, a fortress of foul decrepitude, inhabited by creatures more familiar feeding on carrion than sweetmeats.

It is within the claustrophobic confines of this vile and bankrupt world that young Pip falls in love with Estella, Miss Havisham's beautiful and imperious young ward. The girl has been tutored well in the art of cruelty, learned at her benefactress' knee, ensnaring poor Pip to inevitable heartbreak. Miss Havisham, exploiting Estella as an instrument for her revenge, exacts a savage toll. Though she can vicariously gloat over the poisons she injects in others, she has emotionally sterilized Estella beyond any hope for her to live happily in love with anyone. There is eventual horror and guilt for the havoc she wrecks in others' lives, but it is too late for tears.

Miss Havisham would never have countenanced the cake I've baked; a chocolate wedding cake would have been a reckless violation of Victorian custom. But chocolate might have been a small comfort to her, and certainly a lot sweeter than the dark vengeance she sought.

Trüffeltorte (Austrian Chocolate Truffle Cake)
Trüffeltorte (Austrian Chocolate Truffle Cake) - From the Demel recipe via Saveur. With the exception of replacing the rum with brandy for the syrup, I have made no other changes to the recipe and did not rewrite it. You can find the recipe through the Saveur link.

Wedding Cake Server and Knife

Simona of Briciole, and Lisa of Champaigne Taste, co-hosts of Novel Food - Spring 2009, the quarterly celebration of what is eaten and drunk in the pages that we read.

Thanks to all who voted on which cake I would bake for this event. It was great fun. The choices were nut, fruit or chocolate. The results: Nut 6; Fruit 12; and Chocolate 16. Of course, chocolate won. Silly me.


  1. Wow, looks amazing! This could be thoroughly enjoyed will watching or reading one of the classics, I think! A good excuse for another slice :)

  2. I loved this post and not just for that amazing looking cake. Well done and an fine entry.

  3. What a stunning cake! And of course chocolate would win, hands down! I imagine Miss Havisham would have to crack a smile for this one. :)

  4. You know that I love your photography and the set of photos in this post are all gorgeous. I can't get enough of the one with lace. Miss Havisham is an unforgettable character and you describe her beautifully. The cake is a true feast for the eyes. Thank you so much for participating.

  5. What a descriptively, rich context you give to this exquisite cake. How perfectly formed! And I'm all for swapping out swapping out rum for brandy, which works better with dark chocolate, if you ask me. Vengeance exacted!

  6. mmmm... would love a piece of this but to have a whole cake like this around would be dangerous - it looks so pretty and so heavenly

  7. Beautiful post, Susan. Makes me want to re-read Great Expectations. And that cake? Wow.

  8. An absolutely gorgeous cake—magnificent! And, as always, a beautifully written, imaginative post. Thank you for taking part in Novel Food!

  9. It is SUCH a beautiful cake! I'm surely going to try this for a special occasion.

  10. What a stunner Susan! I could sit here all day , look at those wonderful photographs & satisfy myself. I should take some lessons in baking & photography..

  11. I would have figured the vote would be unanimous for chocolate!

    Your photographs are amazing by the way. Amazing.

    Casual Kitchen

  12. These look too amazing for words!

  13. The Austrians really know their chocolate cakes. The sachertorte is my favorite chocolate cake. Haven't tried this one yet, though.

  14. woah! Love the close up shot Susan, and the symmetry ... looks really delectable too ^^

  15. Susan, you've made me want to read Great Expectations again. Haven't read it since high school! The cake is also very tempting... I'll have to find an excuse to make and share it. ;)

  16. Excellent choice Susan! And such a well written post.

  17. Lovely writing! And we're glad you made this cake, and not Dickens, for who knows how many other bitternesses he would have it represent!

  18. that defenitely is a sweet revenge!!!!

  19. I believe "swoon" would be the word used back in Dickens' day to describe my response to your cake. (Drool would be in there, too, but not discussed.)

    If Miss Havisham was too embedded in her own darkness to appreciate the richness of this chocolate cake - well then, more for the rest of us!

  20. beautiful post, beautiful cake, beautiful pictures.

  21. Whata a beautifully written 7 engaging post Susan. Enjoyed it thoroughly; the cake & pictures are breathtakingly GORGEOUS!! Glad the vote went for chocolate! Hat's off to you!

  22. That's a fantastic description of Great Expectations. And that is a cake to die for. :)

  23. Of course, chocolate had to win and I'm glad for one.
    As for Miss Havisham, this chocolate cake doesn't belong to her world, that's for sure.

  24. Yum! This cake looks amazing - so chocolaty - the way our family loves cakes:)

  25. Gorgeous looking cake.

    Happy Easter to you and your husband Susan!
    Lori Lynn

  26. Hey, Susan, were you run down by the Easter's been a while.

  27. Can't resist!! This chocolate truffle cake looks so good !

  28. Holler - Thanks. I think the David Lean film is excellent to sink one's teeth into, so to speak.

    Dragon - Thank you so much. : )

    Ricki - Thanks. Yes, Miss H would crack a smile, if only for a moment.

    Thank you, dear Simona. I am happy to participate. You know how I love your Novel Food event.

    Dear Shaun - So good to see you here. You are missed. The cake, I must say, was a genius of design. It was perfectly formed. And I have always favored chocolate with brandy or whiskey; rum is better served to enhance fruit and savarins.

    Johanna - Thanks, sweets. Yes, a dangerous cake to have around, though I do not bake so extravagantly as a rule.

    Lisa - Thanks, dear girl.

    A and N - Thank you. Yes, much work, and definitely warranted to special occasions.

    Thanks, Soma. You know, looking at the cake is far less damaging than actually baking it (an elaborate undertaking), and then all the temptation of it sitting pretty on the counter. ; )

    Daniel - Oh, aye, chocolate first, last and always. ; )

    Thank you, dear Maris.

    Jude - I haven't yet baked a Sachertorte, but I do know how lush and wonderful it is. The Austrians do have a way with indulgent sweets.

    Wiffy - Thank you so!

    Thanks, Ruhama! "Great Expectations" is probably my favorite Dickens. It certainly bears repeated reading. What did we know of the finest English lit when we were so very young, as much as we enjoyed it?

    Thank you, Sra. Dickens was a character, as much as the characters he fleshed out in his novels.

    Superchef - Women didn't know how to live without men in that day. : |

    Toni - I vote for "drool." Thanks so much.

    Thank you very much, Bee.

    Deeba - So good to see you here. Thank you very much!

    Thank you, Adele. Good to see you. I almost died making it....but only b/c I was under the clock. ; )

    Aparna - You knew it, girl! Happy? ; }

    Thank you, Kevin. : )

    Farida - Thank you. So very good to see you here.

    Lori Lynn - Thank you very much, dear girl.

    Dani - Welcome! Thanks very much! Very glad for your visit.

    Thank you, Sha! I appreciate your visit! Welcome!

  29. Wow, what a beauty! This torte must taste heavenly!



  30. Awesome looking cake.. great clicks..

    I have nominated u for the "I love your blog" award. Do check my blog


  31. Hi Susan, You have an amazing blog here...wonderful recipes and fantastic pictures.

  32. MMMMM....Excellent torte!! Rich, decadent & delicious!! OOOOOHHH YES!