chocolate cake, almond, ganache, julia child, downton abbey

Chocolate Almond Cake with Sour Cream Icing

November 19, 2012

I will admit that I was pretty late to this party. I missed the entire first season of the PBS ‘Masterpiece Theatre’ series called Downton Abbey, the story of a manor house in England during the Edwardian period that tells the tales of the people who live inside both the ‘upstairs’ and the ‘downstairs’ signifying the upper class residents and their servants. I started watching about 3 episodes into last year’s series and actually chose to stop watching at that time because I had missed so much of the story line. I waited until I was able to watch the first two seasons in their entirety with the help of Netflix and Hulu. Now I’m ready for Season Three!

Heading into Season Three, the First World War is over, but intrigue, crisis, romance, and change still grip the beloved estate of Downton Abbey. Season Three starts in the states on January 6, 2013 on your local PBS channel. Joining the cast this season is the veteran American actress Shirley MacLaine.  Series three begins with MacLaine’s arrival at Downton days before the wedding of Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley. She immediately riles the Dowager Countess of Grantham (Dame Maggie Smith) with her straight-talking American ways. Go Shirley!

Julian Fellowes, creator of the show, said it was a treat to see the two veteran actresses on screen together. “They punch at equal weight. When they’re onscreen, you want to look at them both. We were lucky enough to get Shirley Maclaine and the whole thing goes off like a firecracker,” said Fellowes, speaking at a preview screening of the new series. “She was what we were looking for. I don’t know who else we could have got. We wanted that complete cultural difference, so she would get out of the car and everyone would say, ‘Ooh, blimey!’”

Gareth Neame, the show’s executive producer, said MacLaine was the dream choice for the role. “They key thing was to make sure we had an actress who was a match for Maggie Smith,” he said, “and that made the list very small.”

I simply can not wait to see the fireworks between these two!

I was approached by the publisher of the ‘Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook’ wanting to know if I would like to review their cookbook. I had just spent an entire weekend consumed by 2 years of this series; I think my reply was especially excited. Knowing my friend Karen at Savoury Table is a HUGE Anglophile, I asked if they would like to connect with her too. Karen is a strange combination of cultures…hailing from Texas she definitely still carries a love of all things Texan and has a slight accent that is still evident of her true heritage but she and her family spent some years living in England and her blood runs Union Jack too. The recipes on her website range from Enchilada Mac and Cheese to a Bakewell Tart and you just never know what she will surprise you with next. We decided to double team and each offer you a recipe from the book and a chance to win a copy for yourself too! Make sure you checkout Karen’s site for her take on Duchess Potatoes.

Since Karen is doing something more savory (or savoury as it were!), I chose to do an ‘upstairs’ dessert; Decadent Chocolate Almond Cake with Chocolate and Sour Cream Icing. This cake would have  only been served to the lords and ladies of the Downton Abbey estate. While later made famous by chefs like Julia Child, this cake was enjoyed in Europe and made by cooks like Downton Abbey’s Mrs. Patmore long before Julia came calling.

I served this cake this past weekend at get together of our local Denver blogger group; it was a small group in attendance but we had some great food. Ansh really outdid herself. She knows we love a hot and spicy Indian dish she makes so she did not disappoint but she also brought a gorgeous layered dessert. Isn’t it pretty?

Karen brought some fabulous Cinnamon Donut Hole Muffins (really, muffins that tasted just like cinnamon donut holes!), Jane had made some cheesy/thyme ‘biscuits’ that reminded me very much of Abby Dodge’s sable crackers and I prepared some beef that was provided to me by Todd with Ralston Valley Beef, a small grass fed, organic beef operation. I met Todd a few weeks ago at a day long event I attended that was put on by folks at Colorado State University called ‘Beef + Transparency = Trust.’ I’ll be writing a full article on that event but I wanted first to prepare some of Todd’s beef and get reactions from others in the group. It was seriously some of the best beef we’ve ever had…lo and behold who should should show up as we were winding down? My new best friend Todd who brought me a couple of Rib Eye steaks. The best part? I passed the ‘I cooked it perfect’ test from a beef guy. Whew!

