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Chocolate Cake – Nigella Lawson

If you’re going to get started, this is the cake you should begin with. Not just because it’s simple – though it is – but because it is, for me, the essence of chocolate cake: melting, luscious and mood-enhancingly good. A food technologist would explain this in terms of “mouthfeel” but I don’t know quite how that makes me feel. I often describe this cake as a sort of idealised chocolate cake out of a packet, which doesn’t sound so very inviting either. But what I mean by this, is that the cake looks and tastes perfect and has that melting, smooth lightness – immensely chocolately but far from rich. The fact that it is scarcely harder than making one out of cake-mix (only worlds better) is an added joy. The recipe itself is an evolved version of a couple of cakes I’ve done before, and although the amounts and ingredients are slightly fiddled with, the real change, and an improvement in terms of ease, is that it can be made, all in one, in the processor.

Chocolate Cake – Nigella Lawson

 

INGREDIENTS

Makes: about 8 slices

 

FOR THE CAKE

  • 200 grams plain flour
  • 200 grams caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 40 grams best-quality cocoa powder
  • 175 grams soft unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 150 millilitres sour cream

 

FOR THE ICING

  • 75 grams unsalted butter
  • 175 grams best quality dark chocolate (broken into small pieces)
  • 300 grams icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 125 millilitres sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • sugar flowers (optional)

 

METHOD

  • Take everything out of the fridge so that all the ingredients can come to room temperature.
  • Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C/350ºF and line and butter two 20cm / 8 inch sandwich tins with removable bases.
  • Now all you have to do is put all the cake ingredients – flour, sugar, baking powder and bicarb, cocoa, butter, eggs, vanilla and sour cream – into a food processor and process until you have a smooth, thick batter. If you want to go the long way around, just mix the flour, sugar and leavening agents in a large bowl and beat in the soft butter until you have a combined and creamy mixture. Now whisk together the cocoa, sour cream, vanilla and eggs and beat this into your bowl of mixture.
  • Divide this batter, using a rubber spatula to help you scrape and spread, into the prepared tins and bake until a cake tester, or a thin skewer, comes out clean, which should be about 35 minutes, but it is wise to start checking at 25. Also, it might make sense to switch the two cakes around in the oven halfway through cooking time.
  • Remove the cakes, in their tins, to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before turning out of their tins. Don’t worry about any cracks as they will easily be covered by the icing later.
  • To make this icing, melt the butter and chocolate in a good-sized bowl either in the microwave or suspended over a pan of simmering water. Go slowly either way: you don’t want any burning or seizing.
  • While the chocolate and butter are cooling a little, sieve the icing sugar into another bowl. Or, easier still, put the icing sugar into the food processor and blitz. This is by far and away the least tedious way of removing lumps.
  • Add the golden syrup to the cooled chocolate mixture, followed by the sour cream and vanilla and then when all this is combined whisk in the sieved icing sugar. Or just pour this mixture down the funnel of the food processor on to the icing sugar, with the motor running.
  • When you’ve done, you may need to add a little boiling water – say a teaspoon or so – or indeed some more icing sugar: it depends on whether you need the icing to be runnier or thicker; or indeed it may be right as it is. It should be liquid enough to coat easily, but thick enough not to drip off.
  • Choose your cake stand or plate and cut out four strips of baking parchment to form a square outline on it (this stops the icing running on to the plate). Then sit one of the cakes, uppermost (ie slightly domed) side down.
  • Spoon about a third of the icing on to the centre of the cake half and spread with a knife or spatula until you cover the top of it evenly. Sit the other cake on top, normal way up, pressing gently to sandwich the two together.
  • Spoon another third of the icing on to the top of the cake and spread it in a swirly, textured way (though you can go for a smooth finish if you prefer, and have the patience). Spread the sides of the cake with the remaining icing and leave a few minutes till set, then carefully pull away the paper strips.

I love to dot the top of this with sugar pansies – and you must admit, they do look enchanting – but there really is no need to make a shopping expedition out of it. Anything, or indeed nothing, will do.

 

 

 

 

For cake 50% larger

 

  • 300 grams plain flour
  • 300 grams caster sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 60 grams best-quality cocoa powder
  • 260 grams soft unsalted butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 225 millilitres sour cream

 

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