Well, that's not precisely true. I did have time to make a cake for our neighborhood barbecue on Sunday. I had promised to bring a dessert and when I saw this recipe I knew it was going to be the one. I changed it, of course.
We are blessed with really super neighbors. We do things together, and once a year we have a group barbecue. We schedule it on the day that our town has its big footrace, because the footrace circles the park where we live and we can cheer the runners as they go by. We are around the 10th km, and by the time they get here, they're pretty tired. We're all happily full, and the park smells like barbecue. Probably not fair to the runners, but on the plus side we DO encourage them with lots of enthusiasm!
I found this recipe in the Avoca Cafe Cookbook. It's essentially a genoise, leavened by beaten egg whites, but it has some baking powder in there too. I think perhaps that it needs both because there's melted chocolate in the batter, and the extra oomph from the baking powder helps the egg whites lift it up. Whatever the reason for the double-lifting, this cake is a real winner. It's rich and chocolate-y but still relatively light. Of course, the ganache frosting keeps it from floating away...
This cake has a wonderful orange flavor. Because I added orange to the ganache as well, AND put the syrup over the cake, it's an orange-chocolate festival! The only thing I'll change next time is that I won't add powdered cardamom to the cake batter. I put 1 ½ teaspoons in there and I couldn't taste it. It didn't add anything, and I think that the cake was lovely without that flavor.
When I baked this, it took longer than the recipe suggested. Because of that and also because I had added more cocoa to the recipe (and I know that cocoa tends to dry cakes out), I was afraid that it might be a little dry. So I took the oranges whose zest I had put in the cake batter and squeezed the juice into a pan, added a little sugar, and cooked it down into a syrup. I put this syrup over the cake before I frosted it with the ganache. In the end, I needn't have worried, because the cake wasn't dry at all. But oh, my! The syrup added a whole new dimension to this cake. Well worth the extra effort!
This was a fairly large cake. The recipe is for a 9 inch pan, and mine is slightly bigger. I wouldn't make this for just the two of us, but for a large group it was perfect. It disappeared except for one small lonely little piece which Dan put out of its misery the next day. Heh, I thought we were going to have to arm wrestle for it, though!
This recipe sounds really complex. It's not, but there ARE a lot of steps. I can promise, though, that it will be worth it. VERY worth it.
On another note, our long weekend was really quite nice. We went to Oslo – Dan had a meeting there and I tagged along. I'm sorry to say that our holiday weather curse followed us there, however. It was cold and rainy all weekend. I took some photos, but not as many or the ones I would have taken had the weather been better. I'll post them for you later. Oslo's a wonderful city, and I think we'll go back when the weather's better.
Orange Chocolate Cake
Adapted from the Avoca Cafe Cookbook
For the cake:
175 g / 6 oz dark chocolate
Grated zest of 3 oranges
150 g / 1 cup self-rising flour
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
175 g / 6 oz softened butter
225 g / 1 cup superfine sugar
6 eggs, separated
pinch of salt
For the frosting:
125 ml / ½ cup cream
Grated zest of one orange
225 g / 8 oz dark chocolate
1-2 Tablespoons orange syrup (see below)
For the orange syrup:
Juice of 4 oranges
1 - 2 Tablespoon sugar, to taste
- Preheat oven to 170 C / 340 F
- Grease and flour a 9 inch round cake pan. Put a round of baking paper in the bottom, and grease and flour it as well.
- Break the chocolate into smallish chunks and put it in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Be sure not to let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. When it has melted, give it a stir, remove it from the heat and set it aside.
- Mix the flour with the grated orange zest. Use your fingers to scrumble it together so that the clumps of zest are broken up into small bits and coated with flour. Add the cocoa to the flour/zest mixture.
- In another bowl, beat the butter and sugar till its very light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the egg yolks. Stir in the cooled melted chocolate. Fold in the flour mixture.
- Whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form stiff peaks. Take a couple of tablespoons of the egg whites and mix into the batter, mixing well. This is to lighten the batter a little bit. Then fold the rest of the egg whites carefully into the batter, being careful not to over mix. Fold just until you don't see streaks of white any more.
- Put the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Turn cake out onto a wire rack to cool.
- Squeeze the juice from the oranges and put it in a pan with 1 – 2 Tablespoons of sugar, according to taste. Cook on high heat, swirling to incorporate the solids, until it's thick, about 2-3 minutes.
- Put the cream into a small pan and add the orange zest. Heat gently till just below the simmering point and then leave to cool. (I do this before I make the cake)
- When the cream is cool, strain it into a clean pan and heat again, to just below the boiling point.
- Chop or break the chocolate into pieces about the size of the end of your little finger (or smaller). Put the chocolate and the cream in a bowl over simmering water, being careful that the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water. When the chocolate has melted, give it a stir and add 1-2 Tablespoons of the orange syrup.
Assemble the cake:
- When the cake is cool, spoon the syrup over the top, and spread it gently with the back of the spoon. Give it a minute or two to soak in. You don't have to let it run down the sides, because it will only run off.
- Move the cake to the serving plate, pour the ganache over the top of the cake and smooth it down the sides. Leave it for 4-5 hours until the ganache has a chance to set.
Serves 12 if they like it and 20 if they don't.
- I used clementines instead of oranges, because that's what I had on hand. Because they were pretty sweet, I added the juice of half a lemon to the syrup.
- If you don't have self-rising flour, you can use regular flour. Add 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder and a pinch of salt.
- I've been told that using a metal spoon to fold the egg whites into the batter will keep from deflating them. I don't know if this is true, but I always do it.
- My cake took about 50 minutes to bake. I don't know if it's my oven or my (slightly larger cast iron) cake pan. Test it frequently, starting at about 38 minutes, 'cause we know that ovens and pans vary.
- When you're making the ganache, stir it gently, or you'll have tiny air bubbles in it.
- If you have any leftover ganache (HA! Fat chance!), it makes great chocolate truffles.
'Nother note: I've had to post this using Firefox, because my Safari is having a hissy fit. The formatting is a little off. I'll fix it when Safari gets over whatever the problem is... Sorry.