Nigella’s Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake

Nigella’s Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake
Normally, I don’t like Nigella’s cooking because she puts too much butter into everything. I still watch her show though, because you never know when she’s going to make something really good. This cake is a good example and the main reason why I keep watching the show. It’s the old fashioned chocolate cake that she made in a chocolate-themed episode of Nigella Feasts.
Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake

200 g plain flour
200 g caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
40 g cocoa powder
175 g soft unsalted butter
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
150 ml sour cream
For the icing:
75 g unsalted butter
175 g best quality dark chocolate
300 g icing sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
125 ml sour cream
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
sugar flowers (optional)
  1. Take everything out of the fridge so that all the ingredients can come to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line and butter two 20 cm sandwich tins with removable bases.
  3. Put all the cake ingredients into a food processor and process until you have a smooth, thick batter.
  4. If you want to go the long way around, just mix the flour, sugar and leavening agents in a large bowl and beat in the soft butter until you have a combined and creamy mixture. Now whisk together the cocoa, sour cream, vanilla and eggs and beat this into your bowl of mixture.
  5. Divide this batter, using a rubber spatula to help you scrape and spread, into the prepared tins and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, which should be about 35 minutes, but it is wise to start checking at 25. Also, it might make sense to switch the two cakes around in the oven halfway through cooking time.
  6. Remove the cakes, in their tins, to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before turning out of their tins. Don’t worry about any cracks as they will easily be covered by the icing later.
  7. To make this icing, melt the butter and chocolate in a good-sized bowl either in the microwave or suspended over a pan of simmering water. Go slowly either way, you don’t want any burning or seizing.
  8. While the chocolate and butter are cooling a little, sieve the icing sugar into another bowl. Or, easier still, put the icing sugar into the food processor and blitz. This is by far and away the least tedious way of removing lumps. 
  9. Add the golden syrup to the cooled chocolate mixture, followed by the sour cream and vanilla and then when all this is combined whisk in the sieved icing sugar. Or just pour this mixture down the funnel of the food processor on to the icing sugar, with the motor running.
  10. When you’re done, you may need to add a little boiling water – say a teaspoon or so – or indeed some more icing sugar: it depends on whether you need the icing to be runnier or thicker; or indeed it may be right as it is. It should be liquid enough to coat easily, but thick enough not to drip off.
  11. Choose your cake stand or plate and cut out four strips of baking parchment to form a square outline on it (this stops the icing running on to the plate). Then sit one of the cakes, uppermost (ie slightly domed) side down.
  12. Spoon about a third of the icing on to the centre of the cake and spread with a knife or spatula until you cover the top of it evenly. Sit the other cake on top, normal way up, pressing gently to sandwich the two together.
  13.  Spoon another third of the icing on to the top of the cake and spread it in a swirly, textured way (though you can go for a smooth finish if you prefer, and have the patience). Spread the sides of the cake with the remaining icing and leave a few minutes till set, then carefully pull away the paper strips.
This cake is so delicious that I just keep making it. I have made it five times already. Before I had the 20 cm (8 inch) round pan I always baked it in the 24 cm (9 inch) pan and it wasn’t as high as it was supposed to be. Now I have the right pan and I can finally follow the recipe exactly. 

I made two cakes this weekend. One of them was baked all at once (the whole batter), because I thought it would be faster. I was wrong. The top of the cake was already burning when the middle of it was still liquid. So I baked it for more than an hour, and I lowered the temperature a bit (to 160°C). It came out of the oven a little burnt on the top, but the icing covered that taste. I learned from my mistake and baked only a half of the other cake at once. (That’s because I only have one pan and I have to take it out of the oven, wash it and fill it with the other half of the batter.) I thought that the halves wouldn’t be domed, but they still were, just not as much as the big cake.

The second cake was a bit higher than the first one. I had some purple flowers that were the same as Nigella used in her show, so I put them on the nicer-looking cake.

The icing is delicious, but mainly because I like Sacher torte, I once spread apricot marmalade between the two layers of the cake and covered it with Nigella’s icing. It was good too, but it tastes better with just the regular icing. It’s very sweet, but I usually don’t add the entire amount of powdered sugar in it (300 grams). I just keep adding it and taste it every once in a while. When I can’t taste the sour cream anymore, I stop adding the sugar. This is a very sweet cake with a strong chocolate flavor and you can’t really eat more than one tiny piece at a time. Of course, I eat a lot of those tiny pieces so the cake doesn’t last longer than two days. Ever. It’s one of the best cakes I’ve ever tasted.

Look: 5/5
Taste: 5/5
Approximate cost: 6,50 €

Valentine’s Day – Devil’s Food Cupcakes (7) with Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Marzipan

Valentine’s Day – Devil’s Food Cupcakes (7) with Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Marzipan

It’s Valentine’s day! I wanted to make themed cupcakes, so I looked through both of my cupcake books. I didn’t like anything though. I had marzipan and red nonpareils at home, so I decided to do a few different ”designs”. One is the same as the Sparkly Star of David cupcakes from Martha’s book and the other is… well, I had a lot of marzipan and a bottle of red food coloring, so something red came out.

I made chocolate devil’s food cupcakes, buttercream to cover them and colored red marzipan to cover a few.

