12 Weeks Of Christmas | Week 5: Evelyn Sharpe’s French Chocolate Cake

20141106_131346I discovered this recipe when I was browsing through Amanda Hesser’s old columns in The New York Times, pre-Food52. I am a big fan of her writing, and she shares some really interesting recipes and tidbits about the history of food. This comes from her Recipe Redux column, which she wrote as she researched and compiled The New York Times cookbook. Hesser would take a recipe from the NYT archives, hand it over to a contemporary chef, mixologist or cookbook author and ask them to add their own twist and update the recipe.

While she uncovered dozens of old gems, many of the recipes, when tested by modern chefs, weren’t met with enthusiasm- they lacked flavour, texture, or both. Many NYT readers, however, preferred the older recipes. For her farewell column, Hesser chose a recipe titled Evelyn Sharpe’s French Chocolate Cake from 1969, which was a universal hit. A recipe ahead of its time, quite similar to the molten chocolate cakes/bull’s eyes/chocolate decadence cakes you’ll find in restaurants today.

I’ll vouch for one thing: it’ fudgy, rich and oh-so-chocolatey, a safe end to any meal. It’s fudgy in the middle like a brownie, but has a moist crumb as well. It’s not entirely flourless, but calls for just a smidgen of flour- a tablespoon. One could easily swap in almond meal or a gluten-free flour to make a gluten-free version.

There’s another thing I’ll vouch for: you absolutely must use the nicest dark chocolate you can lay your hands on. Spend a little more, buy Callebaut/Lindt/good quality chocolate and your cake will not disappoint.

I made this recipe twice before posting. Once, with a cheap chocolate I found at the grocery store and the second time around with Lindt intense dark chocolate. The first slab of chocolate I used- which was packaged nicely and labelled “stone ground dark chocolate compound,” was a quarter of the price of the Lindt bars, but TERRIBLE. I kid you not- the cake smelled like a baked potato and tasted like plastic. I threw it out, the entire thing. The recipe is all about the chocolate, so use the best.

 

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EVELYN SHARPE’S FRENCH CHOCOLATE CAKE

INGREDIENTS

  • 450 grams semisweet chocolate
  • ½ cup/110 grams butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated

 

METHOD

  • Heat oven to 220 C.
  • Grease the base of an 8-inch cake pan or line it with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Melt the chocolate gently using the double-boiler method.
  • Once melted, pull off heat and stir in the butter, flour and sugar. Lightly whisk the egg yolks and slowly mix into the chocolate. Set aside.
  • Beat the egg whites until they hold a definite shape but are not dry. With a light hand, fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. (Overbeating and underbeating will ruin the cake!)
  • Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes.
  • Open the oven door, leaving it ajar, and allow the cake to cool completely in the oven.
  • Serve warm, with some whipped cream or ice cream.

WHO IS EVELYN SHARPE?

As for who Evelyn Sharpe is, I honestly don’t know- a 1960s New York society lady, perhaps? Luisa Weiss has a link to the comments section of the original NYT recipe on her blog, but unfortunately, it doesn’t open. We’ll just think of Evelyn is a nice lady who gave the world a fabulous recipe!

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.

nutty chocolate ganache cake

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!

Chocolate Almond Pound Cake: I Found My Favourite Chocolate Cake Recipe!

There are certain things every woman needs.

The perfect LBD.

image courtesy | harpersbzaar.com

The absolute hold-all that is both classy and  convenient.

image courtesy | purseblog.com

Your 2 am best friend who will pick up the phone no matter what. (Ok I used to read Cosmo and feel all wonderful about being a 2am philosopher and guide to my girlfriends, but once I got married and had a child, this ‘need’ just tumbled off my list. I need my sleep. My friends need theirs. Unless you are seriously in a scrape, you should not be calling anyone at 2am, no matter what time zone they are in.)

image courtesy | shutterstock.com

More importantly, you also need a perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, and a fail-safe/go-to chocolate cake recipe.

I know I need these almost as much as I need water.

And after my last bad attempt at chocolate cake, I searched and sifted; tried and tested; and I found my fail-safe/go-to/favourite chocolate cake recipe.

Surprise surprise, it’s from Thanh again!

How can anyone not want to try something that’s called a chocolate pound cake? I know I did.

I made a few tweaks, slipping in a bar of chocolate to make the batter more decadent.

And some almonds, because almonds are another way to add decadence.

And it’s altogether overall oh-so-darn good. Moist and crumbly; smooth and velvety once it’s in your mouth.

CHOCOLATE ALMOND POUND CAKE (Adapted with minimal changes from Eat, Little Bird.)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 100 grams almonds, coarsely pounded (according to some conversion calculators, this works out to about 7/8 cup…I guess you could use anywhere between 1/2 cup to 1 cup, depending on how crunchy you want the cake to be and how much you like almonds!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup + 1/3 cup castor sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee powder
  • 2 1/2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup vanilla yogurt (I used Danone vanilla yogurt…the small pack is 100 grams, I used about 3/4 of that pack.)
  • 1/4 cup milk chocolate pieces (I used good old Cadbury’s Dairy Milk)

METHOD

  • Pre-heat the oven to 165 C
  • Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt and crushed almonds and keep aside.
  • In a small bowl, dissolve the coffee powder in  10 ml of hot water, and add in the chocolate pieces to make a thick chocolatey sauce.
  • In a large bowl, beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract + the chocolate coffee sauce and beat some more.
  • Add a third of the egg mixture at a time, along with a tablespoon each of the dry ingredients, and incorporate well.
  • Next, add what’s left of the dry ingredients and the yogurt. Make sure everything is well combined.
  • Pour into a greased and floured baking dish and bake at 165C for about an hour. These ingredients yield ample batter- I poured mine into a 1.5 litre capacity fluted baking dish, and had a little leftover, which I poured  into 2 babycake tins!

I added some slivered almonds atop the babycakes and they were so pretty. The cake is glossy on top and rich and velvety inside; the almonds just add a lovely little textural disruption.

(That line sounded quite prissy, almost Nigella-like. Sorry folks. But this cake is fiiiine.)