Elegant cakes wrap up holiday dinners while trimming fat

December 16, 1992|By Steven Raichlen | Steven Raichlen,Contributing Writer/United Feature Syndicate

Back in the B.C. (Before Cholesterol) era, whenever I was planning a grand dessert, I thought nothing of adding a pint of heavy cream, a pound of butter and a dozen eggs to the grocery list. Having received my culinary training in France in the '70s, I had developed a heavy hand. Today, those desserts seem incompatible with sensible eating. But when family and friends are gathered for a holiday feast, a fruit cup, however sensible, just isn't a sufficiently grand finale.

Over the past few years, I have incorporated several fat-cutting techniques into my repertoire. The results are desserts that are splendid, celebratory and low in fat. At first glance, these recipes might appear a little complicated, but they comprise simple steps, many of which can be done ahead of time.

@Cassata Siciliana Serves 8.

CASSATA

TC 1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup chopped mixed candied fruit (citron, lemon peel, orange peel, pineapple and/or cherries)

1 ounce semisweet chocolate, chopped

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 10-ounce angel food cake (homemade or store-bought)

1/4 cup dark rum

CHOCOLATE SAUCE

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup light or dark corn syrup

1/3 cup low-fat milk

2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

To make cassata: Line a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan with plastic wrap. I a medium-sized bowl, whisk together ricotta and sugar. Stir in candied fruit, chocolate and lemon zest. Slice angel food cake with a serrated knife into 1/2 -inch-thick slices. Use the largest slice to line the bottom of the loaf pan, filling in with small pieces if necessary. Brush with 1/3 of the rum. Spread with 1/2 the ricotta filling. Arrange a second layer of cake slices on top, brush with 1/2 the remaining rum and spread the remaining filling over top. Arrange remaining slices over top and brush with remaining rum. Cover with plastic wrap and weigh down with another loaf pan and a heavy weight or can. Refrigerate overnight.

For chocolate sauce, combine cocoa, cornstarch and sugar in a small, heavy saucepan. Gradually whisk in corn syrup and milk. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla and oil. Cool and serve at room temperature or chilled. (Prepared ahead, the sauce can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.)

To serve: Invert the loaf pan onto a serving dish. Remove plastic wrap. Slice and serve with chocolate sauce.

Eggnog angel food cake Serves 12.

1 cup sifted cake flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground mace

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon salt

12 large egg whites, at room temperature

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

confectioners' sugar for dusting

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour with 1/2 cup sugar, spices and salt. Place egg whites in a large bowl and beat until frothy. Add cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining sugar and vanilla: beat until stiff peaks form. Do not overbeat.

Sift the flour mixture over the beaten egg whites in 3 parts, folding in gently after each sifting. Pour batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Smooth the top and run a small knife or spatula through the batter to remove any air pockets.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean and the top springs back when touched lightly. Invert the pan over the neck of a bottle and let cool completely. With a knife, loosen the edges of the cake and invert onto a cake plate. Dust with confectioners' sugar and slice.

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