Saturday, December 23, 2017

Bolo de Bolacha {Cookie Cake}

Traditions are a funny thing. You spend your childhood blissfully unaware of the rest of the world, thinking what goes on in your house is no different than anywhere else. You get a little older, and the world gets a little bigger. Some of the small things you dismissed as, "just part of another holiday" become more special.... like this cake.

Bolo de Bolacha (which translates to "Cookie Cake") was a dessert made only around Christmas. It's a Portuguese classic and very similar to the Salame de Chocolate that I posted a few years back. I absolutely loved this cake as a kid. The texture is smooth and the flavor is simply delicious. It's incredibly basic in theory but the ingredients work together perfectly.

This "cake" is actually nothing more than stacks of cookies (Bolacha Maria) held together with frosting and coated in slivered, toasted almonds. In theory, you could use any frosting as the binding agent. We always used chocolate frosting - but not just any chocolate frosting! What I realized as an adult making this cake myself, this chocolate frosting is old school. It has a special gloss to it which is achieved through raw egg yolks. That's right. Raw. 

If that makes your nose crinkle with concern (heaven forbid someone gets salmonella), you have options. Option 1: use a different chocolate frosting that's not overly sweet, like an Italian Chocolate Buttercream. Option 2: find pasteurized eggs. This isn't the easiest task to accomplish so call your grocery store first before making the trip. We My poor determined husband was lucky enough to find some at Harris Teeter (thank you so much, meu amor).

The rest is straightforward! The end result is a silky confection that balances chocolate with a touch of coffee. The key ingredient, in my humble opinion, is the toasted almonds. I actually make extra and sprinkle them onto of my slice of cake. It's real. My husband, on the other hand, loves the actual cookie layer which softens as the cake sits.

There are different versions of this recipe out there on the internet - some use condensed milk and others add melted chocolate. It's nice to know that even with shared traditions, each is still unique! I hope you enjoy this Bolo de Bolacha! Obridgada!

Bolo de Bolacha
This recipe is slightly modified from a hand-written original. Special thanks to the Duartes and my Mom!

250 grams of Bolacha Maria - Torrada* (recommend the Triunfo Brand) or 42 cookies (2 sleeves)
1 cup strong coffee or espresso, room temperature (sweeten with sugar to taste, optional)

300 grams slivered almonds, toasted
6 chocolate covered espresso beans or almonds, optional

300 grams powdered sugar**
500 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder, optional
6 egg yolks***
3-5 tablespoons unsweetened chocolate powder, to taste

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat unsalted butter with powdered sugar until smooth and airy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add unsweetened chocolate powder to taste and instant espresso (optional) powder. Mix well. On low speed, add one egg yolk at a time, mixing until each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next one. Fold in the vanilla extract.

Using an off-set spatula or knife, smear the back of a cookie with frosting and set dead-center of the cake plate, using the frosting as the glue. Repeat with the other cookies, working around the center cookie to create a "floral" pattern.

Brush the top of these cookies with the coffee, using just enough to let the cookie soak it in (I did a double coat of coffee).

To build up the rest of the layers, add the remaining frosting to a piping bag and create a thin, even layer on top of the placed cookies. It's important to keep the layers thin so it's not overly sweet! Stack more cookies and brush with more coffee. Repeat until all cookies are gone.

Coat the entire exterior of the cake with frosting and smooth over with off-set spatula. I found the piping big helped get to some of hard to reach places.

Take half of the toasted, sliced almonds and lightly chop - does not have to be even. Mix back in with the full slices of almond. Press almond mix on the slides of the cake, coating as even as possible. It doesn't have to be perfect.

Optional - use a 1M or star tip to pipe a swirl on each "petal" of the cake then adorn with a chocolate covered espresso bean or almond.

Set in the fridge for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight. Serve chilled with a cup of coffee!

* The cookies used in the recipe should say "torrada" on the label which means toasted. They're a little firmer than the usual variety so they absorb the coffee better. I couldn't find these at the Portuguese store in VA so I toasted them myself for about 15 minutes at 250F in the oven. This step  is not necessary.

** You can use granulated sugar but the texture will be a touch grainy. 

***  I grew up eating this cake with no clue there were uncooked egg yolks in the frosting. If this makes you uncomfortable, be sure to use pasteurized eggs. I found some (Davidonson's Eggs) at Harris Teeter.