My first memory of being excited by food was triggered, unbeknownst to me at the time, by deceit. It was maternal deception, ripe for Greek tragedy. You’ll understand I’m not being dramatic when you hear I was brainwashed to believe I didn’t… like… chocolate.
For the first three years of my life my mother told me this, and naturally, I believed her. Instead, as a 'treat' I was offered carob. If you just involuntarily gagged reading that you'll appreciate the situation. This bitter, chalky, so-called chocolate substitute must've been thrust upon thousands of us born to hippie parents hellbent on healthy upbringings; marring what should've been happy chocolaty moments.
My mom laughs recounting the inevitable day I came running into the house shouting “Mommy, mommy, I DO like chocolate! I do!” I was breathless with discovery and giddy from my first kiss; a Hershey’s Kiss. No one remembers who gave it to me now, but I salute you, cocoa hero. My mom says her reaction to my epiphany was, “This kid is smarter than we thought,” (uh, thanks) and she knew the times, oh they were a changing. From then on, the healthy upbringing continued, but chocolate was allowed for special occasions. Victory!
I still love chocolate, but I don’t binge on it in an attempt to make up for lost time, it remains an occasional indulgence. Annoying when parenting sticks, eh? But when I eat it, I eat it right – I prefer it dark, and I like any dessert with chocolate in the title to deliver full, rich flavour. There are so many cakes out there, advertising themselves as 'chocolate' but delivering a dry, brown crumb that may at one point have been spritzed with a 'If you Like Chocolate You’ll Love…' imitation mist. I was never moved to bake one. Until now. Sure the name of this recipe is an attention grabber; a boast that begs to be proved wrong. I read the words 'ultimate', 'dark chocolate' and 'coffee' (choc’s best mate) and before I knew it the mixing bowl was on the counter. The body knows what it wants.
This cake does not mess around — every bite delivers a dense, rich, chocolate OMG. I made the cake in the evening and then the following day whipped up the ganache. The daredevil who wrote this recipe suggests slicing the cake into three layers. I dodged this stress test and opted for two instead.
Ultimate Chocolate Cake
Adapted from: A recipe by Angela Nilsen in Good Food magazine
200g good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
200g butter, cut in pieces
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
85g self-raising flour
85g plain flour
1⁄4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
200g light muscovado sugar
200g golden caster sugar
25g cocoa powder
3 medium eggs
Large bar of milk or dark chocolate for topping
200g good-quality dark chocolate chopped into small pieces
284ml carton double cream (pouring type)
2 tablespoons golden caster sugar
Turn oven on to 160C/gas mark 3. Butter a 20cm round/7.5cm deep cake tin and line the bottom with baking paper.
Put the broken chocolate and butter into a heavy-based pan. Mix the coffee granules into 125ml/4fl oz cold water and add to pan. Melt mix over a low heat. While that’s meting away, get out a big bowl and use your hands to mix the two flours, bicarbonate of soda, sugars and cocoa. In another bowl whisk the eggs and stir in the buttermilk.
Add the chocolate and the egg mixes into the floury bowl, stir until all this is well blended and looks smooth and pretty runny. Tip this into the tin and bake for 85 – 90 minutes; it’s ready when you push a toothpick into the centre and it comes out clean and the surface feels firm.
Let it cool in the tin, and then place on wire rack. Feel free to cover it with a tea towel and cool completely overnight. Don’t worry if the surface is cracked or concave, it won’t show. Once cold, cut the cake horizontally into two. Use a good knife and don’t rush.
Now, for the glistening ganache! Put the chocolate pieces into a bowl. Heat the sugar and cream in a pan until it is about to boil, then pour it over the chocolate and stir until you have a lusciously smooth mix. Stick the two layers together with some of the ganache and then pour the rest over the cake letting it cascade down the sides like a Willie Wonka waterfall.
Warm a chocolate bar between your hands slightly to get it malleable then shave off pieces with a vegetable peeler, try and get some lovely long curls if you can, but don’t stress over the look of these too much, the scattered shavings look fantastic no matter how they fall across your cake. And when people see chocolate-on-chocolate they tend to lose focus anyway.
Dot on some raspberries and then lick clean the ganache pan while you wait for whoever is lucky enough to share a slice of this beauty with you.
Finally, call your mom and reiterate — you DO like chocolate. You do.