just some of the legendary chefs whose culinary shows i’ve watched with rapture and complete bewilderment. but if there’s one i had to single out, the only true domestic goddess, it has to be Nigella Lawson. there was nothing i did not hold in awe of her shows (nigella feasts, nigella express, nigellissima). be it her flawless ease of cooking, her engaging and entertaining narrative, her decadent bakes, her loaded pantry (complete with fairy lights!) or her fully functional kitchen, it was poetry and romance all the way! read what Nigella has to say about her kitchen here.
cake baking has to be, however innocently, one of the great culinary scams. it implies effort, it implies domestic prowess, but believe me, it’s easy. – Nigella Lawson
long after i’d watched all of her episodes plus reruns, i thought the time had come to overcome my fears and replicate the culinary genius. my first attempt (and success) was met with this dense chocolate loaf cake. i think it was here that i discovered my love for muscovado sugar – dark to be precise. though i’d pinned her devil’s food cake recipe one just too many times, i was waiting on a special occasion, to bake this, and my first-ever-layer-cake-to-be. and when came a dear birthday around the corner, i decided to give this a shot. and i’m so glad i did!
FOR THE CAKE
50 grams best-quality cocoa powder (sifted)
100 grams dark brown muscovado sugar
250 millilitres boiling water
125 grams soft unsalted butter (plus some for greasing)
150 grams caster sugar
225 grams plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
FOR THE FROSTING
125 millilitres water
30 grams dark brown muscovado sugar
175 grams unsalted butter (cubed)
300 grams best-quality dark chocolate (finely chopped)
Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F.
Line the bottoms of two 20cm / 8inch round sandwich tins with baking parchment and butter the sides.
Put the cocoa and 100g / half cup dark muscovado sugar into a bowl with a bit of space to spare, and pour in the boiling water. Whisk to mix, then set aside.
Cream the butter and caster sugar together, beating well until pale and fluffy.
While this is going on – or as soon as you stop if you’re mixing by hand – stir the flour, baking powder and bicarb together in another bowl, and set aside for a moment.
Dribble the vanilla extract into the creamed butter and sugar – mixing all the while – then drop in 1 egg, quickly followed by a scoopful of flour mixture, then the second egg.
Keep mixing and incorporate the rest of the dried ingredients for the cake, then finally mix and fold in the cocoa mixture, scraping its bowl well with a spatula.
Divide this fabulously chocolatey batter between the 2 prepared tins and put in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Take the tins out and leave them on a wire rack for 5–10 minutes, before turning the cakes out to cool.
But as soon as the cakes are in the oven, get started on your frosting: put the water, 30g / 2 tablespoons muscovado sugar and 175g / 1 1/2 sticks butter in a pan over a low heat to melt.
When this mixture begins to bubble, take the pan off the heat and add the chopped chocolate, swirling the pan so that all the chocolate is hit with heat, then leave for a minute to melt before whisking till smooth and glossy.
Leave for about 1 hour, whisking now and again – when you’re passing the pan – by which time the cakes will be cooled, and ready for the frosting.
Set one of the cooled cakes, with its top side down, on a cake stand or plate, and spread with about a third of the frosting, then top that with the second cake, regular way up, and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides, swirling away with your spatula.
this was the best birthday cake ever! moist, with a tender divine crumb and a luscious decadent frosting. forget the name, this cake is heavenly! make it. now!