It was with great interest on 29th March I read the article in Epicure A Slice of Heaven, the quest to bake the perfect chocolate cake. I think my cake story, culminating in a blue ribbon winning cake on 27th March, could have challenged their results!!!
I have been on a similar quest myself. To bake the blue ribbon winning ‘Cake made with Almond Meal’ at the Red Hill Show. For the past 2 years I have come 2nd, with my gorgeous apple, ginger & almond meal cake. But the winner was always a chocolate one.
This year I needed a new recipe to really have a red hot chance at the prize. So I called on my friend Fi, food stylist & recipe writer, she came through with the goods. I have practiced it once, and it worked. It’s pretty simple. This kind of flourless chocolate cake, often sinks a bit when removed from the oven, however this one doesn’t. Really important for show baking.
So if you want to really bake the “winning chocolate cake” this IS the recipe, as it won the blue ribbon on the day. And yes, I was excited. Here’s the recipe, and below are the pics with some of my methods also. Have a go, it’s a great cake.
Almond & Chocolate Cake
25cm (10in) round tin
250gm (90z) unsalted butter, chopped, plus extra for greasing
250gm (90z) quality dark chocolate
8 eggs, separated
250gm (90z) caster (superfine) sugar
250gm (90z) ground almonds (almond meal)
Dutch cocoa for dusting
Berries & thick cream for serving
Preheat oven to 180deg (360F). Grease a 25cm (10in) spring form cake tin with butter and line the base with baking paper.
Place a saucepan half filled with water over a low heat. Place the chocolate and butter in a heat proof bowl and site over the saucepan, making sure the water does not touch the base of the bowl. Melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the heat and cool for 5 minutes (you don’t want to put it in too hot & cook the eggs)
Using electric beaters whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until thick, pale and creamy. Stir in the ground almonds to combine well. Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the yolk mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
Using electric beaters, whisk the egg whites in a clean dry bowl until firm peaks form. Lightly fold half of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture until just incorporated and then add the remaining whites and continue folding gently to combine well. Pour mixture into the lined tin and spread evenly. Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted (My skewer did not come out clean, I added at least another 15min cooking and still it didn’t come out clean, this is such a moist dense cake, it is unlikely to ever come out clean, so don’t panic about this). Cool completely in tin on a wire rack.
Remove spring form sides of tin. Dust cake with cocoa and slice into thin wedges to serve. Thick cream or icecream and berries are nice accompaniments to it.
It may still sink a little in the middle when cooling, that is OK, and it looks beautiful piled with fresh raspberries and dusted with icing sugar.
The cake can be made a few days ahead, it keeps well.
All ingredients out, measured, pans greased.
Using the ‘double boiler’ method melt the chocolate and butter together
My 3 bowl method of separating eggs. I always separate an egg into two bowls, then if successful, I put the whites in one bowl, and for this recipe, the yolks went straight into the mixing bowl. Too many times have I got to the 7th egg and smashed the yolk up into the whites and lost the lot! This way is foolproof.
Yolk/sugar/almond mix on the left, cooled butter/chocolate mix on the right, ready for combining. Greased pan at the ready.
After whites folded in, the batter is in the pan. I dropped the tin a couple of times on the bench to knock some air bubbles out of it. I didn’t want it too light and cracky for the show. If you don’t do this, your cake will probably drop a little in the middle and have more of a crust that may crack a little, which all looks gorgeous on your table at home.
A bit of damage with the skewer testing, easily covered by cocoa powder, probably didn’t need to worry too much about doing this. The outsides of the cake did have a crust to it, as the cake cooled and shrank a little, the crust cracked, but it was still pretty good.
The winning entry.
And what did I do with it you ask? Well I wasn’t going to eat it all myself, so at 4.30pm when you were allowed to collect your entries, I took it back to the beer tent, sliced it up into about 50 squares with my swiss army knife, and shared it around with my friends and admirers 🙂
And for anyone who wonders… Why? I believe that a proper country agricultural show provides opportunities to nuture and encourages skills that are slowly disappearing and not being handed down through families.
Whether it’s the wood chop, biggest pumpkin, best eggs, kids pikelets, quince paste, decorated cake or cake made with almond meal, there is something for everyone to have a go at.
My kids were interested and inspired and we had a lovely time making biscuits together. A lot of my local friends all entered something, or their kids did, and the result is a fun competition, a hugely successful event for our region, and the fostering of agricultural based skills. Seeing so many kids taking an interest in growing and making things was just inspirational.
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of healthy competition, and I like to make my contribution to the show staying getting enough entries to stay such a vibrant and significant event in our community.