Celebratory Chocolate, Caramel and Mango Layer Cake

When I think of a showstopper, this is probably the cake I have in mind. With its 4 sponge layers, each with a varying intensity of caramel and chocolate, chocolate ganache coating, choux buns filled with cream and mango custard and meringues on top, you could hardly envisage such a cake for a non-celebratory occasion. The truth is, however, that as difficult, complicated and lengthy as it may look, this cake is in fact pretty easy to make. Ok, maybe not easy, but straightforward is the word here. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients. As it says on the tin, there are a lot of stages required here. Just make sure you read the whole recipe first and only then start making it. Believe me, you will love it.

The recipe for the cake appeared a while ago on a BBC Good Food magazine. I have saved it and keep on using time and time again, with minor tweaks here and there, as it’s such an easy and delicious one. The sponges are very moist thanks to the addition of natural yoghurt and the dramatic effect is ensured when you cut through the whole cake to reveal sponges of different colours. This time, seeing as I was making this cake for a birthday, I decided to push the boat out and top it with choux buns and meringues. Mango, caramel and chocolate go surprisingly well together, and the subtle acidity of the custard cuts through the richness of the cake beautifully.

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Ingredients (for the vanilla and chocolate sponges)

  • 225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 225g golden caster sugar
  • 170g plain flour
  • 85g ground almonds
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 150ml natural yoghurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 5 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted

Ingredients (for the caramel and chocolate & caramel sponges)

  • 225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 175g light brown sugar
  • 50g dark muscovado sugar
  • 170g plain flour
  • 85g ground almonds
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 150ml natural yoghurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted

Ingredients (for the chocolate ganache)

  • 140g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely chopped
  • 140g milk chocolate, finely chopped
  • 300ml double cream

Ingredients (for the choux pastry)

  • 100g plain flour
  • 75g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 175ml water
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • pinch of salt

Ingredients (for the mango custard)

  • 500ml whole milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 40g cornflour
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 whole mango
  • 1/2 lime, juice only
  • 2 gelatine leaves

Ingredients (for the meringues)

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 240g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • orange food colouring (optional)

Ingredients (to assemble the cake)

  • 1 x 397g can of caramel (Carnation is a good brand)
  • 300ml double cream, whipped to soft peaks
  • 60g dark and milk chocolate, melted over a bain marie
  • Chocolate sprinkles, optional

