Saturday was International Chocolate Cake Day, therefore a great way to banish the last of the January blues.
Is there a food that gladdens the heart more than a homemade chocolate cake? Every year for our birthdays my mum would bake me and my brother a chocolate cake adorned with smarties - chocolate sponge, coated with chocolate icing and meticulously studded with crisp, multi coloured smarties. I don’t remember a lot of my birthday presents during my childhood but I will never forget the cakes!
In a world where themed cakes have become like works of art, and are de rigeur, maybe it’s time to go back to when cakes were just that and not something that should be in a gallery?
My January Mondays have been taken up with running Italian cooking classes in the Slieve Donard hotel in Newcastle. The Head Chef of the hotel, Hazel Magill, is an exemplary pastry chef and makes a delicious chocolate and stout cake with a salt caramel frosting – malty, chocolate cake with caramel ticks a lot of flavour boxes. You could use Guinness for the cake but Hillstown brewery in Ahoghill have developed a brilliant black ale infused with Pamoja Kenyan coffee that works a treat too. They originally got into brewing to feed their cattle. They mixed a stout with hay which resulted in tastier and more tender beef. Serendipitously they realised they had a talent for brewing which prompted the release of the beer to the public, as well as the lucky cows.
This coffee flavoured beer works brilliantly well with the chocolate in Hazel’s recipe.
She has experimented with several icings and found a salt caramel goes best with the buttercream. Use ready made dulce de leche in the icing for handiness. You can buy boiled tins of this sweet caramel, better known as banoffee toffee, thereby avoiding the risk of the tin exploding if the pan runs dry. Drizzle some more over the top for an extra caramel hit.
While Hazel’s recipe uses cocoa powder I’ve included one for chocolate cake using dark chocolate. Chocolate, butter and water are melted together and all the other ingredients added. No creaming and you only dirty one saucepan in the cooking process. I top the cake with piped white chocolate cream and homemade chocolate truffles. If you’re going to celebrate this international day properly its worth it to push the boat out.
Whoever decreed that there should be an international chocolate cake day at the end of a very long month deserves a round of applause. So today bake a cake and spread a little of the chocolate happiness.