Makes 12 servings
This big-deal cake can be made a day ahead.
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 7-ounce packages almond paste,* crumbled into 1-inch pieces
7 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 teaspoons almond extract
1 cup sugar
2 cups whole almonds, toasted
1 1/2 8-ounce containers mascarpone cheese**
1 1/2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
*Available in the baking section of most supermarkets and at specialty foods stores. **Italian cream cheese; available at many supermarkets and Italian markets.
For ganache filling:
Simmer cream and sugar in medium saucepan, stirring to
dissolve sugar. Add chocolate; whisk until smooth. Chill until just
spreadable, about 6 hours.
For almond cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter three 9-inch-diameter cake
pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Line bottoms with parchment paper;
dust pans with flour. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in bowl.
Using heavy-duty mixer, blend brown sugar and butter in large bowl. Beat
in almond paste 1 piece at a time, then beat until smooth. Add eggs 1
at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in extracts. Fold in
dry ingredients. Divide batter among pans; smooth tops. Bake cakes until
tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool
cakes in pans on rack.
For almond praline:
Line baking sheet with foil. Stir sugar and 1/4 cup
water in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar
dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring until deep amber,
swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush occasionally.
Mix in nuts. Pour onto foil; cool. Peel foil off praline. Chop praline
coarsely. DO AHEAD Praline can be made 1 day ahead; store airtight at room temperature.
For mascarpone frosting:
Beat all ingredients in large bowl just to soft peaks (do not overbeat or mixture will curdle).
Run knife around pan sides to loosen cakes. Turn cakes
out; peel off paper. Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread half of
ganache over; sprinkle with 1/4 cup praline. Top with second cake layer.
Spread remaining ganache over; sprinkle with 1/4 cup praline. Top with
third cake layer. Spread frosting over top and sides of cake. DO AHEAD Cake can be made 1 day ahead; cover with cake dome and chill. Store remaining praline airtight at room temperature.
For chocolate bark:
Line baking sheet with foil. Melt chocolate in small
bowl set over saucepan of simmering water. Stir until smooth. Remove
from over water. Drizzle all but 1 tablespoon chocolate over foil in
thick (about 1-inch-wide) zigzag lines (chocolate will pool in spots).
Sprinkle 3 tablespoons praline over chocolate; chill bark until firm,
about 1 hour.
Press praline around bottom 2 inches of cake; sprinkle
more atop. Peel foil off bark; break into pieces. Press edges into
frosting atop cake. Remelt 1 tablespoon chocolate over simmering water,
stirring often. Using spoon, drizzle chocolate over cake. DO AHEAD Chill up to 4 hours. Serve cold or at room temperature.