Saturday, 12 May 2007

Chocolate Cake

Once upon a time when I was still in my early 20s, I decided to start teaching myself to bake. After all, I thought to myself, we've got an oven I've got all my baking utensils and most of all I've got my handy Betty Crocker cookbook so what could be harder than bake some cakes? Like most people I tackled my first baking project with a brownie which was a resounding success. So feeling very brave I decided to bake another chocolate concoction - a 2-layer chocolate cake complete with buttery icing.

I went about buying all the ingredients and baking pans including a brand new hand mixer. I followed the recipe religiously (or so I thought) and in it went in the oven. When it came out I noticed it was looking particularly dark but I just shrugged thinking maybe that's what it was supposed to be. I proceeded to lovingly put icing on and in between the whole structure. Then I took a slice and eagerly tasted it. Ackk! I spat it out as quickly as I put it in my mouth. It was the most bitter cake I've tasted in my life! Which means I forgot to put in sugar!! Oh the agony and disappointment after all the trouble I went through. But most of all I dreaded getting teased by relatives for the rest of my life! Mwahahaha!

The cake was ready to be consigned to the rubbish bin but my father came to the rescue. He ate it despite the extremely bitter cake. He just slathered more of the icing. For 1 whole week he diligently ate 1 slice a day until he finished it - all by himself as you would have guessed since not even our dogs nor cat wanted it. I'd like to think he did it just for me but probably he just hated to have all the ingredients and my efforts go to waste. ;)

Ever since then I never attempted baking a chocolate cake until a few years ago when I came upon Angela Nielsen's recipe she dubbed The Ultimate Chocolate Cake in the BBC Good Food magazine. Well, I liked the idea of a recipe tested so many times to perfection and I tell you she did not lie. It was indeed a moist and very chocolately with just the right balance of sweetness. I had to alter the chocolate ganache since my kids are not fond of dark chocolate so I had to put in half dark and half milk chocs. I didn't bother to decorate it with chocolate curls since it would get readily devoured anyway. As proof just look below how I found my newly baked cake when I left it to cool ... hmmm ... there must be lots of chocolate monsters around my house stealthily scarfing down slices of it.

Next time, I will experiment with buttercream and whipped cream icings to see which ones can better complement it.

Have some?

Chocolate Cake

200 g  butter - cut in pieces
200 g  dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa solids)
85 g  [1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp] self-raising flour
85 g  [1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp] plain flour
1/2 cup hot water
1 Tbsp instant coffee granules
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
200 g  [1 cup + 1 Tbsp] golden caster sugar
200 g  [1 cup + 2 Tbsp firmly packed] light muscovado sugar
13 g  [2 Tbsp] cocoa powder (optional)
3 medium eggs
5 Tbsp buttermilk
grated chocolate or curls for decoration (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F/160°C/fan 140°C/gas mark 3. Butter a 20cm (8-inch) round baking pan and line the base.
  2. Dissolve the instant coffee in the hot water, set aside.
  3. Put a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and melt the dark chocolate and butter in it.
  4. Once melted remove from heat and add in the coffee. Stir just enough to combine.
  5. In a small bowl, beat the eggs and stir in the buttermilk, set aside.
  6. In another large bowl, combine the flours, sugars, cocoa (if using), and bicarbonate of soda.
  7. Stir in the melted chocolate mixture and the egg mixture. Mix everything until well blended and have a smooth consistency.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 1 hour 25 minutes or until a skewer poked in to centre comes out clean.
  9. Cool slightly in the baking pan then turn out to cool completely on a wire rack.
  10. When completely cool, slice horizontally in half.
  11. Spread a little of the ganache in the bottom layer and sandwich it with the top layer.
  12. Spread the rest of the ganache on top and sides of the cake smoothing with a spatula or palette knife.

*For the Chocolate Ganache:

100 g  dark chocolate (like above)
100 g  milk chocolate
1 cup double cream (heavy cream)
2 Tbsp golden caster sugar
  1. Break the dark and milk chocolates into pieces in a heatproof bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, put the double cream and sugar in a saucepan and heat until it is about to boil.
  3. Pour immediately onto the chocolates. Stir until all the chocolates have melted. Cool for a few minutes then whisk until smooth and thickened.
  4. Set aside to cool for 1-2 hours (may put in the fridge) or until it is thick enough to spread on the cake.

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