Method

  1. First of all, start with the mango custard as it will need some time to set in the fridge. Peel and stone the mango, then transfer the flesh to a food processor with the lime juice and purée until smooth. In the meantime, heat the milk and the vanilla in a saucepan over a medium heat. Mix the caster sugar with the cornflour to disperse the latter evenly, then transfer to a heatproof bowl, add the egg yolks and whisk until fully combined and slightly paler in colour.
  2. Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water until soft. In the meantime, transfer the mango purée to a small saucepan on gentle heat and bring to the boil, then reduce by approximately half. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Once the milk has come to the boil, remove from the heat and, whisking continuously, slowly pour onto the egg yolk and sugar mixture. Make sure to scrape the sides, then gently pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over a medium heat. Make sure the heat under the saucepan is not too high or the eggs will scramble and, most importantly, stir the custard constantly until nicely thickened. You will be able to tell because the custard will cover the back of a spoon and small ridges will form when you stir it.
  4. Transfer the reduced mango purée to the saucepan with the custard and mix to combine. Squeeze the gelatine leaves to remove excess water, then add to the hot mixture and stir to dissolve. Transfer the mango custard to a heatproof bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to cool before putting in the fridge for a good 5 hours.
  5. Now, moving on to the sponges. Start with the vanilla and chocolate one, so as to get the hang of it. Grease the bottom and sides and line the bottom of 2 x 20cm round cake tins with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan).
  6. In the bowl of a freestanding food mixer equipped with the paddle attachment or in a bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until slightly paler in colour and fully combined. Slowly add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla bean paste too. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, ground almonds and baking powder, then add to the bowl while mixing on low speed. Finally, add the yoghurt and mix well to combine. The mixture should be very creamy and full of volume.
  7. Divide the mixture into two, pouring half into one of the prepared tins (this will be the vanilla sponge). Pour the other half into a bowl, then sprinkle in the cocoa powder and mix well to combine with a rubber spatula, ensuring not to knock all of the air out of the sponge. Transfer the chocolate mixture to the other prepared tin. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, but do check them after 20 minutes to ensure they don’t overbake. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before removing from the tin.
  8. To make the caramel and chocolate & caramel sponges, prepare 2 more tins as outlined above. Cream the butter and sugars together, then add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients, then add them, together with the vanilla bean paste, to the remaining mixture. Pour in the natural yoghurt, then mix well to combine. Pour half of the mixture into one of the prepared tins, then add the cocoa powder to the remaining mixture, gently fold it in and transfer to the other cake tin. Bake as above, then set on a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. To make the choux pastry, combine the butter, water and salt into a saucepan set over medium heat. Bring the mixture to the boil, then remove from the heat and tumble in the flour. Use a wooden spoon to combine the pastry – don’t worry, it will look lumpy, but persist and you will be fine. Put the saucepan back on the heat to dry the pastry out. You are ready to go when the lump of pastry easily comes together and stays together, stops sticking to the sides and leaves a coating on the bottom of the saucepan. Transfer the warm lump of pastry to a heatproof bowl, flatten it out slightly with the back of the wooden spoon and leave to cool. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan). Line 3 baking sheets with baking parchment (or silicone mats).
  10. To make it easier, transfer the eggs to a jug. When the pastry has cooled down (you don’t want to end up with scrambled eggs), start adding a little bit of the eggs, then mix really well with the wooden spoon after each addition. As before, do not be put off by the way the pastry look. Continue adding eggs, a little at a time, and mixing well. You are aiming for a silky yet somewhat solid consistency. There are several ways to test the pastry: when you gather some on the wooden spoon then tilt the latter, the pastry should slowly fall back into the bowl leaving a triangular-shaped trail on the spoon; also, if you trace a line in the bowl, the pastry should divide evenly and keep the trail, not fall back on itself, etc.
  11. Transfer the pastry to a piping bag fitted with a plain round nozzle, then pipe even round mounds on the baking trays. I opted for two different sizes (one slightly bigger than the other) to add a dramatic effect to the cake. Bake for 30 minutes without ever opening the door to check on them, by which time they will be golden and puffed up. Quickly remove from the oven, make a small hole in the base or on the sides to let the steam escape, then put back in the oven to crisp up for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  12. Cool the oven down to 130°C (110°C fan) to bake the meringues. To make them, in the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites until frothy. In a separate bowl, combine the caster sugar and cream of tartar, then increase the speed to high and slowly add the sugar mixture, one tablespoon at a time, until you get a very glossy and stiff mixture.
  13. Prepare the piping bag by adding a star nozzle at the end and using some orange food colouring to drag some lines on the inside of the bag (I used a toothpick, but a small brush is also fine). When ready, transfer the meringue mixture to the piping bag, then pipe small meringues (again, I went for two different sizes) on previously lined baking trays. Bake for 2 hours or until crisp. When done, turn the oven off and leave the meringues to cool inside the oven with the door ajar.
  14. To assemble the cake, start by making the chocolate ganache. Transfer the chopped chocolate to a heatproof bowl, then pour the cream into a saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Transfer the hot cream to the chocolate, then mix to combine until smooth. Place in the fridge to set, mixing occasionally, while you assemble the sponge layers.
  15. Place a small dollop of caramel on the cake board/base/platter you will use to build the cake on. Gently peel the parchment off the back of the vanilla sponge, then place it upside down on the cake board. Use 1/3 of the caramel to cover the cake and spread it around using an offset spatula. Top with the vanilla & caramel sponge, cover with half of the remaining caramel, then top with the caramel & chocolate sponge, the remaining caramel and, finally, the chocolate sponge.
  16. Once the ganache has more or less set (but is still of a spreadable consistency), use it to cover the top and the sides of the cake and give it a smooth or a rough finish according to preference. Place in the fridge to harden while you get on with the decorations.
  17. In a bowl, combine the whipped cream with some of the mango custard, then fill a piping bag fitted with a small round nozzle and use it to fill the choux buns. For reasons of practicality, I decided to fill the small ones with the mango custard alone, thus leaving me with leftover whipped cream.
  18. When you are ready to proceed, take the cake out of the fridge. Spread some of the melted chocolate on the bottom of each choux bun, then gently pile them up on top of the cake and down the sides. Repeat with the meringues, ensuring there is a good proportion of them all around the cake. I shall leave it the final design up to you.
  19. Use the remaining melted chocolate to drizzle on top of the cake, then decorate, if you so wish, with some of the mango custard (also drizzled over) and chocolate sprinkles. Enjoy!

