Sunday, January 06, 2008

(Chocolate) Christmas Cake

Sun 23 Dec 2007

I start this with a confession: if you are hoping for a photograph ... I forgot to take one! However, I suggest that you take a peek at my shot of Nigel Slater's chocolate brownies, as this did not look fundamentally different (except that I cooked it in a round tin).

In the run up to Christmas I managed to fit in a lot of cooking which was helped by the fact that while my own Christmas Eve soirée was cancelled I volunteered to do some cooking for my friend Jenn. Amongst other things I grandly, and vaguely, offered to 'do' dessert.

My first thought was to make Slater's chocolate brownies, but they're in danger of becoming ubiquitous so I thought I'd try Shaun Hill's chocolate cake from The Crisis Cookbook. Crisis is a UK charity for single homeless people and chefs such as Joel Robuchon, Ferran Adrià and Heston Blumenthal have donated recipes to create this book. It costs just £5 and is available from Amazon and Marks and Spencers.

Anyway, Shaun Hill is currently chef at the Walnut Tree in Wales, and he was one of the Michelin starred bright lights in the Shropshire town of Ludlow. The cake is simplicity itself ...

I was supposed to melt 225g plain chocolate with 100g of unsalted butter - unfortunately, too much chatting and not enough attention to detail meant that I ended up using more like 125g of butter. This did not adversely affect the end product (it was more than edible and looked fine), but I wouldn't recommend making the same mistake. It made the mixture particularly oily and slick and caused rather a lot of stress!

Separate 4 eggs and whisk the whites until stiff. Into the food processor with the yolks, which were whisked with 225g icing sugar and about a teaspoon of vanilla essence. Finally, 2 tbsp of corn flour were whisked in and the mixture was given a good long beating. Hill's recipe states that the mixture should be whisked until it lightens perceptibly. I suspect in reality this will mean whisking until you are fed up with the noise from the food processor or whisk until your arm is sore.

The melted chocolate and butter mix was added and well combined, before the egg whites were folded in.

With the oven pre-heated to 190C, the mixture went into a base lined 18cm round cake tin and was baked for around half an hour. You don't want the cake too cooked ... a little undercooked and the centre will be gooey (and that's a good thing). My cake rose beautifully while cooking and then gracefully collapsed back onto itself as it cooled. The end result was dense and fudgy and rich.

At the party, we served it cut into small squares with a drizzle of cream. And there were no complaints!

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