On days when I want the warmth of the hearth rather than the hurly burly of the city streets I stay in and read cook­ery books, and this recipe comes from just the sort of book that gives most suc­cour,

Clas­sic Home Desserts by the late Amer­i­can chef Richard Sax. The cake it­self (which was the pud­ding I made for one New Year’s Eve din­ner) is as richly and re­ward­ingly sus­tain­ing. A melt­ing, dark, flour­less choco­late base – the sort that sinks damply on cool­ing – the fallen cen­tre is cloudily filled with softly whipped cream and sprin­kled with co­coa pow­der. As Richard Sax put it: ‘There’s in­ten­sity, then re­lief, in each bite.’

Serves 8-12

250g (9oz) dark choco­late, min­i­mum 70% co­coa solids

125g (4½oz) un­salted but­ter, soft­ened 6 eggs: 2 whole, 4 sep­a­rated

175g (6oz) caster sugar

2tbsp Coin­treau (op­tional)

Grated zest of 1 orange (op­tional)

23cm spring­form cake tin

For the cream top­ping

500ml (18fl oz) dou­ble cream

1tsp vanilla ex­tract

1tbsp Coin­treau (op­tional)

½tsp unsweet­ened co­coa pow­der, for sprin­kling

Pre­heat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. Line the bot­tom of the spring­form cake tin with parch­ment. Melt the choco­late ei­ther in a dou­ble boiler or a mi­crowave, and then let the but­ter melt in the warm choco­late.

Beat the 2 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks with 75g of the caster sugar, then gen­tly add the choco­late mix­ture, the Coin­treau, if us­ing, and the orange zest. In an­other bowl, whisk the 4 egg whites un­til they are foamy, then grad­u­ally add the re­main­ing 100g of caster sugar and whisk un­til the whites are hold­ing their shape but not too stiff.

Lighten the choco­late mix­ture with a dol­lop of egg whites, and then fold in the rest of the whites. Pour into the pre­pared tin and bake for 35-40 min­utes, un­til the cake is risen and cracked and the cen­tre is no longer wob­bly. Cool the cake in its tin on a wire rack; the mid­dle will sink as it cools.

When you are ready to eat, place the still tin-bound cake on a cake stand or plate for serv­ing and care­fully re­move the cake from its tin. Don’t worry about any cracks or rough edges: it’s the crater look we’re go­ing for here. Whip the dou­ble cream un­til it’s soft and then add the vanilla ex­tract and Coin­treau, if us­ing, and con­tinue whisk­ing un­til the cream is firm but not stiff.

Fill the crater of the cake with the whipped cream, eas­ing it out gen­tly to­wards the edges of the cake, and dust the top lightly with some co­coa pow­der pushed through a tea-strainer.

From Nigella Bites, by Nigella Law­son, Chatto & Win­dus, €23.

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