I know, it’s almost unbelievable, an actual recipe from me?! Sorry it’s taken me such a long time, I’ve been super busy with recipe darevelopment of late, life and the mystery illness, and as a result haven’t been cooking much or taking any photos. Anyway, all of the food photos in this post were taken by the awesome David at a big dinner I cooked for him, but more on that later.
Baking is a very therapeutic thing, I find. I’ve probably said that before. Baking bread is the most therapeutic of all, getting to pound and knead your dough is a great energy release. But baking a cake is something that takes time, precision and thought. You have to concentrate on what you’re doing and give it your full attention, or what you end up with is a hot mess. This was exactly what I needed to do.
On Tuesday morning I took David to the airport to catch his flight out to Canada, pretty much permanently. It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, let go of somebody I care about, but it’s the best thing for him and I am really happy for him, even if I am sad for myself. We actually didn’t get to spend a whole lot of time together in his last week, because I was working, he was working, and he had to pack up his gear and organise himself for the big depart, but we definitely had Monday evening together, and I decided that I was going to make him a special pre-birthday/leaving dinner.
On the menu were a couple of recipes I’ve been dareveloping and was trying out for the first time (sorry, keeping them for the cookbook! But here’s a hint: they involved scallops), my signature dish (which I’m also keeping for the cookbook!), an attempt at panna cotta (which was yummy, but a little too much; although I made homemade strawberry jam for it!) and this cake. The food was pretty much gobbled up so quickly I didn’t have a chance to take any photos. Testament to tastiness, I guess? Also, can I just mention that I got to cook the majority of this meal in heels and pearls? That’s right. Heels and pearls. I am the ultimate Happy Little Homemaker. I can now tick that one off my list. Next time I want to have a little 50’s style apron and a martini in hand as well, shaken not stirred, obviously.
All-in-all the cake probably took me about four hours to complete. Yeah, I know. Intense cake, man. What is it? It’s a double-chocolate strawberry ganache cake, partly my own creation and partly found online. It’s extremely heavy and we could only manage a few bites each (admittedly we had gorged ourselves on the rest of the food, though…) but it’s very delicious. It probably needs a little work to lighten it up and make it a little smaller (it’s probably the biggest and heaviest cake I’ve ever made), but it’s definitely a show-stopper.
I had a slight mishap with the frosting because the cream was a little too hot for the chocolate, which made the oils separate out, but I managed to make it work and it still tasted awesome. So be careful about letting it cool a little before you add your chocolate.
So before I give you the recipe, I just wanted to take a moment to tell you about David. David and I met last summer when we met up for a photoshoot. I needed new headshots and he needed someone to help him build-up his photography portfolio. Barring about a month when we didn’t realise the other person liked us and six weeks when he was on holiday in Canada, we’d been together ever since.
David is one of the most talented and interesting people I know, and I’m not just saying that because of our situation, I genuinely mean it. He is a wonderful photographer with a real eye for the beautiful and unusual (just look at the photo of the cake up there – food photography isn’t his thing and he still does an awesome job), and he’s also a pretty awesome web designer. I’m constantly amazed by David’s thought processes and the way he views the world – he’s definitely unique.
So why am I telling you all this? Well because David would like his move to Canada to be permanent, but he currently has no work visa or way of staying longer than his six month tourist visa. David needs somebody in Canada to sponsor him for a job, preferably non-manual labour because he’s been there, done that and quite frankly his back isn’t going to take it anymore, so that he can get a work visa and eventually citizenship. He’s held many different jobs in many different sectors and excelled at them all, so even though photography/web-design is what he really wants to get into, right now any job offers in any sector would be considered very seriously.
Now more specifically, why am I telling you all this? Shouldn’t I want to keep him from moving away forever? No. Because as much as it pains me to let David go, the only thing I want is for him to be happy, something which was never going to happen in the UK, and so I’m trying to help him out as much as I can.
Anyway, don’t just take my word for how awesome David’s work is, check out his newly-revamped website and his Flickr, and if you know of anyone who is looking for a hard-working, dedicated soul in Canada (preferably Vancouver BC, but all suggestions welcome) please get in touch with David. Thank you!
So, onto the cake recipe. If you need something big and beautiful to present to several hungry people then you should have a go at this cake, but be warned: it’s a big ‘un. Yes, the steps are many and it does take a while, but don’t let that put you off – the results are far too good to be scared away!
DOUBLE-CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY GANACHE CAKE
Adapted from a recipe found on Epicurious.com
3oz good quality semi-sweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsps bicarbonate of soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsps salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3/4 tsp vanilla
1 punnet of strawberries, topped and sliced into quarters (depends on how big your strawberries are)
For Ganache Frosting
1 lb good quality semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsps sugar
2 tbsps golden syrup
1/4 cup unsalted butter
More strawberries for decorating, topped and sliced length-wise into 1cm slices
Two 10″ x 2″ round cake pans (I used slightly smaller ones, which is why my cake was so huge)
1. Preheat oven to 160°C and grease pans. Line bottoms with greaseproof paper.
2. Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
3. Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the strawberries and mix in well.
4. In another large bowl beat the eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored – I did this by hand and it took about 5 mins, if using an electric beater it should take between 2-3 mins.
5. Slowly add the oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well.
6. Add the sugar mixture and beat until just combined well.
7. Divide the batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1hr – 1hr 10mins. Because my cake tins were a little smaller this actually took more like 1hr 40mins, but if you’ve got the right sized tins you should be fine. Keep an eye on it, it’s a very liquid-y mixture and may take longer.
8. Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove greaseproof paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature. If necessary, using a bread-knife cut the tops of the cake layers off, just to tidy up a little and make it easier to assemble later. Best done when the cake is a little cooler.
9. For the frosting: finely chop the chocolate.
10. In a large saucepan bring the cream, sugar, and golden syrup to a boil over a moderately low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved.
11. Remove pan from heat, allow to cool slightly and slowly add the chocolate, whisking until melted.
12. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the frosting, whisking until smooth.
13. Transfer frosting to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until spreadable. Don’t put the frosting in the fridge immediately, as this may cause the oils to separate out from the chocolate. Bring to room temperature first, which allows the chocolate and cream molecules to bond fully.
14. To assemble your cake: spread the frosting between the cake layers and then place slices of the strawberry in the middle. I did a round pattern, which I then repeated on the top of the cake. Place the top layer onto the bottom layer and then spread frosting all over the top and sides. On the top lay the rest of your strawberry slices, and in the center place a strawberry which has been sliced, but still attached to its top. All about the presentation, yo.
15. This will keep for up to three days in the fridge, covered. Be sure to bring it to room temperature before serving, though. Grab a big ol’ knife and get stuck in.
Right, I’m off for a blogger lunch with Catty at Mooli’s, so until next time – peace and love.