Category Archives: Chocolate

Chocolate Beetroot Celebration Cake + chocolate dipped things

The cake part of this is Nigel Slater’s luscious chocolate beetroot cake from the Kitchen Diaries, which he serves with sour cream and poppyseeds, making it clear that it’s not a serving “suggestion”. The one time I encountered Nigel Slater in real life (at the butcher) I was exactly the too-eager, inept self we all hope not to be when we meet our heroes. To be exact, I announced breathlessly “I really like to both read and eat your recipes!!!” to which he responded, gravely, “Thank you.” I lingered just long enough for it to be awkward without saying anything else, then ran.

Anyway, I’ll never be able to face Nigel again, because rather than serving his cake with unsweeted Slavic accompaniments I’ve realised that a raspberry chocolate ganache filling and white chocolate icing (plus perhaps some chocolate covered strawberries) make it a perfect celebration cake.

Speaking of BBC talent in Islington, last summer I was on the same bus as Nick Robinson and called out to him from the top deck “You’re great on the Today Programme! Who’s going to win the Conservative leadership contest?” He called it right, incidentally.
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The Fat Duck’s Black Forest Cake

A seven-layer chocolate-cherry extravaganza combining juicy cherries, velvety ganache, dense chocolate cake, airy mousse…I could go on. Respectfully ripped off from Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck Cookbook, even my pragmatically streamlined version of the recipe takes most of a day to make, but behold: The Lazy Duck’s Black Forest Cake.

Black Forest Cake

Hopefully you can see the layers, which are (from top to bottom):

1. Dark chocolate-cherry ganache icing – originally chocolate mousse and chocolate spraypaint
2. Cherry ripple vanilla mousse – originally kirsch mousse
3. Flourless chocolate cake
4. Morello cherries (from a jar) – in the original, fresh cherries soaked in kirsch
5. (layered with) Dark chocolate ganache
6. Whipped milk chocolate ganache – aerated chocolate in the original
7. Honey madeleine

[two months later as I write this post, I’ve realised that the flourless chocolate cake layer was in the wrong position – it should have been layer 3., (in between the cherry/ganache layer and the cherry jam vanilla mousse) – so the instructions below in terms of assembly are for what I should have done, rather than what I actually did]

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Little Chocolate Fondants

Cost: £2 or so, pretty much all storecupboard ingredients

If in any doubt about what to make if people are coming over, may I recommend this pudding? You can make it in advance – even the day before, and bake them from the fridge just before serving. Conversely, if you are surprised by unexpected guests (or expected guests, but you have forgotten to plan a dessert) then you can whip it up out of storecupboard staples and bake right away. My preference is to make them ahead and leave them in the fridge until we are clearing the plates from the main course. Normally, the oven is still warm so it doesn’t take much time to heat up, and as they cook we can take away the plates and set up for dessert.

Chocolate fondants have a reputation for being technically difficult, but it is totally undeserved. They are easier to make than a cake, and the only slightly tricky thing is getting the timing right – cooking them for long enough to give them some structural integrity, but not long enough for the centres to set. The truth is, it depends a bit on your oven and on the size of your ramekins (and thus depth of your puddings); these timings work for me but they might need a little trial and error. I like to serve them with some frozen berries and a dusting of icing sugar – so if the worst comes to the worst and they are insufficiently firm you can pass them off as warm chocolate mousses, which are gorgeous with the frozen berries, and if they are solid all the way through they are individual chocolate cakes. And nobody will ever know.

Chocolate fondant

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Chocolate Layer Cake

The Husband had three birthday cakes this year – the white chocolate mousse/chocolate brownie cake at his party, and for his actual birthday, which we spent at his parents’ up North, his mother made a lemon drizzle cake, and I made this (writing melted a bit during the journey).

The whole family had a good go:

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White Chocolate Macarons

To be honest – macarons would be reason enough to learn how to cook, as far as I’m concerned…that’s how motivated I am by:
1. Greed. For me, to eat a macaron is to crave a second. What a sorry lack of willpower.
2. Tightness, as having paid out for a giant box of Ladurée’s specimens was a bit teeth-gritting…and not just because of the disdain of the Parisienne on the counter…

Anyway, I’ve read all the online guides I can find, and tried recipes from the following books, which I would highly recommend: Nigella Lawson (How to Be A Domestic Goddess), Harry Eastwood (The Skinny French Kitchen – although sadly,out of the recipes I’ve tried the macarons are the only one which really haven’t worked), Jill Colonna (Mad About Macarons – genuinely mad.  some are flavoured with curry) and Parragon (Macaroons: 30 Recipes for Perfect Bite-size Treats) and through trial and (a lot) of error, have iterated to a formula that works UNLESS: 1. I get misguidedly confident and deviate from it and 2. it is an important macaron situation. I’ve heard that the smallest things can cause the macarons to go (as it were) nuts, e.g. the weather, the particular almonds/egg whites etc. – for me, the disaster variables tend to be oven temperature and emotional pressure. So if I could presume to give advice (which I can’t really) it would be to keep calm, enjoy it, and – pretty much my baking mantra) – a miss is not a fail.

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Chocolate Brownie White Chocolate Mousse Cake

When I was in the Sixth Form, through no merit of my own, the Head of Sixth nominated me to attend at an event on work-life balance. Amazingly, it was held over lunch at Claridges, where a series of presentations were given, including a Q&A with two graduates of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, and most memorably, a talk from a woman who:

… stood at the front of the room like the figurehead of a ship
And like a prophetess, heavy-lidded eyes burdened with knowledge,
Explained as one who has seen and understands
The benefits and importance of the orgasm.

Fact.

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