What I’m learning about Americans’ is that they know what they want and ‘gosh darn it they’re gonna go out and get it’. They have far more guts and ambition than us polite conservative “oh, I’m terribly sorry, am I in your way” Brits. And I have to say-I’m a big fan. Of course there are areas in life where this aggression takes a less admirable stance but for the most part it cuts out all the time wasting crap and gets you straight to the point.
For one thing, it means there are no morning hold-ups in Starbucks with “umming” and “erring” about what kind of coffee to get and what kind of milk to top it off with. “Get me a grande non-fat, double shot mocha latte. Hold the cream”. Americans’, know what they want.
I’m the same with my attitude towards food. I know the end result that I want and if I don’t get it then I swear profusively, pout my lower lip and then keep at it until the recipe works the way that I want it to work. Baking books can be very guilty culprits of making something look amazing in the photos and then the home cooks end result is a disappointing mess that gets thrown in the bin. As a food stylist, I know why this is- and yes this makes me a guest at that guilty “it doesn’t look like the one in the picture” party.
So, to make up for the fact that I make a living out of deceiving novice cooks and avid bakers alike by wasting their time on sub par recipes I have here a chocolate cake recipe, which certainly isn’t a time waster. It’s just plain and simple as good as it gets- the whole nine yards without any pit stops. My mother bakes this cake and then has to freeze it after the first slice so that she doesn’t eat the whole thing. My approach is somewhat different but then restraint is not something I can make claim too. I know what I want and gosh darn it I’m gonna go out and get it.
Simply the best chocolate cake
This cake is big and rich and if you’re into sharing then it can feed 20 people. The ingredients need to be of the best quality- there’s no messing around with this cake. Slightly adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Cake.
Equipment you will need:
3 large bowls.
2 deep 8” (20cm) cake tins greased and lined with parchment paper
For the cake
For the cake
400g plain flour
200g golden caster sugar (pure cane sugar)
75g dark brown soft sugar
50g good quality cocoa powder (not drinking chocolate)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
150g plain yogurt
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
175g butter, melted
125ml sunflower or corn oil
300ml ice cold water
For the icing
150g 70% cocoa chocolate
250g icing sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
• Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Mix the flour, sugars, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together in a bowl.
• In a new bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream and vanilla until completely blended
• In a new bowl, beat the melted butter and oil together with your electric beaters, then add the chilled water and beat to combine.
• Add the dry ingredients to bowl number three all at once and beat with your electric beaters on a low speed.
• Add the egg mixture and mix until everything is blended.
• Fill your baking tins evenly, making a slight dip with the back of a spoon in the centre of each cake. Place into the oven on a central shelf and bake for 40-50 mins. Check after 40 minutes by lightly pressing your finger into the cake, if it bounces back and a toothpick comes out clean, then you are in business. If not, return the cake to the oven for 5 minutes and finish the washing up.
• Remove the cakes from the oven and leave in their tins for 10 minutes before turning out onto wire racks. Allow to cool completely, you’ve waited this long so don’t get impatient now.
• For the icing, melt the chocolate over a double boiler and set aside to cool slightly. Beat the butter until soft and creamy, then sieve over the icing sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Gently pour over the vanilla and chocolate and mix until smooth and glossy.
• To put together use a large serrated knife to even the rounded tops of the cakes. (You can reserve these scraps to snack on without anyone else knowing). With a palette knife spread a generous layering of icing one one half of your cake before placing the other cake on top, bottom side up (this will give a nice flat top). Then place remaining icing onto the top of the cake and spread evenly down the sides and over the top, using your knife to smooth the sides, and being careful to wipe your knife of any crumbs. Allow the icing to firm up in the fridge before serving.