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Baci di Alassio

Do you have your boarding card? Have you packed your suitcase? Perfect. So let’s fly to Liguria, a coastal region of north-western Italy which is probably known for pesto, Genoa and the aquarium. Very few do know that these region is also well known – at least in my country – for these sweet little ‘kisses’, as the name goes, which come from Alassio, a city on the western coast of the region. Lore states that they were invented in the ’20s by Rinaldo Balzola, the then patissier of the House of Savoy, who modified the traditional recipe for Baci di Dama. The biscuits then became very popular, so much that by the end of the ’50s, every single bakery in the region had their own version. What with the authentic recipe being a jealously guarded secret, the different interpretations all differ because of the quantities and the ingredients used.

These Baci are oval-shaped and composed by two biscuit halves, which are then sandwiched together with a whipped ganache. The biscuits are made with hazelnuts (possibly from Piedmont), sugar, cocoa, egg whites, flour, butter, vanilla and aromas. The ganache is ‘whipped’ because the quantities of cream and chocolate are 1.5:1, which allows to whip the ganache and make it into a mousse-like consistency. The recipe below is one of the many adaptations available and I found it in an Italian recipe book about biscuits. I modified the recipe slightly and adapted the cooking times. Traditionally these biscuits are left to dry out overnight or for at least 12 hours. If you want to skip this step, like I did, follow the recipe below. Otherwise, increase the temperature to 200C and bake for only 12 minutes.

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Ingredients

  • 150g ground almonds
  • 100g ground hazelnuts
  • 375g icing sugar, sifted
  • 40g unsalted butter, softened
  • 30g honey
  • 35g cocoa powder, sifted
  • 90g egg whites, at room temperature
  • 100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa content)
  • 150ml double cream

Method

  1. Line two baking trays with parchment and set aside. Equip a piping bag with a star nozzle and also set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer (or in a normal bowl), combine the ground nuts, icing sugar and cocoa powder. Add the egg whites and use the paddle attachment to mix the ingredients together. Once you have a homogeneous mixture, add the butter and the honey and keep on mixing until thoroughly combined.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag. It will be firm, so no panic there. Squeeze out little mounds or rose-shaped mounds on the baking parchment, then transfer to the fridge to set for at least 30 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, pre-heat the oven to 180C.
  5. Once thoroughly chilled, transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Check the biscuits: if you see any dark wet bits, return to the oven for a further 5 minutes at 150C.
  6. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely. In the meantime, start with the ganache.
  7. Finely chop the dark chocolate either by hand or in a food processor. In a saucepan, bring the double cream to the boil, then remove from the heat and pour onto the chocolate. Use a whisk to mix the cream in and allow the chocolate to melt completely. Set aside and cool slightly but keep on mixing to avoid the mixture separating.
  8. When you are ready to assemble, either use a freestanding mixer of electric whisk (I did it by hand) to whisk the ganache. You’ll need a good 10 minutes and the result should be a light and mousse-like chocolate ganache. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle.
  9. Use the ganache to sandwich two biscuit halves together by squeezing some on one biscuit and topping this with another half. Repeat until you have used all of the biscuits, then transfer to the fridge to firm them up.

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Piernik – a Polish Christmas Cake

Piernik means ‘gingerbread’ in Polish. Traditionally, this Christmas sweet is made not in the form of a cake but, rather, as a very dense and spicy bread. This is then layered with plum jam and left to ferment for a few weeks, so that the flavours have time to develop. Not wanting to wait weeks before trying it (and considering I already have a boozy British Christmas cake slowly maturing away in the spare room), I decided to opt for Edd Kimber’s cake adaptation of this recipe, which is just as good. I hope Polish traditionalists won’t hate me!

