sticky toffee pudding; reinvented.

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my last post on a sticky toffee pudding almost resigned to the idea that perfection had been attained. i say perfection because the recipe was from a site gloating in how-to-cook-the-perfect-everything. while there was a time i believed everything had to have a perfect version to it, with time also came wisdom to know the difference between perfection and excellence thereby paving way for pursuit of excellence instead.  so while perfection may not be attainable, we might just catch excellence along the way. i probably got you thinking why all the talk about perfection vs. excellence. it’s only because while i thought i had almost aced a good sticky toffee pudding, i realized i had bettered it with this.

ingredients

  • 225 grams wet dates (such as medjool), pitted and finely chopped
  • 1 cup (250 milliliters) hot coffee (1 cup boiling water mixed with 1-2 teaspoons of instant espresso powder)
  • 1 1/2 (225 grams cup all purpose flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 85 grams unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup (125 grams soft dark brown sugar)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

toffee sauce

  • 1/2 cup (125 grams unsalted butter)
  • 1 cup (170 grams soft dark brown sugar)
  • 3/4 cup (190 milliliters) heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

instructions

  1. preheat the oven to 350 F and line a 9-inch pan with butter (a 9 inch square pan is fine too).
  2. in a small bowl, stir together the chopped dates and coffee and set aside. the coffee adds a nice level of depth to the cake, and you can barely taste it. but if you would prefer, use hot water instead. set aside.
  3. in another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, then set aside.
  4. cream the butter and brown sugar together until creamy and light. you can use any kind of brown sugar you like. i prefer dark muscovado because it has a deep, richer flavor.
  5. gradually add in the eggs and vanilla and beat for several minutes.
  6. stir in 1/2 of the flour mixture, followed by the date mixture, followed by the rest of the flour mixture.
  7. pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 25-30 min or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  8. pierce the cake multiple times using a skewer or chopstick. this ensures that the cake will absorb all of the toffee sauce.
  9. to prepare the toffee sauce, combine the butter, brown sugar and cream in a saucepan over medium heat.
  10. stir the mixture constantly until it melts and bring it to a boil. reduce the flame to medium-low and boil for around 5 minutes until the mixture thickens.
  11. add the salt, and you can also add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract should you wish.
  12. pour the toffee sauce over the cake, reserving 1/2 cup for topping.

the pudding has a moist soft sponge-y texture and is delicious to say the least. the toffee sauce has a deep, rich flavour making the pudding incomplete without it. i like to serve my pudding with a generous drizzle of toffee sauce before warming it in short bursts in a microwave oven. it must be served warm, with a scoop of good old plain vanilla icecream, if you must. you may think this to be a rather sickishly saccharine dessert but it isn’t exceedingly so. the sauce keeps well in the refrigerator. so does the pudding. this makes a great winter dessert or one for a dark wet june monsoon afternoon. or a grey august melancholic monsoon night. you don’t really need a reason. gratifying, comforting, indulgent; my idea of hygge.

here’s a video of how-to, just in case. the recipe can also be found on the Martha Stewart site.

chocolate fudge bundt cake

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i remember my first bake implement purchase. like all first-things, it was special. it was at a time i knew little of baking or baking implements. when i could not tell what a springform or pushpan meant, when i could not be bothered about bake pan dimensions. and so i happened to pick a bundt pan. it looked fancy, i had no idea what would follow. i remember bringing it home and now that i had one, being motivated to bake. i picked a simple vanilla and chocolate marble cake recipe. i did not line the tin almost assuming my cake to slide off its nonstick slick surface when finished. i remember struggling to get the hot cake off in one piece, which to no surprise came off in pieces of assorted shape and size, with the bottom, burnt and stuck to the pan. i remember thinking what an oddly shaped cake the pan made, not knowing it was an upside down pan. and the rest is history.

