Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Fudge Cake + A Love For Cookbooks

It’s been slim pickings here at the blog for a while now so I thought I might as well post something rich and decadent after a-ummm-how shall I put it across? A blog-fast? A locked pantry?

We celebrated my husband’s birthday this month, and every year, he asks for a chocolate cake. He likes cheesecake and loaf cakes and citrusy oil-based cakes as well, but when it comes down to the kind of cake he’d like to cut on his birthday, it must be chocolate. Clean. Classic. Simple. Elegant.

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And if there’s one cook out there who has chocolate cake recipes to suit every kind of palate and occasion, it’s Ms Lawson. Need a fancy cake? Torta alla gianduia from How To Be A Domestic Goddess. Need a cake that’s less dense, but looks difficult and laboured over? Chocolate cloud cake from Nigella Bites. Need something sophisticated and served individually? Molten chocolate babycakes. Gluten-free? Nigellissima’s Chocolate olive oil cake! So you see, she has something for the children, something for the chocoholic, something for the gluten-intolerant.

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I picked up a copy of Nigella Bites a month ago, it was a nice hardcover edition, plus it was on sale. I know the number of recipes is limited compared to say, a How To Eat, Feast, or Nigellissima, and I’m well aware that almost all her recipes are available online (either on her website or a food blogger’s,) but the offer was too good to resist. I’d flipped through a copy of Nigella Bites it in a bookshop and quite liked it. (Yes, I’m one of those people- I’ll browse in a bookshop and buy it on Amazon or Flipkart if it’s cheaper there.) I have HTBADG, but I like Nigella Bites because it’s slightly different from the others- fewer recipes, but more step-by-step pictures, and a page after each chapter for notes, so you can scribble your observations and notes to self.

Okay, I’ll say it now- I am a Nigella convert. I’ve been quite open about my contempt for her in the past, but as I browse through more of her books, I began to see why she’s so popular: the pretty prose aside, she does tend cook to like many of us would at home. (I use stock cubes and frozen peas myself.) While I may not be making her ham in Coca Cola anytime soon, there are plenty of other things I can attempt, from involtini to orange breakfast muffins and Vietnamese chicken salad. And even if I don’t end up making all of the recipes, I don’t mind- like having cookbooks to hold and read!

Actually I love collecting cookbooks. I read them like I would a novel, going through recipes and techniques before bed each night, drawing some kitchen inspiration and figuring out how I can use the ingredients I have in a new way.

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So most nights, before I sleep, I’ll flip through a cookbook in bed. I’ll just pick a book off my bookshelf, based on how I feel- and I’ll read a recipe or two like a bedtime story. Marcella Hazan’s tips on how best to store basil. Felicity Cloake’s recipe for perfect gazpacho. Amanda Hesser’s baked zucchini with herbs. Ritu Dalmia’s marinated eggplant sandwich recipe, or one of Nigella’s many, many muffin or cake recipes. More than the recipe itself- “…in a bowl sift together flour, salt, baking powder..,” I like reading the notes preceding a recipe. What inspired it, who it’s borrowed from, a special meal it was part of, how the author has added her twist to it.

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I’ve come across other bloggers who do the same- and I wonder- do you curl up with a good cookbook? And why? For the prose, meal planning, or just to take in the beautiful photography?

Sometimes I wonder if I think about food a little too much: right now, I’m thinking about how to prepare a bowl of wheatberries, currently soaking. And this brings me back to Ms Lawson. She claims to have her mind on food almost all the time, and she’s unapologetic about it. And her recipes too, are straightforward and unapologetic about how they came to be.

This chocolate cake is chocolate cake at its simple, uncomplicated best. No 70% dark chocolate to be melted, just good old-fashioned cocoa powder, flour-butter-sugar-eggs. The way the ingredients are combined differs from some of Nigella’s other chocolate cakes, but it yields a spongy and light cake with a creamy, sweet and slightly tart frosting. It’s got more body than buttercream, so it holds up well, and it’s a nice contrast to the spongy cake.

I also feel it tastes better the day after it’s baked- the rest moistens the sponge and makes it a little richer 😀

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NIGELLA LAWSON’S CHOCOLATE FUDGE CAKE (From Nigella Bites)

I halved the recipe to make just one layer. I also substituted some ingredients, which I’ve added in brackets.

The Cake

  • 400 g all-purpose flour
  • 250 g golden castor sugar ( I used white castor sugar)
  • 100 light brown muscovado sugar (I used light brown sugar)
  • 50 cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 142 ml sour cream ( I used plain yogurt)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 175 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 125 ml corn oil (I used sunflower oil)
  • 300 ml chilled water

For The Chocolate Frosting

  • 175 grams dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
  • 250 grams unsalted butter (softened)
  • 275 grams icing sugar (sifted)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

 

METHOD

For The Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C
  • Grease and line the bottom of two 8-inch sandwich tins.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • In another smaller bowl or measuring jug, whisk the eggs, sour cream and vanilla until blended.
  • In a third, large bowl, beat the melted butter and corn oil until just blended, then beat in the water. Add the flour mixture at once and beat well. Add the egg mixture-sour cream mixture and continue beating till everything is well combined.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared tins.
  • Bake the cakes for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely before icing the cake

The Icing

  • Melt the chocolate in the microwave  or a double boiler. Allow it to cool slightly.
  • In another bowl beat the butter until it’s soft and creamy. Add the sieved icing sugar and beat till light and fluffy. Then add the vanilla and melted chocolate and mix until everything is glossy and smooth.
  • To assemble, sandwich the middle of the cake with 1/4 of the icing, and spread the frosting over the top and sides.

