Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Deeply Chocolate Layer Cake

This is not a cake for those who are indifferent to chocolate. No, this is a cake for serious chocolate lovers; those with more delicate tastes may even decide to steer clear. But if you like intense chocolate flavours, then you're in for a treat.

The buttermilk and oil-based sponge is moist and fudgy with the added bonus of being easy to make and slice. The layers are sandwiched together with a mascarpone and nutella cream and then the whole thing is covered with a rich chocolate glaze. 

It works because it's all well-balanced - the sponge has sharpness from the buttermilk and sweetness from golden syrup, the filling is saved from being too sugary thanks to the hazelnuts, and the glaze, made with chocolate, water and a little butter, is dark and intense. I used 70% chocolate for this as I wanted some bitterness to counteract the sweetness of the filling but if you don't want such an intense taste, use dark chocolate with a lower cocoa content. The filling (equal quantities of nutella and mascarpone) sounds unlikely but is actually quite wonderful, the two ingredients working together to give an almost crème pâtissière consistency. If you're a nutella lover, be warned - the stuff is addictive and even those who don't much like nutella won't be able to resist.

This cake is my submission to Choclette’s We Should Cocoa challenge, which is being hosted this month by Maison Cupcake. The theme is layer cakes. And congratulations to Choclette who has just moved from Chocolate Log Blog to a fantastic new blog home, Tin and Thyme - I look forward to reading more of her posts about Cornish life and food. 

175g self raising flour 
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
140g caster sugar
2 eggs 
150ml sunflower oil 
150ml buttermilk
2 tablespoons golden syrup 

For the filling
150g mascarpone, room temperature
150g nutella, room temperature
a few drops vanilla extract

For the glaze:
250g dark chocolate
50g butter, cut into cubes
125ml water

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C

Grease and base line a round cake tin, 20cm diameter

Sieve together the flour, bicarb and cocoa into a large bowl (or the bowl of your mixer). Add the sugar and mix. Add the oil, buttermilk, syrup and eggs and beat until smooth. 

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, smoothing the top.

Put in the oven and bake for about 35-40 mins or until the cake is cooked and a cake tester comes out clean. 

Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for about 20 mins before carefully turning out and leaving to cool on a wire rack. 

While the cakes are cooking and cooling, you can make the filling and glaze. 

For the filling:
Just put the mascarpone, nutella and vanilla extract into a bowl and whisk until smooth. Just make sure the ingredients aren't too cold otherwise they won't mix well. 

For the glaze:
Chop the chocolate and melt gently in the water until smooth, then beat in the butter. Cool until the icing is thick and spreadable.

When the cake is completely cold, cut carefully into three layers. Sandwich the layers together with the mascarpone and nutella cream, right up to the edges. Move to a wire rack and pour/spread with the chocolate glaze, covering top and sides completely. 

Leave to set.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Citrus and Honey Madeleines


The experience of tasting a madeleine, near the beginning of Swann's Way, is by far the most famous part of Marcel Proust's epic novel In Search of Lost Time. Even those who have never so much as opened a book by Proust are probably familiar with the episode: the author, as adult narrator, eats a madeleine dipped in tea, sparking memories of childhood afternoons at his aunt's home in Combray. 

The passage highlights the importance of the senses in jogging our memories and transporting us back to events and experiences in our past. Although madeleines never featured in my childhood, the smell of tea, the sound of china teacups clinking together gently on a tray and the smell of a cake baking in the oven (which I had baked with my mum earlier in the afternoon), take me straight back to Sunday afternoon tea when I was growing up - comforting, warm, cosy. 

And I am happy to report that even now, when I spend the weekend at home with my parents, Sunday tea is still served, with the same china teacups, on the same wooden tray and with a freshly-baked cake standing proudly on a flowered plate. Next time I might just make these madeleines to go with it though. 

It was actually Proust's mother who gave him the madeleine that provoked all his memories so I'm sending these to Treat Petite hosted alternately by Stuart from Cakeyboi (this month's host) and Kat from the Baking Explorer - the theme this month is Mum. 

Citrus Scented Madeleines


3 free-range eggs
150g caster sugar
175g plain flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
8g baking powder
175g butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus extra for greasing
2g salt
10g honey

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. 

Brush the madeleine tray with melted butter then shake in a little flour to coat, tapping out the excess.

Whisk together the eggs and the sugar in a bowl until frothy. 

Lightly whisk in the remaining ingredients. Leave to stand for 30 minutes before carefully pouring into the prepared madeleine tray.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the mixture has risen a little in the middle and is fully cooked through. 

Transfer the madeleines to a wire rack and leave for a few minutes to cool slightly. These are best eaten within an hour of cooking.

Orange and lemon madeleines