Aki put together a simple cake the other day; simple in that it is all made in the food processor. The ingredients were chocolate, chocolate and yes chocolate. There were a few other ingredients like sour cream, but for the most part this is a chocolate cake. Once the cake is baked, note it is baked in a plastic wrap lined loaf pan; it is punctured and drizzled with a chocolate syrup. And that is the key. What if we used coffee instead of chocolate? A different cake is made. Now, start playing with syrups: peppermint liquor, Grand Marnier, Frangelico, Kirsch, Dark Rum or Earl Grey tea. One cake now is the decadent medium for intense and festive flavors. Simple sure can be complex.
I’ve been sitting on this post for a little while. Alex originally sent it to me so that I could add the recipe and publish it but instead I’ve been thinking about chocolate cakes and the different times that I reach for one. Chocolate cake is one of those idealized desserts that appear in a million different forms from the very elegant to the completely homey. Laurie Colwin wrote an essay about the search for the perfect chocolate cake and one of the criteria was that it be easy. I agree completely with that concept, anything meant to be comforting should be easy. It may be stereotypical but I most often reach for chocolate in times of stress. If I’m at home making a chocolate cake, chances are there is something serious on my mind.
It is perhaps not surprising how often our menus are dictated by our own needs and wants. We are simply lucky in that most of our guests respond to our menus and that speak to something inside them as well. Many of the tastes and flavors that we enjoy are universal and we are lucky to be able to present them in ways that our diners enjoy. This is not to say that we don’t take our guests tastes into mind when we create our menus, we simply meld their preferences into the forms that work for us at that particular moment. Chocolate is a popular ingredient with our diners. They tend to look for something irresistible that they cannot imagine making at home. Mind you, I don’t necessarily mean fancy; I mean fabulous, whimsical, decadent, unusual, and occasionally elegant chocolate indulgences. Different occasions call for different types of chocolate. Today I’m going to post a recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson’s book Feast. It is rich, decadent and simple. The very fact of it’s being a loaf cake makes it casual and yet the moist rich flavors make it one of the most comforting cakes that I have ever tasted. It is amazing at slightly warm, eaten alone in the kitchen with no one to see you licking the crumbs from your fingers. In this case the ends are the very best pieces as they have the highest syrup to cake ratio and an incredible sticky goodness as a result. The types of chocolate, butter and cocoa make a huge difference in this cake, we used coarsely chopped bittersweet Scharffenberger chocolate, Strauss organic butter, and Vahlrona cocoa, you can substitute chocolate chips as the original recipe calls for but the larger irregular chunks melting against your tongue are far more satisfying than any small chip ever could be.
Chocolate Loaf Cake
1 2/3 cups AP flour
1/2t baking soda
1 1/3 cups sugar
6 oz soft, sweet butter
2 eggs (room temperature)
1/3cup sour cream (room temperature)
1/2 cup boiling water
8 oz coarsely chopped chocolate
1/2cup strong coffee
1 oz bittersweet chocolate
Completely line a 2# loaf pan with plastic wrap, pressing the excess along the outside of the pan.
Flour, soda, cocoa, sugar in food processor. Pulse to blend. Add butter, eggs, sour cream and blend to a smooth batter. Scrape down bowl with a rubber spatula and turn on machine. With machine running, pour in hot water. Turn off machine and clean the sides of the bowl with spatula. Stir in chocolate and pour into pan. Bake for 60-75 minutes until the cake feels firm and the toothpick comes out damp with just a few crumbs.
While the cake is in the oven boil syrup ingredients together for five minutes until thick and the texture of maple syrup. Keep warm until the cake comes out of the oven. Immediately upon removing the cake from the oven poke the top surface all over with a skewer, being carefully not to go through the bottom. Spoon the warm syrup all over the cake, keeping it within the confines of the plastic wrap. Let cool in the pan for at least 45 minutes at room temperature, the cake will absorb most of the syrup. Using the plastic wrap gently lift the cake out of the pan onto a plate. Gently cut away the plastic wrap, slice, and serve.