Nutty Chocolate Ganache Cake | Chocolate Cake Recipe

This week I am going to taking a little break. But before I go, here’s a look at the chocolate cake I made for my husband’s birthday. I asked him if he wanted a layered cake; or perhaps something with raspberries or some other berry. But he said, “I just want chocolate.”

So here it is. I’ll be back later this week with an exciting post!

nutty chocolate cake without icing

I didn’t have any good quality cream on hand so I made the chocolate ganache without cream, using a combination of milk and butter.

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NUTTY CHOCOLATE GANACHE CAKE

The Cake

INGREDIENTS

  • 100 g butter
  • 200 g castor sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 100 g flour + a little more to dust the nuts
  • 25 g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 50 g finely chopped nuts (I used a combination of walnuts and almonds)

METHOD

  • Preheat oven to 180 C
  • Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder in a bowl and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy and pale in colour.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each one is added.
  • Next, add the flour mixture and the milk, alternately, starting and ending with flour, and whisking well after each addition. It should be flour-milk-flour-milk-flour.
  • Dust the nuts with some flour and fold into the batter.
  • Pour into a 9-inch round tin and bake at 180C for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • Allow cake to cool completely before taking out of the tin and icing it.

The Ganache, Without Cream

I found this recipe on nigella.com and it’s pretty awesome; yielding a glossy, creamy, rich ganache.

INGREDIENTS

  • 25 g butter
  • 60 ml milk
  • 100 g semi sweet chocolate

METHOD

  • Place the chocolate pieces/chips in a heatproof bowl.
  • In a saucepan, heat the milk and butter till the butter melts into the milk.
  • Pour this hot liquid over the chocolate chips and let stand for 2-3 minutes, preferably covered.
  • Slowly work your whisk into the chocolate-milk mix till the chocolate dissolves and there are no lumps.
  • Refrigerate, whisking every ten minutes till it reaches a spreadable consistency.
  • Spread over the cooled cake, sprinkle some crumbled nuts on top and eat!

My Blog Turns 2!! | Celebrating Two Years Of Blogging With Chocolate Brownie Cake

Yes, it has been two whole years since I started documenting my love of food on this blog.

image courtesy | weheartit.com

image courtesy | weheartit.com

When this blog began, my son was just 2 months old and I used to find time to blog at night, between his bedtime and his 2 am wakeup call for a nappy change or feed.

Now, I write when he naps or when he is in school. And sometimes when he is playing by himself in his playroom- and if I get up to do something, I hope to God he does not press publish or delete the page in its entirety.

In these two years, my son has grown, little by little; the blog has grown, little by little; but I can safely say that my confidence in the kitchen, especially baking, has grown immensely. And my love for everything butter, sugar and flour has grown ten-fold.  This new-found love of baking…it’s not even that first date kind of fizziness that seems fleeting. I really do love the whole process of baking. Measuring out ingredients and placing them in order; taking out the mixer and the whisk and spatula from the cupboard; pausing to take a quick picture before the cake is popped in the oven. I even like the wait while the cake is in the oven. I like how the smell of vanilla and chocolate silently weaves its way out of the kitchen and into the living room.

Obviously, to celebrate turning 2, I had to bake.

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I initially thought I’d make Nigella’s chocolate cherry cupcakes; but I realized I didn’t have cherry preserves or the time to step out and buy a jar. So I toyed around and came up with a chocolate cake with a brownie-like quality to it, and placed some cherries on top for a birthday effect. This cake is moist and buttery enough to stand on it’s own sans frosting; but if you want to dress it up with butttercream or rich chocolate ganache or slather it with some cherry preserves, be my guest. I just went home-style and finished with powdered sugar.

The basic cake recipe is simple enough; just cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs  and combine the dry ingredients and milk. The melted chocolate added at the end helps give that brownie-like consistency and the thin crunchy chocolate skin on top.

All measured out

All measured out

CHOCOLATE BROWNIE CAKE

INGREDIENTS

  • 200 g castor sugar
  • 100 g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 120 g flour
  • 10 g cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 40 g of the best dark chocolate you can find

METHOD

  • Preheat oven to 180 C.
  • Melt your chocolate in a bowl using the double boiler method and set aside to cool a bit.
  • Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder in a bowl and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy.
  • Next, add the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition.
  • Now it’s time to add the flour mixture and the milk. Add the flour and milk alternately, whisking after each addition, and be sure to start and end with flour.
  • Once everything is combined, fold in the melted (and now cooled) chocolate.
  • Pour into a greased baking dish and bake at 180 C for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

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Here are some things I learnt in the past year while baking:

♥ Measuring out ingredients beforehand is the only way to bake well and bake without fuss.

♥ Using an electronic scale makes life much easier.

♥ A spoonful of cream goes a long way in making buttercream frosting even more delicious!

♥ Eggless baking can yield some pretty fantastic results- and you do not always have to use condensed milk, either.

♥ Folding in the flour gently and treating your batter with love will always give you a beautiful fluffy cake.

This year was a little ping-pongy in terms of posting. There were some months where I made myself scarce and did not find the time, inclination or inspiration to create anything. But I realized something else- you can’t just sit around waiting for a eureka moment. You keep yourself engaged and you will find things that inspire you and give you the urge to create and share.

Another thing I realized is that the blogging community is filled with wonderful people who are encouraging and supportive and fun. I am lucky to have befriended some really amazing women who share their food, travels, family life and other everyday experiences- and I look forward to coming here each day, to find out what everyone is up to and to see what’s going on in their lives and their kitchens.

In the year ahead, I hope to make more blogger friends, share more with the ones I have made, and hopefully meet some of you in person too!!