Our niece Alex was saddled with me for a whole day recently. Knowing her fondness for cakes, I suggested a baking session to while away the hours.
Her eyes lit up.
“Lemon cake?” I said, tentatively.
Her face fell.
Bingo! Big smile.
Alex is a serious chocaholic. She actually knows more about baking chocolate cakes than I do, which came in handy during the cooking process.
Or it would have done if I’d actually listened to her, as you’ll discover shortly.
This is what we made. The recipes came from Joy of Cooking, a US cookbook of encyclopaedic scope and iconic status.
While we’re on the adjectives the ingredients list is, to say the least, extensive. Alex and I had to go shopping because I didn’t have that much chocolate, cream and sugar in the house. You have been warned.
Please note you need to begin making the ganache filling at least a couple of hours ahead of time.
Devil's Food Cake
Ingredients for cake:
60g unsweetened cocoa
250ml yoghurt (we used Greek yoghurt)
230g SR flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
115g unsalted butter (although we used salted and I couldn’t tell the difference)
Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.
Grease and flour two sandwich tins or, as we did, a bundt tin of about 23 cm diameter.
Whisk together half of the sugar, the cocoa and half of the yoghurt.
In another bowl, sift together the flour, the bicarb and salt.
In a third bowl, combine the rest of the yoghurt with the vanilla extract.
In a fourth, large, bowl (hope you have a lot of bowls) beat the butter until creamy, then gradually add the other half of the sugar, beating on a high speed until the mix has lightened in texture and colour, 3-5 minutes.
Beat the eggs into this mixture one at a time. Then beat in the cocoa mixture.
Add the flour mix in two parts, alternating with the yoghurt mix in two parts, beating on low until smooth and scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula as necessary.
Spoon into the tin(s) and spread evenly.
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, 30-35 minutes in sandwich tins, 45-55 minutes in a bundt tin.
It’s probably a good idea to check a large tin after 40 minutes – we cooked ours for 45 and it had a rather crispy bottom, but maybe that’s just my oven.
Allow the cake to cool in the tin on a rack for 10 minutes, then carefully slide a thin knife round it to release it from the tin.
Cool right side up on the rack before filling and icing.
Ingredients for the whipped ganache filling:
250ml whipping or double cream
115g good quality plain chocolate, finely chopped
Bring the cream to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat and whisk in the chocolate.
Cover and let it stand for 10 minutes.
With a rubber spatula, stir until perfectly smooth, making sure all the chocolate has melted.
Cover and chill for at least a couple of hours. (You can refrigerate this for up to 5 days at this point if you’re clever enough to make it ahead of time. It will freeze for 6 months).
To use, beat on low to medium speed until the ganache has just thickened and begins to hold a shape; do not overbeat. I did, against Alex’s better advice, and it set like cement.
Moral: listen to your niece.
Use immediately after beating (the filling, not the niece). Don’t forget to lick the whisks.
Ingredients for the chocolate ganache glaze:
175ml whipping or double cream
225g good quality plain chocolate, finely chopped
1 tbsp liqueur (optional; we skipped this but Grand Marnier would be nice)
Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan.
Remove from the heat, add the chocolate and stir until it has melted.
Cover and let stand for 10 minutes.
Stir or whisk very gently until completely smooth.
Stir in the liqueur, if using.
For a pourable glaze, let stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until the mixture cools to 29-34C/85-95F. Or, if you’re like me and don’t have a suitable thermometer, until your cake is cold.
Again, you can make this ahead of time if you want to plan ahead. It will keep at room temperature for three days, in the fridge for a week, or you can freeze it for up to 3 months. Soften or melt before using.
To assemble the cake:
If you used one big tin, carefully and evenly slice the cake in half once it’s cooled.
Spread the ganache filling on one half. Of course yours will spread easily because you listened to Alex.
Sandwich the two layers together and get your sous chef to ladle the glaze over the top of the cake, allowing it to dribble down the sides if you like. Smooth with a palette knife.
Gather your family and friends and tuck in. It’s rich, delicious – and enormous. If you don’t eat it at one sitting, put it in the fridge or it won’t keep. And that would be tragic.