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Can’t Get You Out Of My Head Chocolate Cake

A cake has taken over my life. I’m not actually a very cakey person. As much as I love making them, I’m more likely to reach for a biscuit or a pastry or, if I’m brutally honest, a large bag of crisps. And when it comes to cakes, I’m particularly reluctant to go for a chocolate cake. Give me a lemon drizzle, or an almond cake, or something filled with curd or jam. Chocolate is never my choice. Until now. Until this cake.

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Eagle-eyed readers will recognise the cake from a serving suggestion for no-churn honey ice cream. It is Molly Wizenberg’s recipe (and she produced twenty of them for her own wedding in place of traditional wedding cake). This was the first time I made the cake and, as that post mentions, discovered that as nice as it is, it’s even better the following day. Exponentially better.  But that was all it was ever supposed to be: a serving suggestion, an aside. It wasn’t my cake, it wasn’t my recipe. But since that first time I made it, I’ve thought about it every day. I’ve made it twice more. And I think if there’s a recipe so all-consuming, a recipe that works, you should shout about it from the rooftops.

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I’ve made almost no alterations to Wizenberg’s recipe, save for a good pinch of salt into the mixture, and a generous sprinkling over the cooked cake. It does what salt’s supposed to do: it intensifies the flavours, it makes the chocolate chocolatier, and provides a point of contrast to the sweetness to the sugar, plus it’s an interesting addition to the texture, and it looks pretty. The cake will rise slightly in the oven, and then slowly fall as it bakes and cools, causing the surface to crack. With its firm, cracked crust, and yielding soft, only-just baked centre, it is almost a chocolate brownie but, dare I say it, better. There are lots of things you could do with this cake: I’m giving a lot of my daydreaming time over to adding the zest of a large orange before baking, or a scraping of cinnamon and nutmeg with a sprinkle of chilli powder. But it stands happily on its own merits without any of these additions.

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This cake is almost zero effort to make but it really does need to be made at least a day in advance. I know. But trust me. It will also make any dinner party impossibly easy. It’s not a particularly cheap cake to make, but if you can afford it, it’s worth it: it’s not a pudding that can be passed over without comment, despite being unassuming to look at. I don’t buy into the whole dinner party mantra of only cooking simple dishes. I don’t particularly want to spend my whole time in the kitchen but, also, cooking is what I love, and having friends for supper is a gorgeous excuse to flex my muscles and have a go at cooking something that I would struggle to justify time or expense-wise if it were just me and Sam on a Thursday evening. But, that said I’m always a bit nervous about drinking too much before I serve pudding, particularly if I’ve opted for something that requires last minute care and attention, like a soufflé or crème brûlée. This cake does away with any such pudding anxiety. Make it the day before (it’s quick and easy enough to pull together on a Friday evening before you go to the pub) and whip it out on the Saturday evening.

It goes like this:

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Almost Flourless Salted Chocolate Cake

(Barely adapted from Molly Wisenberg’s hearts and minds cake)

Makes: 8-10 portions, depending on generosity and greed
Takes: 10 minutes
Bakes: 25-30 minutes

200g best-quality dark chocolate
200g butter, cut into cubes
250g granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
A generous sprinkling of coarse salt

1.    Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.

2.    Melt the butter and chocolate in a bain marie, stirring gently (I precariously balance one larger pan over a small one filled a third-up with water, but if I had a heat-proof bowl, I would use this).

3.    When everything has melted, stir in the sugar and a good pinch of coarse salt. The mixture will look a bit gritty. Onwards.

4.    Set to one side, and allow to cool just a little, so you don’t scold the eggs. This is normally the point where I line my tin. So line the base of an 8 or 9 inch springform tin with baking paper, and then grease the paper and the sides with baking paper.

5.    Mix in the eggs one by one and keep stirring until the mixture is uniform and terribly glossy.

6.  Add the tablespoon of flour, and pour the mixture into the prepared tin.

7.  Bake for 25 minutes for a 9 inch tin and 30 minutes for an 8 inch tin.

8. As soon as you take the cake out of the oven, gently sprinkle and press another good pinch of coarse salt onto the top of the cake. Allow to cool completely, ideally for at least a day.

9.  Ta Dah!

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Icing on the Cake

As the above suggests, this cake is the perfect make-ahead dinner party dish, but perhaps unsurprisingly I prefer it the next day, normally a Sunday evening, cut into a slab slightly larger than I would serve. Just me, a fork, and the cake I can’t get out of my head.

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