As part of SFoodie's interview with Chucky Dugo, pastry chef for the Charles Phan restaurant group (read part one here and part two here), we asked Dugo for one of his current favorite recipes. Dugo recently put this dessert on the menu at Wo Hing General Store, answering customers' requests for a cake.
Dugo was kind enough to scale the recipe down to make one sizeable cake instead of the individual portions he serves at the restaurant. Like most professional pastry chefs, he measures ingredients by weight, so you'll need a kitchen scale that measures in grams to make this recipe. If you can't find huckleberries, try fresh or frozen blueberries; make sure to defrost first.
For the Hazelnut-Ricotta Cake
(yields one 10-inch round cake)
250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
250 g white sugar
8 eggs, separated, both whites and yolks at room temperature
250 g hazelnut meal
250 g ricotta cheese
3 Tbsp. lemon zest (preferably zested on a Microplane)
65 g all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 cup crème fraiche, for serving
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat sugar and butter until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well in between each addition.
In a separate bowl, combine gently the hazelnut meal, ricotta cheese, and lemon zest. Add the egg and butter mixture to the ricotta mixture, along with the flour, and fold until well mixed.
In a clean bowl, whip the egg whites with the salt to stiff (though not dry) peaks. In a series of three additions, gently fold the whipped whites into the cake mixture.
Lightly oil a 10-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Pour the batter into the pan and bake in the oven for approximately one hour, or until the center is firm to the touch. Cool at room temperature, then unmold cake by inverting onto a large platter.
For the Huckleberry Compote
1 lb. stemmed huckleberries
3/4 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup apple juice
Lemon juice to taste
Mix the huckleberries, sugar, and apple juice together in a heavy-bottomed, stainless-steel-lined pot. Cook over medium heat until the liquid has reduced to approximately one-third of its original volume. Use a cold plate to test the doneness of the syrup by dropping about 1 tsp. on one side of the plate and rotating the plate so the syrup travels along the inner edge. It will be cool by the time it reaches the opposite side of the plate, giving you an idea of the viscosity when it's cold. It should be like a loose jam.
Cool the compote and taste for finishing, adding just enough lemon juice to brighten the flavors.
To Serve the Cake
Lightly whip the crème fraîche until it forms soft peaks.
Cut the cake into 12 even slices, and top each slice with huckleberry compote and a dollop of the crème fraîche.
The cake can also be stored in the freezer, wrapped well, for up to one month. Allow to come to room temperature to enjoy.