for my father – chocolate cake w almond cream filling

for my father – chocolate cake w almond cream filling

I never quite get the story straight about my Dad and his siblings. I grew up knowing aunt number one, two, three, five and six; my Dad being the youngest was number ten. This was where things got confusing—when the histories of numbers seven to nine were vague or nonexistent. The only clear fact – my Dad was the only male in that lineage.

Being the only male in one generation of a Chinese family had its privileges. What I gathered from the conversations around dining table while growing up is that my Dad was definitely the prince. My aunts not only pampered my Dad (but so did his three sons).

We benefited, too. My brothers and I got to attend family gatherings when most of our cousins weren’t invited. We’d get to sit at the VIP tables at family banquets . . . you get the picture.

Though grew up in this fashion, my Dad was not spoiled nor was he a brat about the situation. He was, in my mind, a classic gentlemen—always charming, well mannered, and polite yet very funny. He got my quirky sense of humor, and we always had our moments of laughter, just between us.

My Dad taught me about table manners, both East and West— properly holding chopsticks, correctly picking up a fork and knife, gently laying a napkin on the lap, and never resting elbows on table. Some called him strict, even I did back then, and now I am eternally grateful for learning the basic social skills at an early age. Even at age ten, I have never felt awkward attending formal dinners.

Another trait I took up from my Dad was his appreciation for finer things in life, not necessarily expensive, but an appreciation for fine craftsmanship. It could be a well-made pair of shoes or the luxurious feel of a sweater, as well as a perfect har gow (shrimp dumpling) made with the thinnest translucent dough or the beautiful hand-crafted pastries that he savored with his percolated coffee.

At age twelve, I painstakingly filled crispy chocolate coated cigar-like cookies with almond ice cream. I don’t know how I got that idea in my head, but I didn’t stop until I filled ten of them. I stored them in the freezer until my parents got home and presented them like I just invented sliced bread. My parents loved the treat, but my father really understood how important it was to me. He proudly announced that he wanted to show off my almond chocolate cigars at their upcoming dinner party. I immediately said yes without thinking how much time it would take to fill 3 dozen cookies, but alas, I did it and got high praises from the dinner guests.

For this upcoming Father’s Day, I made individual Chocolate Cakes with Almond Cream Filling, flavors reminiscent of my early culinary moment with my Dad. He taught me so much, yet even with his discipline, he allowed me the freedom to explore. Thank you for recognizing my passion for food and encouraging me. I would gladly spoon ice cream into chocolate cigars again just to see your smile once more.

Chocolate Cake w Almond Cream Filling


Chocolate Cake
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate , chopped
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1-1/4 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 cup (2-1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounces) almond flour
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 16 tablespoons (8 ounces /2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing pans
  • 1-1/2 cups (12 ounces) packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs , room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Almond Cream Filling
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons almond paste
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup (2-3/8 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons Amaretto
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
Chocolate Glaze
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso power
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Chocolate Cake
  • Almond Cream Filling
  • Chocolate Glaze
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted and chopped (for garnish, optional)


Chocolate Cake

1. Adjust oven rack to middle positions and place baking sheet in oven; heat oven to 350℉. Meanwhile, grease six 3-inch x 3-inch high cake pans with butter and line bottom of each pan with parchment paper round. Combine chocolate, cocoa and espresso powder in a 4-cup measuring cup; pour boiling water over and whisk until smooth. Sift together flours, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

2. Place butter in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat at medium-high speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add brown sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stop mixer and scrape down bowl with rubber spatula. Add eggs one at a time, beat until fully incorporated. Reduce speed to medium-low; add sour cream and vanilla and beat until combined, about 45 seconds. Stop mixer and scrape down bowl. With mixer on low, add about one third of flour mixture, followed by about one half of chocolate mixture. Repeat, ending with flour mixture. Remove mixing bowl and finish mixing with a rubber spatula, careful not to overmix.

3. Divide batter evenly among cake pans, smooth batter to edges of pan. Bake until skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 23 minutes. Cool on wire rack 20- 30 minutes. Run knife around pan perimeter to loosen. Invert cakes onto large plate; peel off parchment, and reinvert onto lightly greased rack. Cool completely before icing.

Almond Cream Filling

1. Heat milk and almond paste in small saucepan over medium heat until just simmering and almond paste has dissolved. Whisk yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in bowl until smooth. Remove milk from heat and, slowly add milk to yolk mixture to temper. Whisking constantly, pour tempered yolk mixture back into saucepan. Return saucepan to medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens to consistency of warm pudding, about 4 minutes. Add amaretto and whisk to combine; strain almond cream into a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate until set, at least 40-60 minutes.

2. Using a stand mixer with whisk attachment or a hand mixer, whisk heavy cream to stiff peak. Add almond cream in 3-4 additions, whisk until fully combined. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.

Chocolate Glaze

1. Combine chocolate, espresso powder and salt in a medium bowl, set aside.

2. Warm heavy cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan until just simmer. Pour over chocolate mixture and whisk gently until smooth. Let glaze cool and thicken slightly, about 15 minutes.


1. Hold a cake upside down; using a 2-inch cookie cutter, center the cutter on the bottom of the cake and gently push in, about one inch inward. Pull out cutter with a slight twisting motion. Remove cake from cutter and trim the disc of cake to about 3/4-inch thick. Using a 1-tablespoon measuring spoon or any small spoon, scoop out additional cake; take care not to puncture the sides. Repeat with the rest of the cakes.

2. Transfer Almond Cream Filling to a pastry bag fitted with a plain 1/2-inch tip; pipe filling into the cavity of cake, and cover with the reserved corresponding cake discs. Place cakes on greased cooling rack lined with a baking sheet. Spoon glaze over cakes and let it run down the sides.  Let set for 10 minutes, decorate with chopped almonds.