so treasured as it were, the bundt pan found its place at the back of my store cupboard not wanting to make an appearance for long. until many years today when i felt nostalgic wanting to bake a bundt cake, this time for real, with having gained the necessary expertise a home baker ought to. and so, it happened. i chose a chocolate fudge bundt cake recipe from king arthur flour. the cake baked beautifully and came out marvelously in one piece. if it helps to know, i prepared the pan with a coating of vegetable oil followed by a dusting of cocoa powder.

coming to the cake now, this seemingly simple recipe makes for a surprisingly sophisticated cake with its dome shape and a ganache for its crown. i did not make the ganache though, i thought the cake was good even without it. this cake is incredibly moist and fudgey from the yogurt and tastes even better on the second day, that’s if it lasts that long. it keeps well too in an airtight container. it has just the right amount of chocolate to it though i now think that the ganache may have just accentuated the flavor a bit more.

i’m looking forward to putting my bundt pan on centre stage now on. it made for a good purchase after all.

ingredients

  • 1 cup brewed coffee
  • 1 cup / 225g unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, dutch-processed cocoa preferred
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt (regular or Greek), full-fat preferred

instructions

  1. preheat the oven to 350°F / 180degC
  2. to make the cake: place the coffee, butter, and cocoa in a small saucepan or microwave-safe bowl. heat, stirring, until the butter melts. remove from the heat, and whisk until smooth. let the mixture cool for 10 minutes.
  3. while the chocolate is cooling, put the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and flour into a mixing bowl, whisking to combine.
  4. pour the cooled chocolate mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients, and mix until thoroughly combined. scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and mix again to incorporate any residue.
  5. in a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, eggs, and sour cream or yogurt. mix into the chocolate batter, stirring until thoroughly combined.
  6. thoroughly grease a 10- to 12-cup bundt pan, preferably non-stick. pour the batter into the prepared pan. bake the cake for 50 to 55 minutes, until a long toothpick or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Note: a pan with a dark interior will bake the cake more quickly; start checking at about 40 minutes.
  7. remove the cake from the oven, wait 5 minutes, and turn the pan over onto a cooling rack. after 5 more minutes, lift the pan off the cake. let the cake cool completely before icing.
  8. to make the icing: combine the chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan set over medium heat. heat until the cream starts to bubble around the edges.
  9. remove from the heat, and stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. spoon the icing over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides.
  10. store any leftover cake at room temperature, well wrapped, for several days. freeze for longer storage.

chocolate beetroot cake

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it’s been a while since my last post. not that I haven’t baked in a while, but just that I haven’t got myself to post, so much so I failed to create my blog anniversary post too. how bad is that now. bad enough to shame me. so I decided it was time I had made some progress. and it couldn’t happen without a reason as compelling enough as what baking this chocolate beet cake warranted. I wondered what the humble beetroot could impart to an otherwise ordinary chocolate cake. the festive color for one, will have you rethink the way red velvet cakes are made. and the moistness for another, will have you wanting to substitute banana mash or apple sauce with beet purée despite its color.

this recipe from Nigel Slater makes that perfect chocolate beet cake. decadent and chocolatey from the dark chocolate and cocoa, achingly moist from the beet with a color that’s oh so seductive. I call it a labour of love from the many bowls and utensils I had to work my way through, considering that I’d taken to one-bowl-no-creaming recipes for quite sometime now. there is technique to madness after all. not to mention the time that went into its preparation before revealing of its luscious batter, color and consistency. I’d also have to say this makes a rather towering cake in an 8″ springform and comes closest to those mile high pound cake recipes you find on Pinterest!

none of my beet-weary mates I’d offered this cake to could guess its secret ingredient. and when they were told of it, they still refused to believe! so if you’re skeptical that the beet might just overpower the chocolate, there is no reason for worry, trust me, this would be no acquired taste. make it to believe it! 


ingredients 

  • 240g beets, unpeeled, rinsed and scrubbed free of dirt
  • 200 g bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped, 50% or 70% cacao solids
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) hot espresso (or water)
  • 200g butter, at room temperature, cubed
  • 1 cup (135g) flour
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (the darkest you can find, natural or Dutch-process)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 5 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup (200g) superfine sugar

instructions

1. butter an 8 or 8 1/2 inch (20 cm) springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

2. boil the beets in salted water with the lid askew until they’re very tender when you stick a knife in them about 45 minutes. drain then rinse the beets with cold water. when cool enough to handle, slip off the peels, cut the beets into chunks, and grind them in a food processor until you get a coarse, yet cohesive, puree. (if you don’t have a food processor, use a cheese grater.)

3. preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).

4. in a large bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring as little as possible. once it’s nearly all melted, turn off the heat (but leave the bowl over the warm water), pour in the hot espresso and stir it once. then add the butter. press the butter pieces into the chocolate and allow them to soften without stirring.

5. sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder in a separate bowl.

6. remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat and stir until the butter is melted. let sit for a few minutes to cool, then stir the egg yolks together and briskly stir them into the melted chocolate mixture. fold in the beets.

7. in a stand mixer, or by hand, whip the egg whites until stiff. gradually fold the sugar into the whipped egg whites with a spatula, then fold them into the melted chocolate mixture, being careful not to overmix.

8. fold in the flour and cocoa powder.

9. scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and reduce the heat of the oven to 325ºF (160ºC), and bake the cake for 40 minutes, or until the sides are just set but the center is still is just a bit wobbly. do not overbake.

let cake cool completely, then remove it from the pan.

read about David Lebovitz’ experience of baking this cake;

http://www.davidlebovitz.com/moist-chocolate-beet-cake-recipe-nigel-slater/

banana upside down cake

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life is a paradox, they say. how true, it resonates. we live in times where we have all possible means to connect and communicate and yet we’re disconnected in thoughts and words and deeds. religion is used more for destruction than salvation. and that makes us wonder, is God man-made or is man the handiwork of God? we talk more but say little of substance. or we never say what we really mean, but really mean what we never say. and then sometimes by not saying we risk more than otherwise saying. we do more but live less. nothing lasts forever and yet some things are eternal. we’re told it’s now or never and yet there are comebacks and fairly tale endings. and that change is inevitable and yet it is constant. we have to lose what we have to know what we had and yet we never did think we’d lose what we had when we had it. our cure for pain is sometimes revenge, the root of it. we’re happy and then we’re sad for we fear we cannot be happy for long. we fear what we long for. the pursuit of happiness is what makes us sad. and if life is truly outside, why has man spent time trying to perfect the indoors? so what is life then, if not a paradox? 

so not particularly feeling  quite myself, i resorted to baking. with a few bananas lying on my kitchen countertop about to reach their prime, i decided to go with an upside down cake. thankfully, it turned out to be perfect, unlike my state of mind. i chose a David Lebovitz’ recipe, whose book “the sweet life in Paris” i’ve read with undivided attention and complete rapture. it was my first ever chef book read and one that was followed by many chef-culinary memoirs. here’s an interview with David Lebovitz, who i think is witty and writes with unfazed candidness.

ingredients

for the banana topping

55g butter, unsalted
110g packed dark brown sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
1 tablespoon rum
3-4 medium bananas

for the cake

175g all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
115g unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
150g granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup (125ml) whole or lowfat milk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


instructions

1. to make the topping, heat the 55g of butter, brown sugar, and seeds from the vanilla bean, in a 10-inch (25cm) cast iron skillet on the stovetop. stir until the butter and sugar are liquified and start to bubble. remove from heat and stir in the rum. add the split vanilla bean to the skillet.
2. peel the bananas and slice them in half lengthwise, into thirds, and arrange them over the brown sugar topping in the skillet. preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
3. to make the cake, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon, in a small bowl and set aside.
4. in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or by hand in a medium bowl using a sturdy spatula, beat the butter with the granulated sugar until light and fluffy. add the eggs one at a time, stopping the mixer between the additions and scraping down the sides.
5. on slow speed, mix in half of the dry ingredients, then the milk and vanilla, then the rest of the dry ingredients, mixing only until they’re just incorporated. do not overmix. scrape the batter over the bananas in the skillet and bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cake feels done when you press it in the center. a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.
6. remove the cake from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes. run a knife around the outside of the cake to help it release from the pan, and turn it out onto a serving platter or cooling rack, wearing oven mitts and taking care to avoid drips from hot caramel. any caramel bits that may have stuck in the pan can be spooned back over the warm cake.

