Funny thing, cravings. Pigging out doesn’t make them go away. Ask any chocaholic who simply can’t stop after a couple of blocks – that half-eaten slab keeps urging them back for more.
Skinny people who prefer to stay with the savoury wouldn’t dream of telling you that chocolate stimulates the brain to release sensual pleasure hormones. Another way of saying it makes us feel good. They simply say it’s fattening. Which is true, of course – a 100g slab contains a whopping 2 500 kilojoules, which cuts no ice when the devil inside urges you to indulge.
This show-off cake is a masterpiece of edible depravity; a thing of beauty with a wickedly boozy bite in the after-taste. It looks much harder to bake than it is. Don’t let domestic-goddess-terms like “melt the chocolate” and “whip the whites to soft peaks” put you off.
It’s even better the day after. Simply wrap it in foil and do the icing-and-berry thing shortly before serving. When catering for a crowd, make two cakes, double the chocolate cream and use some to sandwich them together.
A couple of words of warning, though. Don’t even think of cutting corners on the quality of the chocolate you use and make sure it has at least 33% cocoa solids. Inferior chocolate and (even worse) so-called “cooking chocolate” doesn’t give the glorious bitter edge that comes from using decent ingredients. And if your cake tin is larger than 18cm, bake it for a shorter time.
Chocolate Nut Cake
Serves 10 to 12
100g nibbed or slivered almonds
200g dark chocolate, chopped
150g castor sugar
3 eggs, separated
120g cake fl our
1 teaspoon baking powder
200g berries, for garnishing
Lightly grease and flour an 18cm spring-form or loose-based cake tin. Set the oven at 170 C.
Place the sultanas in a small bowl. Warm the Port, pour over and set aside for about 15 minutes for the sultanas to plump. Roast the almonds in a dry frying pan, tossing them about until they are golden and the kitchen smells blissful.
Melt together the chocolate and butter in a double boiler or a bowl over simmering water. Stir until smooth, then allow to cool. Beat together the castor sugar and egg yolks until thick and pale. Mix in the cooled chocolate and butter mixture and sultanas (with the Port). Sift in the flour and baking powder, add the almonds and fold everything gently together.
Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, fold into the batter and pour it into the prepared baking tin. At this stage you’ll think the party has already started, as the smell of the Port fills the air.
Bake for about 35 minutes. The outside of the cake will be firm; the centre still slightly moist. Cool the cake in the tin before turning it out onto a plate.
200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
Melt the chocolate and cream in a double boiler or a bowl over a pan of simmering water (don’t let the water touch the chocolate container). Stir well, then spoon onto cake, allowing it to drip seductively down the sides. Toss the berries on top and that’s all there is to it.
This chocolate cake will murder most wines but a tawny Port with its slightly nutty character and extra oomph by virtue of being fortified should do the trick.