This cake is made with the melting method, which involves melting the fat and the sugar over a low heat in a pan and then, once cooled, combining them with the other ingredients. Usually, cakes made this way result in a moister, darker and softer crumb, much in the same way as my Guinness Cake. Another word of advice: do let the ganache set a little before trying to pour it over the cake. You do want to end up with a nicely thick chocolate layer on top, so the ganache needs to be firm enough to adhere to the cake surface when poured over. Also, you can try and experiment with different flavours of honey. Personally, I combined standard clear honey with a darker and woodier brown honey.

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Ingredients (for the cake)

  • 140g unsalted butter
  • 300g honey
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 365g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 3 large eggs

Ingredients (for the filling and the ganache)

  • 250g plum jam
  • 225ml double cream
  • 140g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
  • 3 tbsp clear honey

Method

  1. Grease and line the base of a deep 20cm cake tin with baking parchment.
  2. In a saucepan, put the butter, honey and sugars, then cook over a medium heat until fully melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 140C.
  4. Sieve all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix them together.
  5. Once the butter mixture has cooled, whisk in the eggs, then pour that into the flour and spice mixture and mix until fully combine. Careful not to overmix the mixture of you will end up with a dry cake. Pour into the cake tin and cook for about 1 hour. Check whether the cake is done with a skewer, then remove from the oven and let it cool completely.
  6. In the meantime, prepare your ganache by putting the chocolate, honey and cream into a saucepan and melting over medium heat, mixing to combine the ingredients together. Remove from the heat and let it cool and slightly thicken. Mix it from time to time.
  7. Once the sponges have cooled, use a serrated knife to slice the cake into three equal layers. Position the bottom layer on your a wire rack, then spread half of the jam on. Top with the second layer and cover that with the rest of the jam, then position the remaining layer on top.
  8. Put a sheet of baking parchment/foil under the wire rack, so that it collects any extra ganache which will drop off the cake. Once the chocolate ganache has reached a slightly denser consistency, pour that over the cake and let it completely drip down the sides, so that the whole cake is covered. Leave to cool and harden.
  9. When ready, use a palette knife to transfer the cake onto a serving dish/platter.

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Sachertorte Slices

First of all, these quantities make a huge cake. The idea here is to use a square cake ring to build the cake up, then leave it to set and cut it into slices. If you, like me, do not own such magical item, you can use a square loose-bottomed cake tin (which you’ll need to make the sponges anyway). Just make sure you cover the sides with clingfilm as it will make easier to remove the cake once set.

This a slightly boozier version of the traditional Sachertorte, with both the ganache and the sponge layers containing orange liqueur – needless to say, I used Cointreau. Also, you can leave it out and use orange juice or essence instead. This could be the perfect way of serving it up for any special occasions, as you can choose how big to make the slices and it moves a cake from being, well, a cake to being finger food. Genius!

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Ingredients (for the sponge layers)

  • 7 large eggs, separated
  • 180g unsalted butter, softened
  • 300g golden caster sugar
  • 180g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
  • 180g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence

Ingredients (for the ganache)

  • 300g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
  • 300ml double cream
  • 2 tbsp Cointreau or orange essence/juice

Ingredients (for the soaking medium, assembling and decoration)

  • 50g caster sugar
  • 60ml water
  • 2 tbsp Cointreau
  • 250g apricot jam
  • chocolate sprinkles, drops, curls

