I came home tonight to the lingering smell of dark chocolate – truly comforting on such a bitterly cold Monday night after a long and busy day at the office. Today’s cold was the type where you have to physically tear yourself out of a cosy bed, layer up in as many clothes as you can find and permanently affix a hot cup of tea to your hands to stay warm. It’s almost spring, right?
Ultimate chocolate cake with ganache and raspberries
In my quest to practice new baking techniques, this weekend my husband offered the challenge of ganache. I’ve heard chocolate can be tricky to work with and have never strayed too far from simply adding cocoa powder to regular frosting. But this weekend, we raised the bar!
BBC Good Food is one of my go-to websites for decent recipes that stretch my skill-set, but also feel achievable. The picture of Angela Nilsen’s ultimate chocolate cake stopped me in my tracks and I simply had to try it.
For the cake
200g good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces (the recipe called for 60% cocoa but I used 70%)
200g butter, cubed
1 tbsp instant coffee granules mixed into 125 ml cold water
85g self-raising flour
85g plain flour
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g light muscovado sugar
200g golden caster sugar
25g cocoa powder
3 medium eggs, beaten
75ml buttermilk (5 tbsp)
grated chocolate or curls, to decorate (I used fresh raspberries instead)
For the ganache
200g good quality dark chocolate (again I used 70%)
284ml carton double cream
2 tbsp golden caster sugar
I buttered and lined my 22-cm spring form cake tin and preheated the oven to 140C (fan). This was much lower than I would normally bake a cake, but with a cooking time of nearly 1.5 hours this results in a lushly dense and moist cake.
In a pan over low heat, combine the chocolate pieces, the cubed butter, the instant coffee in cold water and heat until everything is just melted. Keep an eye on it, as you don’t want it to overheat.
In a large bowl, combine the two flours, the bicarb of soda, the two sugars and the cocoa powder and mix together with your hands to break up any big lumps. In a smaller bowl, combine the beaten eggs with the buttermilk.
Add the melted chocolate mix and the egg mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring gently till everything is combined and runs smooth. Pour into your prepared tin and bake for 1 hour 25 to 1 hour 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. This is key! The cake is so moist and a bit crumbly, that you want it to be cool before you try to assemble it.
The ganache is the star of this dish and I knew I wanted it to be amazing. To this end, I pulled out our Heston Blumenthal at home cookbook and read up on working with chocolate. He said that a normal ganache is made by bringing cream to a near boil and then pouring over chocolate pieces to melt it, but that to make an even creamier and smoother ganache, you should melt the chocolate as well and then add the hot cream in three stages, incorporating it fully into the chocolate each time. Then leave it to cool to room temperature over three or four hours instead of cooling in the fridge.
This adds a bit of time and complication to the process, but I thought it made a huge impact. I melted the chocolate pieces in a glass bowl suspended over simmering water at the same time as bringing the cream and caster sugar to a near boil, then stirred together in three stages till smooth before leaving it to cool on the work top.
My newly purchased cake decorating equipment came in quite handy at this stage! I used my adjustable cake leveler to cut twice through the cake at different heights to make three fairly even layers. I know it’s possible with a large knife, but I find the cake leveler removes the drama and saves me from cakes that tilts!
I added a small amount of ganache beneath each layer and then built it up around the sides before smoothing over the top. I then added a ring of fresh raspberries as well as a few in the centre for good measure!
Whilst this cake does take some effort, especially if you want to pimp the ganache, it is well worth it!