i used a 9 inch bake pan instead of a skillet. i placed the banana slices in the pan and poured the caramel all over before topping it with the batter. and i made the batter entirely by hand using precisely one bowl and one whisk and i must say, it still made a beautifully moist cake. you don’t always need fancy equipment, it’s all about putting what you have to use in the best possible way.


i must say the cake when released from the pan upside down was quite a treat to the eyes, pity i did not take a picture. you can check out the finished cake on David Lebovitz’ site, mine looked just as pretty as his. it tasted yum and is best served the day it’s made, preferably warm, but can also be served at room temperature, like i did. a real moist cake with a delicious tight crumb and the goodness of caramelized bananas. now that’s no paradox. thank God for the simple pleasures.

 

 update 29 Jan 2017

i made a version of an apple upside down cake using the same recipe except for substituting light brown sugar for dark for the caramel. and it goes without saying, lots of cinnamon. 


2016 holiday baking

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how did it get so late so soon?
it’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
my goodness how the time has flewn.
how did it get so late so soon?

– Dr. Seuss

is it any wonder i ask myself every december how it has come to be december already from all the times the earth had revolved around the sun and it had started to get dark and yet i wasn’t one gibbous moon closer to a yearly goal or that i hadn’t set myself any. this december wasn’t any different. except i made time to do some holiday baking, the beneficiaries of which happened to be my colleagues at work. this is what i managed to put together.

chocolate brownies from the famed ‘baked’ bakery brownie recipe

ingredients

  • 155 grams all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 310 grams dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 230 grams) butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (or 1.5 teaspoons instant coffee granules)
  • 1½ cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (100 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

instructions

  1. preheat the oven to 180C. line a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. in a medium bowl, whisk the flour and cocoa powder together.
  3. put the chocolate, butter, and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. the mixture should come to room temperature.
  4. add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. add the remaining 2 eggs and whisk just until combined. add the vanilla extract and stir until combined. don’t overmix at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.
  5. add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture and fold until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.
  6. pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. let the brownies cool completely, then lift them out of the pan using the parchment paper. cut into squares and serve.

this is my definitive brownie recipe i swear by and one that has satisfied many a happy mouths. make sure you use the finest dark chocolate around because that is what lends its taste to the final product. and use 50-60% minimum dark chocolate for best results.

nutella and walnut fudge from olive magazine

ingredients

  • 240 g salted butter
  • 250 g condensed milk
  • 300 g nutella
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300 g icing sugar
  • walnuts

instructions

add the salted butter and condensed milk to a pan and stir on low heat until the butter has melted and blended. remove pan from heat and add in the nutella and vanilla extract. pour this mix over a bowl of icing sugar and mix well. pour the mix into an 8×8 tin lined with baking parchment and sprinkle a handful of crushed walnuts over.refrigerate for upto 4-6 hours. cut into squares and place in an airtight container. these remain refrigerated for upto a week or longer. if they’re kept at room temperature they may not hold their shape depending on your climatic conditions.

ginger-nut biscuit fudge adapted from here


ingredients

  • 200 g milk chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 100 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 100 g butter, diced
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 x 400 g tin condensed milk
  • 250 g mc vities ginger nut biscuits, each biscuit broken into thirds
  • line a loaf tin with cling film and set aside

instructions

set a heatproof bowl over a pot of gently simmering water. add in the chocolate and butter and allow to melt, stirring now and then until it’s smooth. remove the bowl from the heat and mix in the espresso powder, then pour in the condensed milk, stirring well to combine. add in the biscuits and stir until they’re evenly distributed in the chocolate. pour the chocolate biscuit mixture into the lined loaf tin, pressing it down evenly and firmly with a spatula. smooth the top with the spatula, then place in the fridge for about 3 hours, or overnight, until set. cut into thin slices or small cubes (it’s very rich) to serve. wrapped tightly in clingfilm, this will keep for a couple weeks in the fridge.