Sorry I strayed a bit far from the Abbey didn’t I? But I’ll bring it back around for one last  thing after the recipe…I’ve been offered a copy of the book to give away to one of my readers! This is a fun and interesting book, full of recipes and tidbits related to the time. Get yourself a copy and decide on the dish you’ll make for the premiere of Season Three and join us…we can have a virtual viewing party!


The single layer cake is a combination of rich chocolate, espresso and butter combined with ground almonds which makes the almond description very fitting. The icing is really more of what we would call a ganache; thick and creamy with more chocolate, dried espresso and the surprise addition of sour cream. I loved the cake but thought there was a bit too much ganache…as much as I LOVE frosting I enjoyed this cake better with a bit less!

Decadent Chocolate Almond Cake with Sour Cream Icing from Downton Abbey
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 6-8 Servings
  • 4 oz. or 4 squares semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 Tbsp Dried Espresso
  • ½ cup (1 stick) softened butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 egg whites
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ cup pulverized almonds
  • ½ tsp. almond extract
  • ½ cup cake flour, scooped and leveled
For the Frosting:
  • 4 oz semi-sweet baking chocolate
  • 1 tsp instant dried Espresso
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup corn syrup
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup lightly toasted sliced almonds
To Make the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Grease and flour one 8" cake pan.
  2. Butter and flour an 8-inch round pan.
  3. Set the chocolate and instant espresso or coffee in a double boiler with almost simmering water; let melt while you proceed with the recipe.
  4. Cream the butter and sugar together for several minutes until they form a pale yellow, fluffy mixture. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time until well blended.
  5. Beat the egg whites and salt in a separate bowl until soft peaks are formed.
  6. With a rubber spatula, blend the melted chocolate into the butter and sugar mixture, then stir in the almonds, and almond extract. Immediately stir in ¼ of the beaten egg whites to lighten up the batter. Delicately fold in a third of the remaining whites and when partially blended, sift in one third of the flour and continue folding. Alternate rapidly with more egg whites and more flour until all the egg whites and flour are incorporated.
  7. Turn the batter into the cake pan, pushing the batter up to its rim with a rubber spatula. Bake in the middle level of preheated oven for about 25 min. Cake is done when it has puffed and 2- ½ to 3 inches around the circumference are set so that a needle plunged into the area comes out clean; the center should move slightly if the pan is shaken and a needle comes out oily.
  8. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 min. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and reverse cake on a rack. Allow it to cool for an hour or two; it must be thoroughly cooled before being iced.
To Make the Frosting:
  1. Place the chocolate and espresso in a double boiler; melt the chocolate, remove from the heat and let the chocolate cool until tepid.
  2. In a medium size bowl, mix the sour cream, corn syrup, salt and vanilla until smooth. Add the cooled chocolate and blend thoroughly. Spread or drizzle over the cooled cake.
  3. Garnish with the toasted almonds.
I halved the ingredients for the frosting; it was far more than this cake needed!

Win your own copy of ‘The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook’ – Contest now closed – Winner is Deb @knitstamatic

It’s simple, just leave me a comment;

  1. Simply leave a comment; I’m dying to know! Have you watched it? Are you a fan or maybe not so much? Just curious! :)
  2. Only open to residents of the US.
  3. Must be 18 years of age to enter.
  4. Contest will end on Friday, November 23, 2012 at midnight. I will select a winner via; they will be notified via email and will have 48 hours to contact me with shipping information or another winner will be chosen.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of ‘The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook’ for review but I was not paid for my commentary and my views are my own.

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{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Maria May 25, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Mmmm… my appetite has woken up. The cake looks delicious! I will definitely cook it tomorrow!


2 how to get rid of skin moles naturally at home April 25, 2013 at 8:14 am

I truly got into this article. I found it to be interesting
and also packed with special points of view. I wish to read material which makes me think.
Thank you for writing this great content.