Method

  1. Make the sponge layers first. Break up the dark chocolate, then tumble in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water and slowly melt. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool.
  2. Line the bottom and butter the sides of a square loose-bottomed cake tin (mine is approximately 30x30cm), then pre-heat the oven to 180C.
  3. Using a freestanding mixer (or by hand), cream the butter with 150g sugar, then add the vanilla extract. Slowly start adding the egg yolks, one by one, beating well after each addition. Once finished, slowly add the chocolate mixture too, beating well to obtain a glossy and dark chocolate mixture.
  4. In another bowl, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks with the remaining sugar (30g) until you get a glossy meringue, then use a plastic spatula to incorporate to the chocolate mixture. Start with one third of the egg whites and use ample and slow movements to mix that into the chocolate mixture, then carefully add the rest being careful not to knock too much air out.
  5. Mix the flour and the salt, then sift over the mixture. Slowly mix that in too. Transfer the chocolate mixture into the prepared tin, level the surface and push the mixture into the sides. Bake for about 40 minutes.
  6. Once cooked, transfer to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes, then turn out of the cake tin and leave to cool completely.
  7. Now move on to the ganache. Finely grate or chop the dark chocolate, then set aside. In a small pan, bring the cream to the boil, then tumble in the chopped chocolate and leave to stand for about 5 minutes. Use a rubber spatula or a whisk to mix and smooth out any chocolate bits. Slowly pour in the liqueur, then cover with clingfilm and leave to cool and harden slightly.
  8. When the sponge layers have cooled down completely, you can start assembling the cake. Use a serrated knife to cut the cake into two even layers, then set those aside. In a small pan, melt the sugar with the water and boil for about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and mix in the orange liqueur.
  9. Transfer one of the sponge slices to the prepared cake tin (see introduction) or a square cake ring, then use a pastry brush to brush the cake layers with the soaking medium. This will ensure your cake is very moist and full of flavour.
  10. Top with most of the apricot jam and spread it to create an even layer, then top with the other sponge layer and soak that with the sugar and liqueur syrup too. Brush the top of the cake with the remaining apricot jam, then leave to set for about half an hour.
  11. Pour the chocolate ganache on top of the cake and use a spatula to smooth it out and spread it right until the corners. Transfer the cake to the fridge for an hour to set. Once set, sprinkle the top of the cake with the chocolate sprinkles and/or curls and/or drops. Be as artistic as you like. return the cake to the fridge for at least 4 hours (or overnight).
  12. When ready, carefully and slowly remove the cake from the cake tin, then use a very sharp knife to cut even slices. You can choose whether to have square or rectangular slices. Serve at once.

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Banana Boston Cream Cake

Ever heard of the Hummingbird Bakery? Well, if you haven’t, then you should. I have been making their Guinness Cake for ages and it’s always a raving success. They have so many amazing and creative ideas for desserts and they have recently published their second book (which, of course, is already in my possession). It’s called Home Sweet Home and contains plenty of innovative recipes for cupcakes alongside more traditional cakes and American-inspired pies and tarts. Just delicious! This cake comes from this book, so I hope I am not breaching anyone’s copyright by posting the recipe on here. It is a banana sponge cake with a custard filling and a chocolate ganache on top. Now tell me you don’t want to eat it! The recipe involves three main steps, so I will divide ingredients and method accordingly.

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Ingredients (for the sponge)

  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 125g soured cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1/s tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method (for the sponge)

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Grease and line two 20cm cake tins.
  2. Using an electric whisk, cream the butter and the sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl.
  3. In a jug, mix together the mashed banana, soured cream and vanilla extract.
  4. In a bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and bicarb.
  5. With the whisk on a medium speed, pour the soured cream mixture into the creamed butter and sugar and mix well to ensure all ingredients are incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and mix until you have a smooth batter.
  6. Divide the batter between the two tins and bake for 25-35 minutes. Check the cakes are cooked with a skewer. The sponges should be light and bounce back when slightly pressed.
  7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely.

Ingredients (for the custard)

  • 250ml whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 15g plain flour
  • 15g cornflour

Method (for the custard)

  1. In a medium pan, bring the milk and vanilla extract to the boil.
  2. In a bowl, mix the yolks with the sugar, flour and cornflour until it forms a paste. You can also add a small amount of the milk to loosen the mixture up.
  3. Once the milk is ready, slowly pour it into the bowl with the eggy mixture and whisk until fully incorporated.
  4. Pour it back in the pan and cook on a medium heat, stirring constantly, until it forms a thick custard. The process will not take more than 5 minutes. You need to keep an eye on the eggs and keep on mixing because if the heat is too high they will scramble and you will end up with a mess. If you notice the eggs start creating lumps, take the pan off the heat and whisk ferociously until the mixture is smooth again.
  5. Once cooked, pour the custard in a bowl and cover with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming.

Ingredients (for the ganache)

  • 300g dark chocolate
  • 300ml double cream

Method (for the ganache)

  1. Pour the cream in a pan set over a medium heat and bring to the boil.
  2. Break the chocolate into smallish chunks into a bowl.
  3. Once the cream is hot, pour over the chocolate bits and leave to rest for a good couple of minutes.
  4. Mix to melt all of the chocolate.

