Monday, September 19, 2011

A great big chocolate cake

When I think of a great big chocolate cake, my mind immediately turns to the story Matilday by Roald Dahl. There is a scene in which a chubby boy has been accused of stealing a slice of the Trunchball's special chocolate cake, and as punishment he is forced to eat a huge one all on his own, in front of the school. While the book does a great job at describing it, it cannot really conjure up an image of the amazingly huge, dark, gooey cake that is shown in the movie. It is that mouthwatering image that I always aim for when I make a chocolate cake. I don't think I have every quite achieved it though. However, this cake is in general a huge favourite. On this occasion there was a big housewarming party/weekend away for which I was asked to help with the baking. I'm not sure if I was really required, most people can bake, but I think many people see it as a chore, whereas I find it fun. So it was a treat for me, and saved others the hassle. I am going to spread out the deliciousness though, so today I am only going to tell you about the cake. The massive cake. We doubled the recipe and used my largest tin, 25 cm diameter. It really was over-the-top, and while a nice big cake looks good and gets lots of comments, they tend to not get eaten when everybody is drinking and partying. So we had to work on it the next day.

Now, the thing about a mudcake is the recipe will often call for coffee, because coffee is used to enhance the flavour of chocolate. Only the first time I ever made a mudcake I was quite young and got somewhat confused at the point where I was supposed to add a cup of coffee. The recipe didn't specify hot, liquid coffee you see, and they usually don't. It just said '1 cup instant coffee'. So I took a guess and filled up my measuring cup with instant coffee. Needless to say, the cake was not good. It was sort of grainy and crunchy and tasted only of coffee. Of all my kitchen disasters, this was the only one bad enough to cause a sleepless night, but I think that may be something to do with the amount of caffiene in a single piece. I learnt my lesson very well though, and these days make a very good mudcake. The coffee is not even entirely neccessary, on this occassion I had none and made do without; the cake was not quite as rich and dark as usual but was still a big hit.

Chocolate Mudcake

1 cup buttermilk
150 grams butter
250 grams chocolate (at least 50% cocoa solids, more if you like)
1 cup strong, hot coffee (or just water)
2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla essence
Chocolate ganache:
-400 grams chocolate (whatever you like, milk, dark, white, it's all good)
-1 1/2 cups cream

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and grease the tin that you want to use. A round tin of about 20 cm diameter should do the trick. The mixture is very runny so if you use a springform tin line it well! Last time I did not heed my own warning and the mixture went everywhere! To stop it burning and making an awful smell I had to take the cake out of the oven once it had cooked enough to stop leaking everywhere and scrape away all the cake from the tray (because I had at least though to put a tray under the cake tin), and then quickly put the cake back before the middle sunk. And then I ate all the scraped up bits of course. But to get to the point - for this cake line the inside of a springform tin with baking paper, a single sheet pressed down that comes all the way up the sides, and also maybe wrap tin-foil around the outside for just in case.

So to continue - in a saucepan combine the chocolate, butter and coffee and heat until the chocolate and butter are melted and smooth.

Beat the eggs (they don't need to be separated) and then mix this into the chocolate mixture. Do the same for the milk. I know a lot of cakes ask for the milk and flour to be added bit by bit alternately, but that isn't really necessary here.

Sift the dry ingredients into the batter and mix well. If your flour has its own raising agents leave out the baking powder! When the batter is all mixed well together (I know you are not meant to overmix a cake, but you still need to give it a good mix. Where is the line to be drawn?!) Pour it into the prepared tin (that you should then place on a tray, even if it is not a springform tin, just in case it overflows, though I hope that it doesn't).

Bake for about 1 hour, until a skewer or fork inserted into the middle comes out clean! Let the cake cool for awhile before trying to remove it from the pan, and then let it cool completely before frosting. This was my first time using a gas oven and I think it was a lot hotter than a realised, because the top of the cake got very dark! It's all good though, when it cooled I sliced off the top and nobody was the wiser!

As for the frosting: this simple ganache is really easy. Simply break the chocolate up into a saucepan and pour the cream over. Heat gently and stir until the chocolate is all melted and the mixture smooth. Cool the mixture, which will become sort of thick. You don't want it to be runny or it will simply run off the cake, so give it about an hour to cool, until  you can see that it will stay where you put it. You can pour it over a cake while it is still slightly warm, or let it cool a bit further and then spread it. If you want it to be fluffier, like frosting, beat it slightly. It should be pipe-able too. The best thing to do for this cake is to use a long knife or piece of cotton to cut the cake into two halves, sandwhich them back together with ganache and then spread more ganache on top. Back home we always used to spread the middle with rasberry jam too. This time I sprinkled rasberries and blueberries over the middle and then more over the top.

So to follow on from the massive chocolate overdose - more chocolate! In NZ we have a treat that we call chocolate fudge cake, of which similar things are known by other names in other countries. For this occasion we turned it into rocky road by adding nuts and marshmallows, which I will post about tomorrow. Then, to give our poor tummies a rest from all that chocolate, there were vanilla cupcakes, with chocolate chips of course!

1 comment:

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