Friday, October 30, 2009

The ultimate chocolate cake

WHO would have thought that the ultimate chocolate cake would be lurking right under my nose all these years?

It’s been quite a few years now since I, while poking through a newsagent’s to escape a sudden shower, spotted a Women’s Weekly Chocolate Cakes cookbook, half-hidden behind dodgy wedding magazines and a couple of stray birthday cards thoughtfully posted on the wrong shelf by a bored toddler. I bought it, of course – hello, a book devoted entirely to chocolate cakes? Come on – but for some reason, every time I thought to bake something from it, I got distracted, didn’t have the right ingredients … the list went on.

Then, a month or so ago, on a night when I was home alone and feeling peckish, I picked it up, glanced at the recipe for the family chocolate cake and thought, what the hell? It wasn’t the sort of recipe I usually make – no creaming of butter and sugar, my favourite part of the baking process – but I pulled out a saucepan, stirred the melting butter and baking powder mixture assiduously to ensure it didn’t boil over, and held my breath as I slid the quite-liquid batter into the oven.

But when I’d iced it, sliced it and taken my first bite – my god. I inhaled the (rather, um, large) slice I’d cut and it was all I could do to stop myself from eating the rest of the slab. It was soft, moist, still warm, thanks very much, with a slightly caramelised crunch on the top that melted into the fudgy icing. It was so good I pulled out the laptop and emailed pictures to my boyfriend at work: “OH MY GOD YOU SHOULD SEE THE CAKE I JUST BAKED”. It was just as good the next day, too: still soft and moist, with a deliciously fudgy interior to make up for the lack of straight-from-the-oven warmth.

It was so good, in fact, that I made it again not a fortnight later. This time with the help of my four-year-old niece, who I hoisted up on to my hip so she could stir the buttery icing mixture before she sat on the bench and sifted the icing sugar over the bench, over us, into her mouth - and even into the bowl.

Family chocolate cake

Adapted from the Women's Weekly Chocolate Cakes cookbook

1 cup water

1 1/2 cups caster sugar

125g butter, chopped

20g cocoa powder

1/2 tsp bicarb soda

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Chocolate fudge icing

90g butter

1/3 cup water

1/2 cup caster sugar (I used slightly less)

1 1/2 cups icing sugar

1/3 cup cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 180C and grease and line a 22cm round cake tin

Place water, butter, sugar, sifted cocoa powder and bicarb soda in a medium-large saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Watch it, it will bubble up.

Transfer to bowl of mixer (or medium bowl) and allow to cool.

Add sifted flour and egg and beat until batter is smooth and a paler colour.

Pour into tin and bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Top may brown rapidly - it can be covered with a piece of foil but I really like the crunchy top

Let the cooked cake cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.

For icing, place water, sugar and butter in a saucepan and stir until sugar dissolves.

Sift icing sugar and cocoa into a small bowl and gradually beat in the butter mixture. It will be very liquid.

Refrigerate, covered, for about 30 minutes or until thickened to your satisfaction.

Beat with wooden spoon until spreadable and pour over cooled cake.

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