Christmas fruitcake from goodhousekeeping



ingredients

  • 500g or more mixed dried fruit such as apricots/prunes/figs/black currants/dates
  • 100ml brandy/cointreau/rum
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 175g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 175g dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 125g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon powder
  • 2 tsp mixed spice powder

instructions

1. put the fruit, orange zest, and juice, cointreau and vanilla into a large non-metallic bowl. stir, then cover with cling film and leave to soak for at least 24hr or for up to 2 days.

2. put the butter and sugar into a large mixing bowl and beat with a handheld electric whisk for 2-3min until light and creamy. gradually whisk in the beaten eggs, adding a little of the flour if the mixture starts to curdle. fold in the remaining flour, cinnamon, cloves and mixed spice.

3. tip the soaked fruit mixture into the bowl and stir well, then spoon into a greased and lined deep round cake tin and level the surface (there’s no need to make a dip in the mixture).

4. bake at 150°C mark 2 for 1hr 40min or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. leave to cool completely in the tin, then remove from tin (keep in its parchment paper) and wrap in a double thickness of foil. store in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months.

5. if you want to feed your cake in the run-up to Christmas, after it has been left wrapped for 2 weeks, prick the top of the cake all over with a skewer and sprinkle over 1tbsp brandy or cointreau. rewrap and store as before. feed every few weeks for a more intense flavour.

mixed nut pie

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there’s something deeply comforting about pie. and a warm one at that. it is the combination of textures from that crust and custard filling, and versatility in terms of type, be it fruit, meat or vegetable, and flavor, be it dessert or savoury. i don’t know of anyone who does not fancy a good apple pie though the jury may be out on pumpkin pie. my personal favorite is a warm apple pie on a cold wintry day, and a chicken pot pie, the definitive salve to my soul. to me, baking pie at home meant hard work. and i often wondered how one worked their way through a lattice pie and other indigenous innovative designs. the only one time i remember having baked pie was pairing with my baker sister-in-law and having chosen a rather ambitious fig almond pie that i now come to remember wasn’t bad considering the constraints we had to work around in terms of limited pantry ingredients and baking implements.

fig and almond tart ovenbound

A post shared by Priya Francis-Jacob (@pf2979) on

some hundred Pinterest pins later on ‘how to bake that perfect butter pie crust’, i still couldn’t garner the courage to bake one myself. but the compulsive pinning did not stop. and then came the awakening with my brother sending me a link to Nigella Lawson’s pecan pie and a chance to register for a cookalong contest with the reward being a signed copy of any one of Nigella’s books! now who wouldn’t want that?! i quickly went through the recipe making mental notes of the ingredients and taking stock of my pantry. i decided i was going to take on this challenge with or without the reward.

as always, Nigella’s recipes do not disappoint. her pecan pie crust calls for no expertise whatsoever, made from flour, oil and milk! the rest of the pie filling is as simple as it can get. i don’t get pecans where i come from and had to therefore settle for a mix of walnuts, almonds and some leftover hazelnuts from one of her other classic recipes i’d last baked. the result was simply amazing – a delicious dessert pie best served warm, with a generous scoop of some plain vanilla ice cream if you please. i think this makes a great winter dessert for a fairly large family gathering.


ingredients

  • 225 grams plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 125 grams vegetable oil
  • 60 mLfull fat milk
  • 150 grams golden syrup
  • 100 grams soft butter
  • 200 grams soft light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 350 grams mixed nuts
  • 3 large eggs

instructions

  1. preheat your oven to 180°C. in a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, oil and milk to form a rough dough.
  2. tip out into a 25cm / 10 inches diameter flan dish, and press the dough patiently over the base and the sides of the dish, slightly coming up over the top if possible. put in the freezer.
  3. melt the syrup, butter and brown sugar over a lowish heat in a saucepan.
  4. add the vanilla, stir, then take off the heat and let it stand for 10 minutes.
  5. take the pastry-lined flan dish out of the freezer, and arrange the nuts on it.
  6. whisk the eggs into the slightly cooled sugary syrup until it looks like a caramel mixture, then pour it over the nuts.
  7. bake in the oven for 40 minutes, or until the filling has set and the pastry is golden.

