I am working at home, cappuccino in one hand and typing with the other. I am aware that there are two slices of cake – chocolate and yogurt respectively – waiting for me in the fridge, perhaps wondering why I did not eat them yet. I think I will in a moment, but this brings me neatly to today’s recipe. The other day some of my friends asked me what I usually bake for my birthday. (It would be nice to get a cake from someone else but somehow if you’re a baker, people expect you to bake your own cake. In Maltese I say “Tajba din!” Loosely translated as “good one!”) This year the only thing I knew was that there was to be chocolate involved, as always, but I couldn’t make up my mind.
Then I found the perfect recipe. I must admit that I tend to get on people’s nerves with my overuse of that word. “Perfect” recipes are often hard to come by. The ones I come up with are not perfect most of the time, even with loads of testing. They may taste great and look great but it takes years of practice to get something “perfect”. The ones in some recipe books tend to be lovely, but not all of them get the “Perfect” prize from me. However, the most unassuming one got that kind of praise in the past couple of weeks. The winner, you might ask? It might be.
You can find this chocolate cake recipe in Lorraine Pascale’s Baking Made Easy. It’s her (wait for it) ‘I just don’t give a damn’ Chocolate Cake. Now who wouldn’t want to bake something like that? And the name works…because the recipe works…because you measure the ingredients in one bowl all at one go, mix and you’re done. Fantastic. Here’s how I did it, with a slight variation on the quantities.
- A few drops of vegetable oil (to grease the cake pans)
- 140g crème fraiche
- 130g unsalted butter, softened
- 230g soft light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
- 4 eggs
- 180g plain flour
- pinch of salt*
- 40g cocoa powder
- 10g baking powder
Preheat the oven to 180 ºC/Gas mark 4 and oil two 20 cm round cake tins. (You don’t need to use the loose-bottomed ones.) Line the bottom with round parchment paper.
Place all the ingredients into one big bowl and mix till everything is combined. (Add just a little pinch of salt. You could avoid it but I think here it does make a difference to the flavour.*) As I always insist (at the cost of boring you to death, I know) it is really important not to overmix the cake batter. You want fluffy, not rock solid here.
Divide the mixture into the two cake tins and place on the same top shelf in the oven, especially if you have an electric one.
Bake for around 30 mins, until the sides of the cakes come away from the tins. Leave the cakes to cool almost completely in the tins; remove and peel off the parchment paper from the bottom. Let them continue to cool on a cookie rack.
Now you can calmly prepare the frosting.
- 80g dark chocolate
- 130g soft unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
- 250g icing sugar
Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. When it is completely melted remove it from the heat and let it cool.
In another bowl whisk the butter, vanilla extract and icing sugar till they are light and airy. Add the cooled melted chocolate and fold it gently into the butter mixture.
The cakes should be completely cold by now so spread one of them with some frosting. Place the other one on top and cover with the rest of that gorgeous chocolate gooeyness.
Decorate as you wish. I had loads of pink hearts and sprinkles to do that with. I may be a tomboy, but I am a girl at heart!
Enjoy and Happy Birthday to you!
(Adapted from Lorraine Pascale’s Baking Made Easy, HarperCollins, 2011.)