3 Mariam Kohl February 11, 2013 at 4:36 pm

I am a big fan, but just recently. Just finished Seasons 1 and 2 and getting caught up on Season 3 now. Planning a Birthday Brunch with a Surprise Downton Theme. So excited. Thinking about the Chocolate Almond Cake for the Birthday cake.


4 Creative Culinary February 11, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Sounds similar…I sort of enjoyed being sick for a couple of days…I watched both seasons over a weekend laid up in bed! The cake was divine!


5 Hannah November 25, 2012 at 3:37 pm

This is a stunning cake, Barb! How fun to get this cookbook and help sample the recipes. I can’t wait for the next season of Downton Abbey to begin. I have my whole family hooked now!
Hannah Most Recent Post: Butternut Squash Aigre-Doux


6 Cindy November 24, 2012 at 5:25 am

Having been in Europe this fall, I was lucky to see the first three episodes of the new season. It is good. I can’t wait to see it all. Our daughter who lives in England told us yesterday that it was announced that there would be a fourth season. Aren’t we lucky!


7 Creative Culinary November 24, 2012 at 9:35 am

I read that just yesterday. Appreciate our European friends not playing spoiler…we are forced to wait but guess that gives me more time to plan a party!


8 addie | culicurious November 23, 2012 at 3:04 pm

This cake looks great, Barb :) I love chocolate and almonds together. Perfect pairing!
addie | culicurious Most Recent Post: Simple Burrata Appetizer Recipe


9 Liz Lanza November 22, 2012 at 5:01 pm

I LOVE Downtown Abbey! Free Bates! lanzaelizabeth77 at gmail dot com


10 Creative Culinary November 22, 2012 at 7:47 pm



11 Linda S. November 21, 2012 at 5:40 pm

I’m a huge fan; can’t wait for the new season. Friends who were visiting England last year were able to see episodes of that season ahead of them being shown in the US. Another good reason to visit England and my newly discovered cousins there.


12 Kathy Gori November 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm

wow, do I love the looks of that!! I’m a DA fan but had no idea there was a cookbook.
Kathy Gori Most Recent Post: Mango and Shallot Thanksgiving Salad


13 V Bonner November 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm

I was turned onto Downton by a friend of mine last season! Couldn’t wait till the next episode!!
Last year as my father-in-law was dying of brain cancer the family was gathered for Thanksgiving and my sister-in-law turned me on to this culinary cite! Now I simply can’t live without either!
I can’t wait to try this chocolate almond cake! Maybe I’ll surprise the group for our 1 year reunion of a special holiday gathering right before dad passes away. All Great memories!!


14 Antoinette Baranov November 21, 2012 at 12:19 am

What a lovely looking cake, reading ratios are just perfect can’t wait to make it! Antonia


15 Lisa | Dust with Flour November 20, 2012 at 5:19 pm

I have a weakness for British costume dramas, and am a great fan of “Downton Abbey.” I’m fascinated by England during both WWI and WWII, how people coped, the changes in society, etc. And early 1900s Edwardian is my favorite fashion era. Barb, it’s very cool you were asked to review the book!

Happy Thanksgiving!
Lisa | Dust with Flour Most Recent Post: Peachy Apricot Hand Tarts with Brown Butter Crust for #baketogether


16 Deb @ knitstamatic November 20, 2012 at 2:47 pm

I was also a latecomer to Downton Abbey, getting all caught up on Netflix. True be told, I was unsure after the first episode…my husband said I was nuts but by the end of the second episode I was hooked! Can’t wait for the next season. I even put a reminder in my calendar. LOL


17 Claire November 20, 2012 at 2:42 pm

I haven’t watched it, but I’ve heard it’s very good.


18 Angie November 20, 2012 at 11:26 am

I haven’t gotten into Downton Abbey yet because I know I will lose days catching up!


19 MizBee November 20, 2012 at 9:21 am

This cake just may knock my traditional, well-loved staple of pumpkin pie off the menu for T-day dessert! Oh my word that looks marvelous!