my entry to the cookalong contest is registered. fingers crossed! if nothing i’ll still be glad i got myself to finally bake one!

one bowl chocolate fudge cake

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you know that line that’s been around for a while now – you eat cake because it’s somebody’s birthday somewhere. now that could become a perfectly legitimate excuse for baking and eating cake when that someone is your mother and when you’re home away from home. so, homesick, as i’ve been all these years with not having been in town to celebrate my mum’s birthday with her, the closest i could feel to being home with her was to bake her a cake. i wanted a cake that screamed celebratory yet contrary to the effort. something i could whip up after long work hours with precisely one whisk and one bowl. and not having to mention, melted butter considering i always refrigerate. should you carry unrealistic expectations and specifications such as mine, you’d be happy to know they could be fulfilled; with this recipe from Alice Medrich that makes the perfect chocolate fudge cake from basic pantry ingredients all with one bowl and one whisk.

i cannot express how simple this is to put together! and with the results obtained, you would think you worked real hard to get it to taste the way it does. intensely rich from the cocoa and a moist tender crumb from the butter and light muscovado sugar, this cake reigns supreme in all departments. it is now my go-to recipe for when i’m low on time and energy. it is my just-because cake.

this recipe comes from ‘sinfully easy delicious desserts’ by Alice Medrich and though i have had the book for the longest time now, i happened to first spot it here. i must say this has reinforced my belief in Alice Medrich after having tasted many success with her signature cocoa brownies. i look forward to trying more of her recipes.


ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not Dutchprocessed, i used Hershey’s)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and warm
  • 1-1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • ganache
    • 8 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
    • 1 cup heavy cream; more as needed
    • granulated sugar (optional)

instructions

position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 180 degC. grease the bottom of an 8×2- or 9×2-inch round cake pan or line it with parchment.

in a small bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder and baking soda. in a large bowl, combine the melted butter and brown sugar with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. add the eggs and vanilla; stir until well blended. add the flour mixture all at once and stir just until all combined. pour the hot water over the batter; stir just until it’s incorporated and the batter is smooth. scrape the batter into the prepared pan. bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes for a 9-inch pan; 35 to 40 min. for an 8-inch pan. let cool in the pan on a rack for 10 min. run a thin knife around the edge and invert the cake (peel off the parchment if necessary). invert it again onto the rack and let cool completely.

put the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. in a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil.  pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk gently until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.  (if using a 70% bittersweet chocolate, the ganache may get thick; add more cream, a tablespoon at a time, to thin it). you might also want to add a couple of teaspoons of sugar when you add the hot cream. the ganache will keep for a week in the refrigerator, covered – rewarm gently before using.

once cool, set the rack over a baking sheet or foil. pour the warm ganache over the cake and use an icing spatula to spread it over the top of the cake and down the sides. let set for about an hour before serving. i had some leftover ganache from a cake i baked a week ago and used it instead.


after baking well late into the night, i was left with no time for frosting so i let the cake cool overnight in the pan. come morning, in between breakfast, lunch and dinner meal prep i had just about enough time to warm the ganache off the refrigerator and frost the cake that had been sitting plain yet pretty on my kitchen countertop. i regret not having had the time to shoot a few pictures in between the ceremonial cutting of wedges (you get 8 generous portions or 16 measly ones) to take with me to work and some siphoned for snacking later in the day. so you just have to believe this makes a pretty cake when frosted. make sure the ganache is relatively thick so you get to swirl it around forming those soft luscious peaks. between work and home, this cake was gone in a day. try it, you’ll see. happy birthday mom.