Albert Kumin has been described as the dean of American confectioners and a teacher of great pastry chefs – including superstar baker Nick Malgieri. Kumin created desserts for the Four Seasons and Windows on the World in Manhattan as well as for Jimmy Carter’s White House. After reading Albert Kumin’s obituary in the New York Times today, and noting he had not written a cookbook, I searched for his recipes. He was 94 – proof that chocolate is good for you.
The New York Times reported when Kumin was asked to create a successor to the chocolate velvet cake, “he created something he called a chocolate pastry cake: layers of cocoa sponge moistened with orange-liqueur syrup, crisp chocolate pastry and whipped ganache, sprinkled all over with chocolate pastry crumbs.” I could not find the recipe but it is still on the menu at the Four Seasons.
Here a few recipes from his Jimmy Carter White House days:
CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKE (12 to 14 servings)
Sponge Cake: 3/4 pint (6 extra large) whole eggs, room temperature 1/4 pint (6 extra large) egg yolks, room temperature 9 ounces (1 cup plus 3 tablespoons) sugar 6 ounces (1 1/4 cups plus 2 teaspoons) cake flour 2 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons) cocoa powder 1 ounce (2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons) cornstarch 1/8 teaspoon baking soda 1 ounce butter
Whip eggs, egg yolks and sugar until thick and light in color and soft peaks form. Combine dry ingredients and sift together. Melt butter to lukewarm, not hot. Fold dry ingredients into egg-sugar mixture. Then fold in butter. Spoon batter into two 10-inch greased and floured cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, until cake begins to pull away from sides of pan and cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans on racks. Then remove from pans and cool cakes completely on racks. Freeze one cake for later use.
Mousse Filing: 1 pint heavy cream 2 ounces (1/4 cup) orange-flavored liqueur 1 1/4 pounds melted semi-sweet chocolate
Whip the cream until stiff. Melt the chocolate at 100 degrees. (Use a candy thermometer). If it is too hot, the mixture will collapse; if it is too cold, there will be lumps. Fold whipped cream into melted chocolate, working quickly so the chocolate doesn’t lump. Fold in liquer.
Sugar Syrup: 4 ounces (1/2 cup) sugar 1 cup water 1/2 orange rind 2 tablespoons orange-flavored liquer
Boil sugar, water and orange rind until sugar is dissolved, to make simple syrup. Remove from heat; remove orang rind and when mixture is cool, stir in liquer. (There is enough syrup for more than two cakes. It keeps in the refrigerator.)
Cut cake into three thin layers. Brush the syrup on each layer with paint brush. Place one layer on plate; cover with mousse filling; top with seconc layer; spoon on more mousse filing; top with third layer. Cover sides and top with mousse. Place in the erfrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes to set. Will keep for one to two days in refrigerator.
PECAN DIAMONDS (About 6 dozen)
1 pound (3 1/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons) flour 11 ounces (1 cup plus 6 tablespoons) butter 6 ounces (3/4 cup) sugar Pinch baking powder 3 eggs
Cream butter and sugar until light. Beat in eggs. Beat in flour to form cookie dough. Divide dough in half. Pat each half into bottom and one inch up sides of 11 by 7 by 1 1/2 inch baking pan. Bake at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes, until dough is light golden and it begins to firm up. Set aside.
Filling: 1/2 pound butter 6 ounces (3/4 cup) dark brown sugar 3 ounces (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) granulated sugar 6 ounces (3/4 cup) honey 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) heavy cream 1 pound pecan pieces
Melt the butter; stir in the sugars and honey. Bring to boil. Cook 2 1/2 minutes. Add the cream; return to boil and remove from heat. Fold in the pecan pieces. Spoon over cookie dough. Place pan on top of a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees about 24 to 28 minutes.Remove from oven and cool in pan. Cut into diamond between 3/4 and 1 inch long.
This is best if made a day or two ahead.