Can you hear that? That’s the sound of crickets … it’s been rather quiet around here lately. Life takes over and it’s hard to find the time to post anything. Not that I haven’t been baking and cooking up a storm. I have! A bizarre number of visitors last weekend consumed the equivalent of a buffet of scrumptious goodies. But as a result, there just wasn’t time to take photos, write anything, post anything, blah.
Most of what I’ve baked at home recently has involved chocolate. No big surprises there. But I’ve had an overwhelming need to melt it, inhale the aroma, and stand there stirring it with a stupid smile on my face. OK, so I watched Chocolat a couple of weeks ago and the scenes where Viane is working in her chocolaterie always get me going … there have been ganaches for macarons, cakes, even tempered couverture enrobing for protein bars, and occasionally I melt a little just because I feel like it. It puts me in the zone. Bliss.
In the last few days I’ve been overcome by an incredible sense of sadness. Not depression. Definitely not chocolate induced. Don’t even suggest it! Just plain straight up sadness. I have no idea why. I can’t even think of a reason. It isn’t noticeable. I work. I play. I train. I laugh. All is good. But inside, there’s this thing. This morning, I picked up some of my favourite coffee beans on the way home from a couple of work meetings. Lucky for me, the afternoon was all mine. No commitments. Quality time. There was nothing for it. I got home, and blended a couple of my favourite couvertures.
I want chocolate cake.
I need to make a chocolate cake.
So I did. This is one of the cakes I made recently but didn’t have time to photograph. In fact, I barely got a chance to eat any of it myself. So I made it again.
For me … and to share with you. Because that’s what it’s all about, right?
Plus I had just brought home the most wonderful fragrant coffee beans. Into the grinder with some of those babies …
This is really more of a baked mousse than a cake. When cooked, it remains a little gooey in the centre so it makes for a fabulous chocolate dessert. There is none of that rise, fall, and crack shenanigans either. If I’m making it for a party, I’ll smooth the top perfectly before baking, to allow for decoration later, and because it looks more elegant. But if I make it for myself, I like to swirl the top as this seems to encourage the very thin crust that forms at the very top, which I love. Do as you wish. It’s all good
I can’t explain the sadness, but I can say that stirring the chocolate, folding the batter, and cutting a slice to eat while it is still warm leads to a very bearable lightness of being. The wonderful aroma of melting chocolate and freshly ground coffee didn’t hurt either. Scent is extremely evocative and emotive and there are no words good enough to describe the aroma of this cake as it bakes and when you take it out of the oven
The chocolate I used is a combination of two of my favourite Valrhona couvertures - 165 grams of Guanaja (70% blend) and 235 grams of Araguani (72% Venezuelan single origin). The Guanaja is a little smoky, bitter, and very intense. The Araguani is very nutty and smooth, also intense. I’ve experimented with combinations of these two for a while and this ratio is totally OUT. OF. THIS. WORLD. Calling Valrhona dudes … where’s the suggestion box?
The cayenne (or other chilli) is totally optional. I occasionally add twice the amount in the recipe. That’s undoubtedly too much for most people, or so I have been told. :D It is rather fiery for a dessert. I do that if I want to keep the cake for myself. Being evil is a tough job, but … I didn’t add any this time around, although a pinch of chilli does give this cake a little lift. It could do the same for you.
Don’t like coffee? I’d get that checked out if I were you, I’m sure there’s a cure. In the meantime, you can leave out the coffee if you must. Just don’t tell me.
Thank you Viane for the inspiration. Enjoy. It could become your favourite.
Serves 8 – 10
400 grams 70% dark chocolate/couverture
a generous pinch of sea salt
6 egg yolks
165 grams sugar
6 egg whites
25 grams finely ground coffee beans*
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne (optional)
*The coffee I used is Gridlock Columbian Santa Rita La Chaparral Special Reserve.
Pre-heat the oven to 140ºC. Line a 18cm springform or plain tin with baking paper. If using a springform tin that has any minor leaks, make a water-proof collar from a double thickness of foil and wrap this around the base and sides of the tin. This will make sure that no water gets into the torte as it bakes. Half-fill a larger tin with water and place this in the oven to heat up. This forms the bain-marie, in which the cake will bake.
Chop the chocolate and place into a large heatproof bowl over simmering water. Add the salt. Stir occasionally, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool as you prepare the eggs. Stir the chocolate from time to time as it cools. If nothing else, it will make you happy. There’s no bad in that.
In a bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale, doubled or tripled in volume, and the mixture forms a thick ribbon as you lift the whisk.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks.
Gently fold the ground coffee and egg yolk mixture into the cooled chocolate. Include the ground cayenne, if using. Finally, very gently fold in the egg whites. Take care not to deflate the mixture too much.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin. Smooth the surface with an offset spatula, if you wish, or swirl the top a little. Place the tin gently into the bain-marie. Bake at 140ºC for about 45 – 50 minutes.
Switch off the oven but leave the cake in the oven with the door ajar for another 15 – 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set carefully on to a rack to cool completely in the tin. Once cooled, removed from the tin on to a serving plate.