Assembling the cake

  1. Once the sponges and the custard have cooled completely, start assembling the cake.
  2. Place one of the sponges on your cake stand or plate and pour the custard on top of it. Spread it with a palette knife and ensure the whole surface is covered. Top with other sponge layer.
  3. Wrap the cake in clingfilm and put it in the fridge to set for another 45 minutes.
  4. Once that is done, take the cake out of the fridge and peel off the clingfilm.
  5. Set the assembled cake on a wire rack standing on a baking tray and pour the ganache on top, ensuring the whole cake is covered. repeat the procedure if needed.
  6. I personally spread the ganache with a spatula, so that is why I didn’t get a shiny effect in the end.

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Cloud Forest Chocolate Cake

It’s no wonder that I am obsessed with chocolate to the point where my cakes, I have to admit, often tend to include chocolate in one way or another. There’s something about cooking with chocolate which makes you feel instantly happy. And as cheesy as this may sound, it’s actually true.

This cake comes from Willie Wonky’s Chocolate Factory, a book I (partly) translated for my Master’s summer project. In a nutshell, the author, Willie Harcourt-Cooze, emigrates to Venezuela with his wife and starts a chocolate business there, which he then exports to the UK. This cake reminds of the darkness and depth of the cloud forest, hence its name. If you’re as much of a chocoholic as I am, you will love it. It’s rich, intense and satisfactory, just all you need from a chocolate cake.

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I have slightly adapted the recipe by making it more feasible. The cocoa bars the author produces are really expensive and can only be found in some retailers, so I decided to substitute that with a good dark chocolate with high cocoa content. Please be aware that milk chocolate here simply won’t work. You need a sturdy chocolate with plenty of cocoa inside to keep the cake in its shape.

Ingredients

  • 200g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids or more) + 100g
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 125g golden caster sugar + 75g
  • 50g light muscovado sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 300ml double cream

Method

  1. Break the chocolate into small pieces and dice the butter. Tumble them together in a heatproof bowl and set that over a pan of simmering water. Don’t let the bowl touch the water and don’t whack up the heat to boil the water or you’ll make a mess. Melt slowly and stir occasionally until fully incorporated and glossy. Set aside and leave to cool for about 20 minutes.
  2. While you wait for the chocolate mixture to cool down, you can grease and line a 25cm springform tin with baking parchment.
  3. Once that is done, put the two sugars (muscovado + 125g of golden caster) into a bowl and mix well.
  4. In a bigger bowl, break the first egg and whisk using electric beaters (you can do this by hand, but it will take you ages) until foamy and pale. Slowly add some of the sugar and keep on whisking to combine. Keep on alternating one egg and the rest of the sugar mixture, beating well after each addition, until the eggs have turned into a foamy and pale mixture.
  5. Pre-heat the oven at 180 degree Celsius.
  6. Slowly pour in the chocolate mixture and add the ground almonds, then mix well until the whole egg mixture turns a dark chocolate colour.
  7. Pour into the greased and lined springform tin and bake for about 40 minutes. Check whether the cake is cooked through by using a skewer (or one spaghetti) and piercing the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, then move on.
  8. Once the cake is cooked, take it out of the oven, leave it in the tin and put it on a cooling rack.
  9. While the cake cools down, you can start making the chocolate ganache, which is dead easy. Mix the remaining golden caster sugar with the double cream in a small saucepan and gently warm up, stirring occasionally, until the mixture turns a slightly golden colour.
  10. Take off the heat and tumble in the chocolate, broken into pieces. Leave to stand for a good 3 minutes, then stir until the chocolate is completely dissolved. Put aside and leave to cool completely.
  11. You will probably need a good 30 to 40 minutes for the cake and the ganache to cool down. Run a round bladed knife (a palette would do as well) around the edge of the tin to release the cake, then unmould and turn upside down on a serving platter. Peel off the baking parchment and then cover with the ganache.

Tips

  • Once the cake is iced, you are better leaving it to cool completely for another good hour. Do not put into the fridge as it tends to go a bit too solid.
  • The ganache can be avoided and you can simply cover the cake in dusted cocoa or icing sugar or, why not, with the grated zest of an orange.
  • This is a flourless cake, the ground almonds helps binding the eggs and giving it structure.
  • make sure you beat well the eggs and you don’t knock much air out when incorporating the chocolate and the ground almonds, or the cake won’t rise. With that in mind, you are better slowly pouring the chocolate near the edge of the bowl, so as to avoid weighing the eggs down in the middle.