Cacao Cake with Ganache Icing

I have fed this cake to people who “don’t eat cake” and they invariably ask for a second slice and sometimes a third. It’s just that good and I say this in the full knowledge that it is not my recipe. Giving credit where credit is due, this credit goes to Rose Prince and her “The Pocket Bakery” book, which I can only recommend. I made a few changes, but it’s essentially the same recipe, because… it was perfect already. One thing about this cake, though. Do not make it the day before. It really is best eaten a few hours after you’ve made it and if you get your ingredients ready, it’s mighty quick to make.

Possibly the Best Chocolate Cake on Earth

For the Cake:
  • 45g cacao
  • 90g boiling water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g softened butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 150g toasted ground almonds (from ±175g ground almonds)
  • a pinch of salt
  • ¾ tsp cream of tartar

Start by heating your oven to 180ºC. I use a flattish tin which is 24cm across and 4.5cm high, but you can really use anything that will give you a flat, rather than tall cake. A removable bottom is essential for this cake. Butter your tin and line it with parchment paper. I like to give it a little edge, so the dough doesn’t get into the cracks and well, crack when I take out the cake. Once you have lined the thing, lightly butter the parchment. This will make it easier to pull the parchment from under the cake once baked and cooled. This is NOT the kind of cake you can turn upside down to peel the parchment off, so just so as I say.

The recipe is easy enough, so I always forget that some of the ingredients need to cool before you can use them and so… The order in which to do things is:

Cut your cold butter into cubes and put it in the bowl of your stand mixer. Cover and leave to soften.

Put the cacao powder into a cup or bowl and add the hot water. I just put the bowl on the scales, measure out the cacao and then carefully pour in the water while keeping an eye on the scales. If you have one of those electronic things that you can zero, here’s the time to use it. Stir until there are no more lumps and there you are. Leave to cool completely.

Put 175g of almond powder into a stainless steel pan and toast it until you can smell its wonderful aroma, which should be when it is just about lightly brown, not hazelnut. Pour the almond powder on a plate, or anything else that will have it spread out not too thick, so it cools faster. Once cooled, weigh off 150g, which should be almost all of it. Eat the rest.

Attach the whisk to your stand mixer, add 150g of the caster sugar to the now softened butter and whisk until pale white. Most of the sugar should have dissolved. Add the egg yolk one by one, whisking each time until the yolk has been incorporated. Pour the cold cacao paste into the butter and mix to incorporate, then add the cooled almond powder and mix under. Wash and dry your whisk (unless you have a second one).

In a second bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt. As soon as they are lightly foamy, sieve the cream of tartar into the egg whites and continue to whisk until you have soft peaks. With the machine still running, sprinkle the 50g of sugar in and whisk to stiff peaks. Lift one third of this meringue under the cake batter, then another third and finally the last third. Pour the batter into the tin and bake for about 40 to 45 minutes. Your cake will look slightly burnt, but as long as it does not smell like a burnt cake, you’ll be fine.

It may look a little burnt, but as long as it doesn’t smell burnt, you’re okay.

Once the middle of the cake rises, you’re about done. Do the insert a skewer test and it should come out reasonably clean. A few oil streaks are fine, but batter on your skewer is not. Once done, take your cake out of the oven and do nothing until it has cooled considerably. Once it’s no longer warm to the touch, lift the cake out of the ring, slide it off the metal base onto a cake tray, then gently pull out the parchment. Leave to cool completely. Do not chill at this point, or in fact ever, if you can avoid it.

For the Ganache Icing:
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 200ml double cream

Break the chocolate into small pieces and put it into a bowl. Heat the double cream to just below boiling point, then pour it over the chocolate and stir to melt. Make sure this is melted completely. Pour the whole thing on your cooled cake and spread to cover the whole surface and edges. This cake will have raised edges, but don’t worry about that. Just spread the ganache in a circular motion from the middle until it flows over the edges. Now your cake is flat. Leave to cool at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

NOTE:          If you can’t find double cream, use 120ml normal cream and stir 20g butter into the melted mix. That will do the trick.

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