Happy November! You guys, the countdown to Christmas has officially begun. Break out the Snow Fairy shower gel, start stringing up fairy lights & get out your comfiest sweatpants, because 2 months of indulgent eating starts here. It's the most magical time of the year! Since we obviously don't celebrate Thanksgiving here in the UK, Christmas preparation begins in earnest the moment that Halloween is over, and I'm one of those insanely annoying people that is very, very, very okay with that. The more Christmas the better, as far as I'm concerned! The tacky jumper has been bought & I've already begin compiling recipes for December. I'm so excited!
But before all that, there's still carved pumpkins to be disposed of & glitter spiders everywhere to put away, so I'll hold back for now. None of my friends are particularly into Halloween & I'm not either, really, so last night rather than going out onto the town me and my housemates hosted a pot luck dinner for our pals. It was a veritably smorgasboard of warming autumnal foods - butternut squash souffle, parsnip & sweet potato gratin, grilled vegetable kebabs, delicious pasta salads, pizza... The list goes on. We'll be living off leftovers for weeks. Naturally, I commandeered the role of "baked goods" for myself, and made a toffee apple cookie crumble, ginger biscuits with a cinnamon & ginger cream cheese dip, and this. This.
I have an "ultimate chocolate cake" recipe which I've been using for a while now, and which is a truly sinful & beautiful thing, but I wanted to try something new. This baby is adapted from a River Cottage recipe, and thankfully Hugh did not lead me astray. It uses a preposterous amount of chocolate and sugar, so we'll not pretend to be "behaving ourselves" with this bad boy, and only a small amount of plain flour alongside some ground almonds for added moisture. 4 egg yolks & two different types of sugar go into the mix to give the cake a vaguely caramel-ish taste, whilst the egg whites are then whipped into a frenzy & folded in to give the cake its depth and raise. The most important thing about this cake is that it should be made in advance, as it needs at least a few hours to chill in the fridge - the longer the better, really, so I made mine first thing in the morning for the dinner party that night. It comes out of the oven incredibly wobbly & if you stick a skewer in the centre it won't come out clean, so you'll be tempted to think it isn't done. Wrong. Think again. With time to cool & solidify in the fridge, it ends up being this unbelievably rich, velvety smooth, deliciously moist thing that's somewhere between a cake and a brownie. And when you then go & pour a chocolate ganache all over the top and let it melt down onto the sides... Well. Now we're talking.
To make one cake, you will need:
- 250g dark chocolate.
- 250g unsalted butter.
- 4 medium eggs.
- 100g caster sugar.
- 100g light muscovado sugar.
- 50g plain flour.
- 50g ground almonds.
To make the ganache, you will need:
- 284ml carton of double cream.
- 200g dark chocolate.
- 2 tablespoons of golden caster sugar.
1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees celcius and line the base of a cake tin with baking parchment. Obviously if you're using a loose-bottomed tin, lining it won't be necessary.
2. Break up the chocolate & cut the butter into chunks, then melt them togetehr in a glass bowl over a pan of hot simmering water.
3. Meanwhile, separate your eggs. Keep the whites in a separate bowl to use for later.
4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk 4 egg yolks, your caster sugar & light muscovado sugar until well combined.
5. Stir the melted chocolate/butter mixture into the egg/sugar mixture.
6. Fold in the plain flour & ground almonds, mixing it all together with a wooden spoon until well combined.
7. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the egg whites until they form stiff, fluffy peaks. This can take a while, so be patient & persistent.
8. Take a large spoonful of the egg whites & add it into the chocolatey mix. Mix it all together.
9. Carefully fold in the remaining egg whites, being careful to try and keep in as much air as possible. Fold gently until just combined, then stop.
10. Pour the mixture into your cake tin, and then cook for about 35-40 minutes. As previously stated, the cake will still seem quite wobbly & uncooked when taken out of the oven, so you do kind of have to use your intuition/knowledge of your own oven on this one. Make sure not to cook it for any longer than a maximum of 45 minutes though or it will just become stodgy - undercooked is generally better than overcooked, in my opinion. It will also be totally cracked on the top & will sink down in the center as it cools, but these are all things which should be totally embraced in favour of delicious, delicious cake.
11. Leave to cool for about half an hour or so in the tin, then gently take it out & place on a plate. Place this into the fridge for at least an hour, but the longer the better.
12. To make the ganache, pour your double cream into a saucepan and stir in two tablespoons of caster sugar. Place this over a low to medium heat & stir frequently.
13. In a glass bowl, break up 200 grams of dark chocolate.
14. Just before the cream & sugar mixture reaches boiling point, take it off the heat and pour immediately over your chocolate. Stir this all together until it all blends into one delicious thick & creamy mixture. I know this seems slightly mental and like it will never actually work, but trust me - this is hands down my favourite ganache recipe.
15. Pour the ganache generously over your cooled cake, then place it back in the fridge for at least another hour or so for the ganache to set.
As it was for a Halloween party I poured a liberal amount of Halloween sprinkles all over the top of my cake, and it went down a storm - as it evidenced by the fact that, this morning, there was only this tiny little piece left. It's a cake best served cold and, like most things, it can only be improved by a generous dollop of thick double cream.