In which I propose that Death by Chocolate cake is better than dirty underwear.
I have laundry to wash and laundry to dry and laundry to fold and laundry to put away. Laundry will one day rise up and murder me in a delightful-smelling bloodbath. However, I'm going to continue to ignore it because I'm supposed to do something enjoyable every day as part of the Whole Life Challenge that Angie and I are starting on Saturday. I'm definitely not prepared, food-wise, so I'm focusing to be prepared, instead, for the meditating and water-drinking and sleeping parts ahead of time. This is why it's so important for me to continue to ignore laundry and tell you about the chocolate cake I made over Christmas break because the baking and the blogging about baking make me happy. It will also help me forget about going candy- and dessert-free for eight weeks. For my happiness.
I'd best end up being really f*&king happy.
BUT LET'S FOCUS ON THE CHOCOLATE CAKE. It should definitely make you chocolate-lovers happy, anyway, especially since it's so easy. I've been using the adjective "easy" often lately to describe the things I've baked, but I'm really not understating their difficulty. This cake has 3-4 steps, but the individual steps aren't difficult. It's a lot of melting and whipping up and mixing, no special skills or talent or luck required.
So I found this cake in the Great British Book of Baking, which is the companion cookbook for the very first season of the Great British Bake Off. I had low expectations for this cookbook because the first season of Bake Off isn't quite as good as the rest of the seasons--because first seasons rarely are as good as second and third seasons of any show. I ordered the book from AbeBooks over the summer.
I'd been so wrong!! The cookbook is GREAT--accessible but impressive recipes and lots of interesting supplemental materials.
This chocolate cake contains no flour, so it might be appropriate for someone who can't have gluten. You'll have to be the judge of that, yourselves. However, because it's mousse-y in construction, it just sort of melts in the mouth. It LOOKS dense, but it doesn't have a dense feeling in the mouth. I constructed that last sentence to avoid using the word "mouthfeel." We all benefit.
Someone else on the Internet has already illegally copied and pasted the recipe from the book onto her blog, so I've copied and pasted it from her blog to here. I'm pretty sure the Internet would collapse if everyone removed all of the copied and pasted recipes, so nobody do that. If Instagram is taken away from me, I'll have nothing to soothe myself with when I have insomnia or while I listen to my husband tripping over things and cursing in the laundry room. (Neither my husband nor the cursing disturbs my soul . . . but the laundry does.) I love the pretty, pretty pictures.
For the sponge:
300g good quality dark chocolate
150g unsalted butter, diced
5 medium eggs at room temperature
½ tsp vanilla extract
100g caster sugar
For the topping:
200g good quality dark chocolate
100ml double cream
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and grease and baseline a 22cm springform pan (the big, round tins with the clasps on the side)
Break up the chocolate for the sponge and put it in a heatproof bowl with the butter. Set over a pan of steaming hot but not boiling water and leave to melt, stirring frequently. (Don’t let the base of the bowl touch the water, as this will cause the chocolate to get too hot and spoil.) Once the chocolate has melted, remove the bowl from the heat and set to one side.
Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl, add the vanilla, and whisk for a few seconds just to break up. Add the sugar and whisk on full power until pale, very thick, and mousse-like and about 5 times the original volume. This will take about 5 minutes. To test if the mixture is ready, lift out the whisk, and, if a thick, ribbon-like trail of mixture falls back into the bowl and is still visible after 5 seconds, you can stop whisking.
Pour the chocolate mixture on to the egg mousse and very gently, but thoroughly, fold the two together using a large metal spoon. Take your time, and make sure there are no pockets of chocolate at the bottom of the bowl
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the pre-heated oven for 35-45 minutes until just firm to the touch - the center should still be slightly moist under the crust, as the cake will continue cooking after it comes out of the oven.
Stand the tin on a wire cooling rack and run a round bladed knife around the inside to loosen the sponge. Leave until completely cold before removing from the tin. The cake will rise to the top of the tin during baking but will sink on cooling.
Invert the cake onto a serving plate--it is easier to ice the flat base. To make the topping, finely chop the chocolate and put it into a large heatproof bowl with the cream. Set over a pan of hot, but not boiling, water as before. Leave for a minute until the chocolate is half melted, then remove the bowl from the pan and beat the chocolate until glossy.
Pour the topping evenly over the cake and let it trickle down the sides; you can help it a little, but, if you work it too much, you will lose the shine. Leave until firm before serving.
As I've mentioned before, I love working with real chocolate. Ain't nothing wrong with chocolate chips, but I've learned that they definitely do not behave the way a nicer chocolate behaves in baking. It coats more nicely, it's smoother, it tastes better (even to me, someone who doesn't care for a lot of chocolate)--it's just prettier. I've learned now that Mary Berry prefers 40% cocoa chocolate for most types of baking because . . . well, I can't remember. But it does something better.
Chocolate is pretty. I love melting it with butter. I made this cake at my mom's house, and she has an actual double boiler (which I'd forgotten). But I just did what I've watched all of the Bake Off bakers do; I stuck a heat-proof bowl over a shallow pan of warming water (as recommended in the recipe).
While the chocolate was melting (and cooling), I whipped up the eggs, vanilla, and sugar until they were fluffy and mousse-like. It only took about five minutes, as the recipe states it should.
Then came my least favorite task--folding the melted chocolate and butter into the egg mixture. No matter how careful I am or how much practice I've gotten, I always feel like I'm terrible at folding. Folding is a specific, gentle way of incorporating one thing into another when cooking or baking, and, inevitably, I feel like I'm beating the hell out of it to get everything mixed together well enough. It's important to be gentle because the air in the eggs is what is acting as the raising agent in the cake--there is no baking powder or baking soda. If you beat all of the air out of the eggs while folding in the chocolate, the cake won't rise, and you'll feel very sad.
I poured the chocolate/butter mixture into the egg mixture and made chocolate art!
I'm pretty sure I've got a future in chocolate art. Get ready, boys--Mama's using some of her art money and taking you to Arkansas!
While folding, I took my sweet-ass time.
It looked pretty soupy but still had air in the mixture--you can sort of see the air in the picture above.
And that's it! Then, there's nothing but the baking.
I baked it for the minimum time indicated in the recipe because it smelled done. You know how chocolate starts to smell bitter? That's how it smelled, so I took it out. It was totally fine, but I wouldn't have wanted to bake it for much longer.
I let it cool completely and then removed it from the pan and turned it upside down in preparation for the topping. If you use the flat side up, it really looks so much prettier.
Do you see the slight squishing down of the cake in the middle of the right side in the above picture? That made me wonder if it had needed a few more minutes in the oven. When we cut it, though, it was totally done. I really don't think you'd want to bake it for longer.
The topping is even simpler to make than the cake (which is simple). I melted the chocolate with the cream in the microwave because I always do that when making a ganache (chocolate and whipping cream). I think it was plenty shiny enough, but, if you don't think so, you could make the ganache topping as directed in the recipe.
Then, you pour the topping on top of the cake. It's thicker than it looks, so it doesn't really drip down the sounds much, and I don't know why you'd want it to. I like it all smoothed out over the top.
Such a pretty, simple, decadent cake!
I would definitely recommend smaller pieces when you serve it--it's a tad rich.
Well, there you have it--the Death by Chocolate cake. I have to go feed approximately 300 cats and five dogs and one child now because that is my life. However, I feel very accomplished today: my laundry hasn't yet killed me, I took a shower, I'm wearing clothes that aren't elasticized, and I shared a chocolate cake with you. I'm like an Olympic athlete, except at life. We're all winners.