Devil’s Food Cupcakes (makes 32) – without the chocolate ganache frosting

3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 cup hot water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream, room temperature

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together cocoa and hot water until smooth. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Melt butter with sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat, and pour into a mixing bowl. With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat until mixture is cooled, 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add vanilla, then cocoa mixture, and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with sour cream, and beating until just combined after each.
  3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 15 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers. 

I wrote the Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe under New Year’s Eve Cupcakes.

I made the batter and baked the cupcakes, but this was the easier part. I have made these cupcakes before and they are the best chocolate cupcakes I have ever tasted. I love them. So they were a natural choice. They aren’t so easy to make though, because you need to have a lot of bowls to mix everything in them (cocoa with water, flour with baking soda and powder). You also have to melt butter with sugar and ”stir to combine”. It never completely combines. Ever. Then you have to beat the mixture until it’s cooled and while this might be easy for people who own a stand mixer that does all the work, it wasn’t easy for me, because I have a hand mixer and I had to hold it the whole time. The recipe also says that the mixture cools down in 4-5 minutes. Well, it doesn’t, but I survived.

I only made half the recipe and it was supposed to make 16 cupcakes. It made 18 normal ones and another 25 mini-cupcakes. I bought the mini paper liners recently and I decided to use them because it’s more likely that people are going to eat four minis than one normal cupcake. I filled the liners almost 3/4 full and they came out perfect.

Then I made the buttercream. I had a little problem when a bit of an egg yolk fell into my egg whites, but  it (fortunately) didn’t affect the buttercream. After it was made I put a big spoon of frosting onto 10 cupcakes and straightened it out. Then I put a heart shaped cookie cutter onto the surface of the cupcake and I filled the inside of it with red nonpareils. Some of the hearts actually looked like hearts, while some looked like a giant bag of nonpareils exploded over them. For the small cupcakes, I only decorated them with a few nonpareils. 

I took half a pack (125 grams) of marzipan and kneaded it for a bit, then gradually added liquid red food coloring. It came out pink, not red, but I was probably supposed to use gel color.  I rolled it with a rolling pin between two sheets of parchment paper. This was the hardest thing I have ever done because the marzipan was sticking to everything from the paper to my hands… it was a nightmare. When I got a smooth surface, I somehow put it over a cupcake (frosted with a bit of buttercream) and cut it around the cupcake edges. I did 6 of those and I had some leftovers but there wasn’t enough to cover a whole cupcake, so I made a few small hearts with the cookie cutter and put them onto the mini cupcakes.

These cupcakes were a success, especially the ones covered with marzipan. I wasn’t expecting that and that’s why I only made six of them. They were gone first. I’ll definitely buy more marzipan in the future.

Happy Valentine’s day!

Red Velvet Cupcakes (5)

Red Velvet Cupcakes (5)

I hadn’t baked anything since december, so I decided to bake something yesterday. It had to be a recipe that included ingredients that I already had at home, because I didn’t have much time for shopping. That’s why I chose this recipe. It’s in the beginning of Martha Stewart’s book, and I had everything I needed at home (except cream cheese that I had to go out and buy). I had already made red velvet cupcakes before, from a recipe that I found on the Grab Your Fork blog and they were delicious! 

Red Velvet Cupcakes (makes 24)

2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon red gel paste food color
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
Cream cheese frosting

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together cake flour, cocoa, and salt.
  2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, whisk together sugar and oil until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Mix in food color and vanilla.
  3. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and whisking well after each. Stir together the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl (it will foam); add mixture to the batter, and mix on medium speed 10 seconds.
  4. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers. 
  5. To finish, use a small offset spatula to spread cupcakes with frosting. Refrigerate up to 3 days in airtight containers; bring to room temperature before serving.

Cream Cheese Frosting (makes 4 cups)

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 pound (4 cups) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Beat butter and cream cheese with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add sugar, 1 cup at a time, and then vanilla; mix until smooth. Frosting can be refrigerated for up to three days.

I spent two hours making this recipe. I had to substitute buttermilk with milk and vinegar, and cake flour with regular flour and starch. I also made only a half of the recipe. Since I don’t like using the food coloring in my cupcakes, I used a bit less. The recipe called for gel paste, but I used the liquid coloring. I used two spoons (four times as much as I would have with gel paste, although I was supposed to use much more, like a whole bottle or so), and while the mixture without the flour and milk was VERY red, the color then turned to brown. They look dark orange now. The recipe was supposed to make 12 cupcakes, but I made 17. They didn’t rise too high, so they were perfect for putting the frosting on them. When I tried them without the frosting, I didn’t quite like the taste. I expected them to be more chocolate-y, but they weren’t. I liked the frosting though. The recipe says it makes 4 cups, I only made 1/4 of the recipe and it was enough to cover all (17!) cupcakes, so if you’re making the whole recipe (24 cupcakes) it would be best to make one half of the frosting recipe. That’s one package of Philadelphia cream cheese.

I’m starting to like cream cheese in my cupcakes a lot, although I have never tried it before.  I won’t be making these again in the future, because even though other people liked it, I didn’t. I had to try it, because I thought it had the potential of being a great recipe. But it wasn’t. Not for me, because I’m a chocoholic and the only thing these cupcakes have in common with chocolate, is the color.