Lifestyles 55 Articles

Ian Leatt

Pastry, in particular cakes, has always been a passion of mine. What can I say about chocolate that hasn’t already been said? Chocolate is a healthy food, great for our heart in more than a romantic way. It was once thought to have aphrodisiac qualities. Chocolate is great for cleaning our blood vessels. We need a high rate of blood pumping throughout our body when we exercise or make love, so we are doing our hearts a service when we help ourselves to some chocolate.

Chocolate tastes great and is prepared in multiple forms so it’s hard to imagine how any person could fail to find a taste and texture that appeals to them.

Chocolate is made from the seeds of the tree Theobroma cacao. Theobroma is Greek for “food of the gods”. The ancient Aztecs venerated the cacao tree and used its beans as a form of currency. They saw the tree as a source of strength and wealth and assigned their god Quetzalcoatl to be its guardian.

Chocolate stimulates the release of endorphins, natural body hormones that generate feelings of pleasure and well-being. Chocolate contains a natural “love drug”. Tryptophan is a chemical that the brain uses to make a neurotransmitter called serotonin. High levels of serotonin produce feelings of elation, even ecstasy – hence the name of the designer drug that also works by increasing serotonin levels.


Chocolate sponge cake

Note that two cakes (twice this recipe) are needed for this two-layer cake.

3 tbsps. clarified butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup self-raising flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 large eggs
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 packet crushed walnuts

Cake filling Chocolate sauce:

½ litre whipping cream
2 packets semi sweet chocolate
Coffee icing
1 packet icing sugar
1 packet unsalted butter
Vanilla essence
1/4 cup cold instant coffee

Start with the basic chocolate sponge mix. I usually use a genoise – named after its place of origin, Genoa, Italy, and belonging to the family of light and airy sponge cakes. While the technique for making this batter is similar to that of a sponge cake, it differs in that it contains melted, unsalted butter (or clarified butter). This produces a more tender and flavourful sponge cake, but it also makes us perform a few extra steps in making the batter.

The butter will need to be in liquid form and warm so that it won’t solidify, which can cause streaks in the batter as well as deflating it. We will also need to warm the eggs and sugar over simmering water so that the eggs reach their full potential volume when beaten. (This will help compensate for the loss in volume that occurs when the clarified butter is added.) Taking these two steps will ensure a delicate-flavoured chocolate genoise.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter your cake tin, or spray with a vegetable spray. A 23-cm round (nine inch) cake pan is recommended; line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine the clarified butter with the vanilla extract. Keep the mixture warm. If needed, re-warm it for a few seconds just before using. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and cocoa powder and set aside.

In a large heat-proof bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisking constantly, heat the eggs and sugar until lukewarm to the touch. Remove from the heat and transfer the egg mixture to the bowl of your electric mixer. Beat on high speed until the mixture has cooled and tripled its original volume and looks like softly whipped cream.

Sift about one-third of the flour mixture over the whipped eggs and fold in using a large rubber spatula. Fold in half the remaining flour. Do not over-mix or you will deflate the batter. Fold a cup of the batter into the hot butter mixture using a small spatula. When completely combined, use a spatula to fold the butter mixture completely into the rest of the egg batter. Finally, add the crushed walnuts. Pour the batter into the greased pan and smooth the surface.

Bake the cake until it shrinks slightly from the edges of the pan and the cake top springs back up when lightly pressed. Cool on a metal rack. Once cool, wrap in cling film and leave for 24 hours. The wrapping helps ensure that the cake is moist throughout.

Making the icing

Melt the chocolate in a metal bowl over hot water (not boiling). Pour in the cream and whisk to a smooth consistency.

For the coffee icing, place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk on high until light and fluffy.

Now the fun part: With a sharp knife slice each cake through the middle, producing four pieces.

Using a spoon, put a little icing on the serving plate before placing the first piece of cake, this helps to keep the cake in place. Smooth some icing over the first layer, covering the cake completely. Place the second piece of cake on top, only this time pipe a small wall around the circumference of the cake. Inside this small wall pour some melted chocolate and leave to cool for five minutes or so. Place the next piece of cake on top, then spread some more of the coffee icing. Finally, place the remaining piece of cake on top.

You should now have a four-tier cake. Cover the sides of the cake completely with the coffee icing. Finally pipe the top edge of the cake and pour in the remaining chocolate sauce.

You can decorate the cake as you wish. In the photo, I used crushed walnuts for the sides of the cake, and piped icing with flowers to finish off. The decorating is always a matter of taste.

Ian Leatt is general manager of Pegasus Publications and a trained chef.

Author: Lifestyles55
Lifestyles 55 is a Winnipeg paper that provides readers in their 50s and older with information on matters affecting their daily lives.
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