Sunday, July 15, 2007

Orange and Chocolate Cake

So I made a variation on Clothilde's excellent chocolate fondant, really a velvety, dense, crustless chocolate cake, for KP and Toby's Bastille Day culinary smackdown, er, potluck, and KP asked me to post the recipe, so now I am. I thought I'd have a crack at an orange and black pepper version of the cake, as the combination of orange and black pepper always makes me feel safe, warm and accounted for. I failed to get a picture of the finished cake, but it looked an awful lot like the cake in the original recipe, so click on the link to see what it looks like.

And now for a note on ingredients. While I have no doubt you could easily make this cake with a block of Plaistowe and a stick of IGA brand unsalted, I have yet to. Please don't take this as some kind of poncy, bourgeois staking out of cultural capital. My stained, smelly sharehouse kitchen is largely stocked with bent and rusting Big W saucepans, stolen pint glasses and promotional soft drink cups. Really, it's quite hard to extol the virtues of 35% Swiss couverture when the counter is stacked with Transformers Big Gulps. Still, whenever I've made this cake I've used Warrnambool butter and organic (fair trade, even) dark couverture chocolate from the Vic Markets. This isn't much of an effort as I live quite near the markets and buy my fruit'n'veg there. I won't lie, the chocolate is rather expensive, but that Warrnambool butter is cheap and so good and the stall holders have this amazing ability to eyeball the exact amount you ask for. All I'm saying is, given how very simple this cake is, it might be worth your while to track down the good stuff.

Anyway, on with the cake.

165g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
165g butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup flour
An orange, scrubbed, the rind removed with a vegetable peeler
3-4 whole black peppercorns
A handful of flaked almonds
2 big old tbsp marmalade

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Put the orange rind and peppercorns in a small saucepan along with the sugar and 2/3 cup of fresh water. Heat gently, stirring, until all the sugar is dissolved and the the syrup is delicately tinted from the orange rind. Fish out the orange rind and the peppercorns (although, that said, a couple of peppercorns made it into the cake, and I've got to say the peppery crunch was, well, rather nice). Add the chocolate and stir until melted. The first time I did this the thought of putting chocolate into hot sugar syrup made me rather uncomfortable, and it does go a touch grainy, but keep stirring. You can even take it off the heat if the chocolate is in small enough pieces, but it should be said I'm quite lazy with the chopping and need the extra heat to get it all melted. After the chocolate has melted toss in the butter pieces, stir 'til melted, then take off the heat and let cool for five minutes so the eggs don't scramble when you add them.

While the chocolate mixture cools generously grease a 22-25cm round cake tin with butter, and it really should be butter as the cake batter is quite sticky, and line the base with a circle of baking paper. Put a roasting dish into the oven and put a full kettle on.

Fork the eggs into the chocolate mixture, then sift in the flour and fork until glossily combined. Pour the batter into the prepared tin, then put the cake tin into the roasting pan in the oven. Now, that was a painfully wordy sentence, but you get my meaning. Fill the roasting tin with hot water to about 1cm up the sides of the cake tin. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the cake is set in the centre. There may be a slight trace of wobble, but it should only be slight. Let it cool in the tin on a rack for a bit, at least until the sides have pulled away from the tin, then turn onto a serving plate to let cool completely.

Now, when you peel back the baking paper from the top of the cake it could well be a touch wrinkled. This is where the marmalade and almonds come in. Press the marmalade through a sieve into a small saucepan to get rid of any big pieces of rind. Add a spoonful of warm water and heat gently, stirring to combine until the jam has melted. Throw in a handful of flaked almonds, which you may or may not have toasted, into the saucepan, stir, then spoon this mixture over the top of the cake, spreading evenly. Let this sit and set for an hour or so. She is a small cake, but rich, and will feed many.