Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Chocolate and almond cake

I really didn't intend to post another chocolate recipe this week. I was hoping to share one for a rather lavish lemon meringue cake, which I set out to make for a friend's birthday on Saturday. But it was a disaster. Operator error I think, I can't blame the cake. Fearful of scorching the meringue, I took it out of the oven too early and when I came to assemble it, realised that the centre was gooey and not in a good way. In an uncooked batter, make you feel sick kind of way. I know because I ate a fair bit of it, as I assessed whether this was a salvagable situation. Could I cut out the middle and fill the centre with cream and lemon curd? In the end, I decided against it and at the eleventh hour, chose to start from scratch. I didn't have the nerve for another lemon meringue. I didn't have much time. I needed something fail safe. Something simple, but still special enough for a birthday. Stephanie (Alexander) was my salvation. Her recipe for chocolate almond cake to be precise. That my butter was fridge-hard wasn't a problem as it was melted down with chocolate. It didn't have layers, didn't need frosting. The cooking time wasn't too long. In about an hour, I had a cake. Derived from the French reine de Saba or Queen of Sheba's cake, essentially this is a flourless chocolate cake (and thus gluten free) but with lots less butter than the traditional sort which is far richer and more oozy in texture. This version is bolstered by ground almonds, which means it keeps nicely should there be leftovers and holds its shape packed in a lunchbox. Stephanie says it's easy to make on a whim, or in my case, in a blind panic about having only an hour to make a replacement birthday cake. Both are valid motivations, both result in a cake that's light, not too sweet yet satisfyingly chocolatey. Dust with icing sugar, dollop with cream. Done.

Chocolate and almond cake
Adapted from A Cook's Companion, by Stephanie Alexander

The original recipe calls for one tablespoon each of coffee and brandy (rather than 2 tablespoons coffee) so if you have that to hand (I didn't) or like your cakes a little boozy, by all means go that route.

125g dark chocolate, chopped
 2 tablespoons black coffee
100g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
3 eggs, separated
icing sugar, to serve

Preheat oven to 160 deg C. Butter an 18cm round cake tin and line it with baking paper. 

Combine chocolate and coffee in a bowl over a double boiler. Stir when melted and add butter and sugar. Mix well. Add ground almonds and stir very well. Lightly beat eagg yolks and stir into bowl off the heat. Beat egg whites til firm. Lighten chocoalte mixture with a spoonful of egg white, then fold in rest of whites and spoon into prepared tin. Bake for 40-45 minutes. The cake will still test a litte gooey in the centre. It will have developed a crust and be very fragile. Cool completely in tin, then carefully invert onto a serving plate. Dust with icing sugar.

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