So it begins...
I’m taking the plunge. I have been vowing to write a baking blog for too long now, and it has come to the point where I have realised I need to stop dallying around and just get on with it (in fact, this post has been sitting waiting to be published for over two weeks...) I was given a personalised cake tin for my 21st birthday by some very good friends of mine and I now aim to fill that tin with something delicious every week.
Baking is something that brings me peace. Now, reading that back I realise it will either sound incredibly cliché, or just plain mad: but it really, really does bring me such pleasure. Not in the ‘ooh-I-made-something-really-yummy-and-I-get-to-eat-it’ kind of way, but in a way that just makes me feel calm and at ease. Baking is time out: it’s just me, my essentials and the radio. Nothing more, nothing less. Life is too crazy and things get in the way of other things all the time – and that’s fine, but occasionally we do have to shove all life’s worries into one cupboard and pull out the bakeware instead.
I know that I probably won’t be the next greatest pastry chef, or a GBBO champ, but what I do know is that this’ll make me happy and that’s enough for me.
I’ll start with a bit of a twist on a chocolate cake. When I think of chocolate cake I think of it being sticky and unctuous and gooey. Something I can describe with all the adjectives that just connote decadence when it comes to food: rich, sweet, creamy. *starts to dribble a little bit* But I’ve found, actually, that baking a cake able to be described in this way is beyond difficult.
The first chocolate cake I ever made involved separating egg whites, folding the whites in with a metal spoon, then putting the yolks in with the chocolate to ‘create the velvety chocolate texture and taste we’re looking for’…pahaha, I just ended up with a dense mess with a crack in the middle enough to sit a football in. But since then I have been a little afraid of making my own chocolate cake – especially when people seem to rave about the Betty Crocker equivalent and will *always* (small tear) rush for those at a bake sale. But today is the day and I hope to conquer the almighty chocolate-cakey mountain! I will conquer not only the cake in its basic form, but will be armed with two of my favourite flavours: orange and almond, to help make my attempt extra tasty.
For battle to commence you will need:
2 medium oranges
150g plain chocolate (use one with a really high cocoa content – something like 72% works well.)
5 large free range eggs
400g golden caster sugar (you can use ordinary if that’s what you have in your cupboard)
350g oil (yes, grams – waaaay easier!)
125g ground almonds
25g cocoa powder (if you want an extra rich flavour, use dark cocoa powder)
375g plain flour
1½tsp baking powder
¼tsp bicarbonate of soda
½tsp almond essence
3-4tbsp orange liqueur
...and for the topping you'll need
350g plain chocolate
225ml double cream
Okay…so that’s a bit of a list, but I promise you it’s worth it!
Let's get going!
Start by boiling your oranges. Pop them straight into a pan, skin and all, and cover with water, bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer for 30mins. In the meantime, make a cuppa and have a gab – this orangey process needs to be finished before can proceed.
When you’ve finished dunking your biscuits, take the oranges out of the pan and transfer to a food processor. You will need to remove the little navel from the orange at this stage, too. Whizz the oranges into a fairly smooth puree and then leave to cool.
Stick your oven on at 180/fan160 or gas 4 and line a 24cm cake tin (preferably springform) with greaseproof. I would recommend bringing the paper up the sides of the tin to stop any sticking when it rises.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water, stirring until glossy and smooth. Set aside to cool, also. (lots of cooling in this recipe…sorry)
Crack your eggs into a bowl with the sugar and oil and then beat gently until combined. The mixture will be quite yellow at this point, so don’t be surprised. It won’t be light and fluffy either.
Grab your orange puree and spoon that into the mix a heap at a time with the mixer going, until combined. Then add in the chocolate and almond essence. If you’re using a free stand mixer, have it on a speed of 3 or 4 at this point.
Measure your almonds, flour, cocoa powder and raising agents together into a tall-ish container and then sieve into the chocolatey-orangey-oily-sugary mixture. Using a spatula fold the dry ingredients in using a cutting and turning action. This will ensure that any air you do have in the mix isn’t knocked out.
Dollop the mixture into the tin and even it out for a smooth top. You can bang the tin on the counter to level it or drag your spatula across the top in a wavy pattern from side to side of the tin.
Bake for 1hr 10mins and then check the sponge by inserting a skewer into the centre. If it is slightly underdone pop it back in for 3minute intervals. When it’s all cooked and chocolatey and lovely leave it to cool in the tin for 20mins before turning out onto a cooling rack. Pour your liqueur into a pot and brush it over the bottom of the sponge – leave it to soak in until the cake is completely cool.
Make your ganache topping by melting all the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water, as before. Take off the heat, cool for 2mins (I know it’s not a lot of time, but I promise it’s worth it – you don’t want to split the cream) and then stir in the cream until it’s thick and glossy. Leave to thicken up and cool a little bit and then swirl onto the cake with a palette knife, covering the top and the sides.
Serve with coffee if you want to intensify the richness, or with cream to cut through the slightly bitter chocolate.