“Easy Chocolate Birthday Cake” from “Flavour”

It seems appropriate to start a month of cooking with a Great British Bake Off runner up with a cake. Also, I have found in life there is always a good reason to have some chocolate cake. Those truly are words to live by.

Using the word “Easy”, however, gave me pause. Baking a cake isn’t easy for everyone. I distinctly remember the first time I tried to make a chocolate cake. It was almost exactly 15 years ago and I wanted to make a cake for Tim’s birthday. I dutifully went off to John Lewis to buy the cake pans and other bits I needed to make it. The cake part went fine, but when it was time to make the icing, it was an UTTER DISASTER. The icing just poured down the sides of the cake and pooled around the cake on the cake dish. It was laughably bad.

It’s a wonder that I ever tried to make a cake again. But I persevered, and in fact, it was only two years later that I made a wedding cake– or actually should be CAKES– to feed 250 people.

While I did find this easy, I also know that I’m much better at making cakes than I used to be. So I honestly don’t know if it would be easy for everyone. It definitely was easier than the cake I made last month, the Devil’s Food Cake with Buttercream Meringue. The directions for this cake are clear and straightforward, so if you want to try your first cake, this might be a good place to start.

Most importantly, it is delicious. It is an unfussy, moist and delectable specimen of a cake. It is the type of cake that sits happily on a counter and you just take small slivers off of it every time you’re a bit peckish until suddenly there’s nothing left. I wouldn’t just limit making this cake for birthdays, either. We had no birthdays to celebrate here and yet we managed to force it down. Again to reiterate: There’s always a good reason to have chocolate cake.

Highly recommended. (Though I still don’t know if it’s easy or not.)

Try this recipe! Ruby helpfully also wrote it up for her column in the Guardian, which you can find if you click through this link. 

 

“Easy Chocolate Birthday Cake” from “Flavour”

“Chocolate chip cookie dough pots” from “Simply Nigella”

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This was one of the first recipes I tried from Nigella’s book, back last year. Chocolate chip cookie dough, but all melty in a pot…what could wrong? Well it turns out NOTHING. This recipe is perfect in every way and I’ve made it countless times this year. Super easy, you can prepare it in the fridge hours before your guests arrive (I use the clingfilm covering to push down the dough in the pots) and it’s always a winner. ALWAYS. Which is pretty much what Maureen said last year too! . So if you’re looking for an easy, crowd pleaser of a dessert then try this one. And enjoy!

“Chocolate chip cookie dough pots” from “Simply Nigella”

“World’s Best Brownies” from “Bread Street Kitchen”

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We’ve been doing a lot of comfort eating in this house in November. That’s the beautiful thing about food, isn’t it? You could be in the worst possible mood or you might even think the world is coming to an end, but after sharing a delicious meal (preferably one that everyone loves) things definitely improve.

Consequently, November has been full of our family’s Food Greatest Hits: Pizza. Sausage sauce. Chicken parm. Chocolate chip cookies. Cake. Macaroni and cheese. Spaghetti and Meatballs. These are the foods that we love, so these are the foods we’ve been eating.

And brownies.

Lucky for us, the “Bread Street Kitchen” cookbook has a recipe for the “World’s Best Brownies.” That’s a fairly bold claim, but we thought it best to give them a test before we thought that title could be used.

So is it the world’s best brownie? I’m not sure about that, but it’s pretty damn good.

In the interest of full disclosure, the first time I made it, I forgot to put in about half of the flour. Consequently, those brownies were THE MOST DELICIOUS I’VE EVER HAD. I’ll be damned, though, if I can figure out how much flour, exactly, I left out so I could replicate that wondrous experience again.

The second time I made them, I did remember to include all of the flour, but as a result, the brownies were more cake-like. They were good, to be sure, but I did not reach the brownie nirvana I experienced the time before.

Would I make it again? Yes. If nothing else, so I could figure out just exactly how much flour to add in order to reach brownie nirvana again.

“World’s Best Brownies” from “Bread Street Kitchen”

“Bitter Flourless Chocolate Cake with Coffee Cream” from “Simple”

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Book club night!

I love being able to try out new recipes from our tester cookbooks for book club, but they also love to be the guinea pigs, so I call that a win-win situation.

Tonight it was time to try another flourless chocolate cake. I’ve tested quite a few on this blog. I think my favourite– or at least the one I turn to repeatedly– is the one by Angela Hartnett in “A Taste of Home”.

This one was much like the others. I’m thrilled to say that it didn’t collapse, but as I’ve written previously, I know to beat the egg whites in utter submission in order for the cake to stay firm after baking.