20 November 20, 2012 at 8:06 am

I am obsessed with Downton Abbey! I’ve already watched Season 3 and it is AMAZING! I might re-watch it when it comes on in January. Most Recent Post: Spicy Sausage Skillet


21 Maryann Kunkel November 20, 2012 at 7:27 am

I am obsessed with Downton Abbey. Maggie Smith simply makes the show for me. I love her character. I admit that I too have already watched Season 3 but cannot wait to catch it again when it begins airing here in the States. This recipe sounds phenomenal as I am a big chocoholic. I can’t wait to be able to get my hands on a copy of this book!


22 Maureen | Orgasmic Chef November 20, 2012 at 4:51 am

Anyone who titles a recipe beginning with decadent needs to come sit by me. :)

I love this cake.
Maureen | Orgasmic Chef Most Recent Post: Hands-Off Moroccan Couscous


23 stel November 20, 2012 at 2:53 am

i love the flavors in this cake, thanks for sharing. i’ve been an avid fan of Downton Abbey and my favorite characters are Mrs. Patmore & Daisy, love the kitchen & dining scenes!
stel Most Recent Post: citrus buttermilk berry cake


24 Rosa Diaz November 20, 2012 at 2:51 am

I love Downton abbey!!!! you could say I’m obsessed with it!!! LOL So I already saw seaso 3 but still very anxious to see it again


25 Alex November 20, 2012 at 12:35 am

Downton Abbey is on my to-watch list and I am planning to watch it over Christmas break!


26 Leslie Bruner Bradford November 19, 2012 at 11:23 pm

I adore Downton Abbey and am so glad you have found it as well. I wish I could try the cake, but alas, chocolate is a migraine trigger for me. Perhaps a good caramel recipe someday?


27 Laura (Tutti Dolci) November 19, 2012 at 10:52 pm

I love Downton Abbey and I can’t wait for the next season! Beautiful cake!
Laura (Tutti Dolci) Most Recent Post: chocolate-toffee surprise cupcakes + oxo giveaway


28 Ellen M. November 19, 2012 at 7:42 pm

I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE Downton Abbey! January can’t come fast enough for me. Something to look forward to after the holidays. Thanks for sharing a yummy recipe, and for the chance to win!


29 rosemary November 19, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Oh this looks wonderful and I have been wanting to get a copy of this cookbook. I am an email subscriber and just love the show. The costumes and scenery are so gorgeous and the story is fabulous! I would love to win this cookbook. Thank you and have a great Thanksgiving!!
rosemary Most Recent Post: The Upper East Side Ralph Lauren Store


30 Vicki Schwab November 19, 2012 at 4:22 pm

My husband and I really enjoy the series and am so excited to see there is an unofficial cookbook. I’m going to attempt the almond cake for this birthday. Thank you for posting!


31 Mari November 19, 2012 at 2:15 pm

I would love the recipe of the multi layered cake in the picture…any chance of getting it?


32 Creative Culinary November 19, 2012 at 8:07 pm

I would love it too! My friend is supposed to get it to me so I can try it; it was easier than mine according to her and it was sooooo good. I’ll put a bug in her ear and see if I can get that for us!


33 Ansh November 20, 2012 at 12:13 am

Absolutely Barb and Mari. Will send you a recipe soon Barb so you can make it :D
Ansh Most Recent Post: Pear Cider


34 Creative Culinary November 24, 2012 at 3:00 pm

From my friend Ansh…here’s the cake:
And this is the recipe she used for the buttercream :

The Ganache came from The Miette cookbook but use your favorite ganache if that recipe is not available online or you don’t have the cookbook.


35 Lana @ Never Enough Thyme November 19, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I haven’t watched Downton Abbey yet, but it’s on my list to do during Christmas vacation. I’m also putting this delicious cake on that to do list as well. Fantastic, Barb!
Lana @ Never Enough Thyme Most Recent Post: Cheesesteak Pizza


36 claire @ the realistic nutritionist November 19, 2012 at 12:57 pm

oH MY GOSHHHHHHHH Barbara this is divine. I need the entire thing delivered to my face.
claire @ the realistic nutritionist Most Recent Post: Boozy Pomegranate Cranberry Sauce


37 kathy pilato November 19, 2012 at 12:10 pm

I would LOVE to start watching this series. I think I would have to play catch up, as you did. Have heard about it but never sat myself down to watch. Looks intriguing!


