CHOCOLATE CLOUD CAKE
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.’
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.