When I first saw the front cover of 'The Joy of Chocolate', my first two thoughts were "Who wants chocolate cabbage?" and "How did they do that?". I've made this 3 or 4 times for my wife's birthday, and was excited when I saw this contest. This is my version of The Chocolate Cabbage.
Step 1: It's All in the Cabbage and the Chocolate
When you choose the cabbage leaves, you want the outer leaves. Inner leaves tend to be too small or too cupped or rounded. Choose ones clean and without holes and tears.
Good chocolate goes without saying. I chose a Scharffen Berger with 62%. Choose hersheys at your own risk.
Step 2: Sponge Cake--the Core of the Cabbage
This is sponge cake in a bowl. Again, I'm not going into the details of the sponge cake. Sponge cake is sponge cake--usually. Interestingly enough, the recipie that came in 'The Joy of Chocolate' never worked for me. I pulled one off the internet, and for the first time it worked great. Let it cool thoroughly. I was impatient and the bottom squished. You need 2 oven worthy mixing bowls about 8" across that hold about 2.5 quarts. If you like scoop out a hollow spot add jam or whipped cream to the crumbs, put them back in, and put on the top.
Step 3: Temper You Chocolate
I won't go into all the details of tempering, but let me tell you, it's absolutely necessary. I've been lazy in the past and didn't temper. You do get chocolate cabbage leaves, but it doesn't look as good, and it doesn't taste as good. Tempering also makes the rest of the process easier. Take my word for it and go look at a tempering instructible.
Step 4: Spread the Love--and the Chocolate
Take your tempered chocolate and spread it on a leaf. Use a pastry brush or a spoon, but not your finger cause you'll eat it all and won't have any left. Make it not too thin or it'll break. Make it not too thick or you'll use too much chocolate and not have any left over for you. Make it like Godilocks and make it just right. How much is just right? Practice makes perfect. Or pull out your micrometer and try to measure oozing chocolate to 3/32.
Take into account what side you want to show. Most of the chocolate leaves you will see on the outside, so put the chocolate on the inside of the cabbage leaf. You want a few chocolate leaves that show on the inside, so cover the inside of these cabbage leaves.
Also in general, you want rounded chocolate leaves. Drape the coated cabbage leaves over and upside-down bowl or push them gently into the bowl depending on which way you want the leaf to bend.
When the leaf is coated, put it on a cookie sheet with wax paper and put it in the fridge. Wait about 8 minutes and then when you remember what you forgot, pull them out.
This is the fun part. Start at the tip of the leaf and pull the cabbage away from the chocolate. Take it nice and easy. You might think that the thick part at the bottom will break, but usually it won't.
Step 5: Just This One Last Step
We realized that the cake was really too fat to resemble a cabbage so we did a little liposuction. We cut off the edges of the cake and then put them between the two layers thus making the cake thinner and taller. Even modern medicine can't do that!
Do a dry run with your chocolate leaves. Break parts off if they're too tall for the sponge core like mine were. I tried a hair dryer to shape some leaves to fit better with mixed results. You're never quite sure how the leaf will droop. Also the dryer caused the chocolate to miscolor. You can see a little bit in the picture.
The leaves are held on mostly by gravity, but also by a glaze. Something else to look up somewhere else. Glaze is like an icing that will firm up as it cools and hold the leaves to the cake. If you feel really good, glaze the whole cake and add the leaves. I glazed a bit at a time and added one, sometimes two, leaves. Add the bottom and top leaves before the middle. The top is made of broken pieces of leaves to form the tip of the cabbage. These are overlapped by the larger middle leaves.
That's 'all' there is to it. As you can see, there's a lot you can do wrong and it still looks impressive. This is really my best cabbage cake yet, but my wife and my kids were still impressed in the past that I was crazy enough to try. Enjoy your efforts.