38 Karen Harris November 19, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Thank you for your lovely words Barb and getting me involved in this project. The cookbook is really fun and I have really enjoyed reading the little etiquette lessons and foot notes. Loved the cake.
Karen Harris Most Recent Post: The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook, Giveaway and Recipe: Duchess Potatoes


39 Margaret November 19, 2012 at 11:51 am

You are going to so love Series 3… it has just finished on this side of the Atlantic. My Wednesday evenings are not the same anymore!

I bet Mrs. Padmore would be so proud of that cake… looks delicious!


40 Paula November 19, 2012 at 11:43 am

I have yet to see one episode of this series but we do have Netflix and it’s one my list of *Winter Watching*. I’ve loved Maggie Smith since seeing her in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie decades ago and have always been a fan of Shirley MacLaine’s. I’m now a huge fan of this chocolate almond cake!!!
What a nice gathering you all must have enjoyed. The food looks amazing and that dessert brought by Ansh is simply elegant.


41 Ansh November 19, 2012 at 11:33 am

I watched both the seasons. My daughter and I love British period dramas. When we watched it, we did not know it had created such a stir :))

Thank you for taking such a beautiful picture of the Gateau Opera. I was not sure if it would survive the drive and the drivers driving :))

Hope to see you soon again!
Ansh Most Recent Post: Malai Kofta


42 Holly November 19, 2012 at 8:16 am

Gosh you all ate some beautiful food on Saturday! Sorry to have missed it. I am also WAY behind on this Downtown Abbey craze– as in so far behind that I haven’t seen a single episode. My husband watches a lot of the English shows to see what he is missing across the pond but this is one show that hasn’t appeared on our dvr yet. Would men like it as much as women? I’ll have to check it out.
Holly Most Recent Post: Pecan Praline Ice Cream


43 Jessica H. November 19, 2012 at 8:01 am

I became absorbed in the series last September after borrowing season 1 and 2 from my sister in law. Now I’m obsessed and can hardly wait for January!


44 Marina@Picnic at Marina November 19, 2012 at 7:56 am

I did watch an episode here and there, but now I want to go to Netflix and watch it all (I hope they have it). Those cakes are so inviting… :) Have a lovely holidays! :)
Marina@Picnic at Marina Most Recent Post: Where is my rolling pin? Cheese Bread


45 Barbara @ Barbara Bakes November 19, 2012 at 7:41 am

I’ve watched all 3 seasons! I was late to the party too and watched the first season on Netflix too. I’m a big fan. Such a fun idea for a cookbook.
Barbara @ Barbara Bakes Most Recent Post: Classic Pecan Pie and Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup


46 Jayne November 19, 2012 at 7:10 am

Lovely cake! I love cakes made with ground almonds and I love the espresso included here, it sounds very decandent indeed. Downton has just finished here, although we have a Christmas special to look forward to! I cant wait for you to see series 3, Shirley MacLaine is a brilliant addition!


47 Jamie November 19, 2012 at 6:50 am

We grew up watching Upstairs, Downstairs and this is its little sister… or grandchild and no I’ve not yet watched any of it but now I’ll definitely find it online and watch while I bike. And this cake is extraordinary! And bingo I just found the chocolate cake I’ll be making my son this week! Looks fabulous!!!


48 Renee - Kudos Kitchen November 19, 2012 at 6:48 am

I think you’ve done Mrs. Patmore proud. What a fantastic post. I love the show too and am a huge fan. I even have the cookbook but haven’t made anything from it yet. I think this cake will have to be first :)
Renee – Kudos Kitchen Most Recent Post: Buttermilk Cinnamon Sugar Raisin Bread With Apples (NOT) #TwelveLoaves


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