The new addition to this particular version of flourless chocolate cake was the making of coffee cream to go with it, where you whip up double cream, a coffee paste and some alcohol. Diana Henry wanted me to add whiskey to it, but given just the smell of whiskey makes me nauseous, I decided to add amaretto instead. Tim suggested if I make the cream again I use Bailey’s Irish Cream, which I thought was a stellar suggestion, so I will do that.

The book club loved it. We were busy disagreeing on our opinion of the book* [see below], but we could agree on loving this cake. It was another winning recipe.

*If you’re curious what we read, it was “The Reader on the 6.27” by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent, and translated by Ros Schwartz. I loved it, but the club was split on its option. Five of us loved it, four of us hated it. I would urge you to read it, but four of my friends would not. For what it’s worth.

This recipe, which I definitely recommend, can be found on the Telegraph website. You can read it by clicking through this paragraph.

“Bitter Flourless Chocolate Cake with Coffee Cream” from “Simple”

“Malted Milk Chocolate and Raspberry Tart” from “Stirring Slowly”

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I have cooked a great many things over the years, but never a tart. So I don’t know what came over me when I decided to make this although I do have a thing for raspberry and chocolate, it has to be said. When yesterday’s plans were cancelled it felt like the time had come to open the cookbook and start making this tart. Until making it, I had no idea how many ways a tart could go wrong. But I persevered, despite the crack in the pastry and when I overfilled the case with filling and when the two kinds of filling mixed together in the case. And I am so glad I did. It is a showstopper of a tart. Literally taking our breath away with the combination of flavours. Will I make it again? Now that’s a good question…I might. You never know! The flavours are quite something. And it’s always good to try new things. Who knows, maybe I will become a maker of tarts, especially if they all taste as wonderful as this! Watch this space.

“Malted Milk Chocolate and Raspberry Tart” from “Stirring Slowly”

“Dark Chocolate, Cardamom and Espresso Mousse Cake” from “Sirocco”

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Kirstin: It’s always a wonderful feeling to find a recipe that you know you will treasure and pass on to others. These recipes, for me, must be easy and delicious. I set the bar even higher when it comes to desserts and baking as our family is not a fan of sweet food. But this recipe might just make into our Hall of Desserts Fame. Fabulously easy and tasting rather special, this chiffon cake is a winner. I was a tad worried about the cardamom, but I shouldn’t have been as it set off the chocolate and coffee perfectly. I am already looking forward to making this again, and smile at the thought of the book page becoming more splattered as the years go by.

“Dark Chocolate, Cardamom and Espresso Mousse Cake” from “Sirocco”

“Rye Chocolate Brownies” from “The Violet Bakery Cookbook”

IMG_8215When I look through a new cookbook, there are some recipes I know I will never try. Usually it has to do with procuring obscure ingredients, which is a real bugbear of mine. But oftentimes it is because I know I already have a fantastic recipe that cannot be improved upon. Why mess with success?

A short list of foods that I feel that way about include chocolate chip cookies, pizza, meatballs, tomato sauce, apple pie and brownies. The brownie recipe, in particular, has the most interesting name: The Best and Only Thing I Ever Received From My Ex-Sister-In-Law.

So when I saw this recipe, I quickly turned the page, thinking of my “The Best and Only Thing I Ever Received From My Ex-Sister-In-Law” brownie recipe. But something about it made me go back and read it again. I was intrigued by the use of the rye flour, which might be a slightly obscure ingredient, but one I could easily source via my local health food store, Waitrose or Ocado.

“Why not live a little and give it a go?” I thought to myself. I bought the wholemeal rye flour, took out my mixing bowls and began the experiment.

The wholemeal rye flour was really the only departure in this recipe. The rest of the method (aside from having to weigh the eggs, which I’ve never done in a brownie recipe before) seemed to be the same way, or thereabouts, that I’ve always made brownies.

I may have been skeptical about the wholemeal rye flour when I started out,  but I certainly didn’t feel that way by the time I bit into the finished product. I thought rye flour would taste odd, but in actual fact, it gave the brownie a slightly nutty taste, without having to chop any nuts.

However, it might have been too far a departure for the boys. The adults loved the brownies, and couldn’t taste a huge departure from the normal ones, but the boys were not so sure. Andrew (age 16) liked them, but didn’t love them. Nicholas (age 12) did not like them at all and didn’t even finish his. Though I’m wondering if I had to failed to mention that I used a different flour, he might not have noticed.

The moral of the story for me, at least, is this: Sometimes it’s good to cast aside your old favourite and try something new. Even if it is the only thing you ever received from your ex-sister-in-law.

If you’d like to try these yourself, the New York Times has the recipe in its Cooking pages. Click through this paragraph to read it yourself. 

“Rye Chocolate Brownies” from “The Violet Bakery Cookbook”