The Devil is in the Chocolate

Ahem.  Let's not remark about how it is nearly Christmas again.  Let's remark about the fact that I actually baked.  And then blogged about it.

The cake that finally made it past the deeply guarded barriers of procrastination was Devil's Food Cake with Midnight Ganache.  And you know what.  After *months* of procrastination about being too tired, too busy, too "overseas", too whatever, this whole baking thing didn't take too long at all.  Good to remember really.  If I had spent more time *doing* rather than making up excuses, I am sure that my cake quota for the past three months would have advanced past the solitary digit.

I baked this whilst the little assistant and his Dad were at swimming lessons (for the little assistant, not for Dad).  I even have Chris fooled as to how *time consuming* and *difficult* this cake baking is.  When they returned from swimming, Chris asked where I had found the time to bake cakes!  They had been gone maybe two hours...  Clearly I am a good excuse maker.

And this cake is pretty easy to make.  The ganache takes longer.  The devils food cake comes together pretty easily and can be prepared in stages.  Ten minutes to prepare the wet ingredients, dry ingredients, dissolve cocoa, chocolate and boiling water and pull the butter out to come to room temperature.  Then in a about an hour or so, just mix it in the right order and divide it equally between two pans and before you know it you have a couple of cakes.  Mine where baked in about 27 minutes, not the 30 -40 minutes that Rose recommends.  I definitely recommend an early check on these cakes.

The hardest thing about making this cake was coaxing the light brown muscovado sugar that it didn't needed to be in thousands of individual bits, rather than in one big solid lump.  Coaxing with the wooden lemon juicer didn't go far enough, so I had to introduce it to the food processor for a good few minutes.  Quite obviously cake baking has been infrequent around here.  Previously, sugar never sat long enough to work out how to move from grains to granite. The actual mix was fluffy and amazing.

The ganache was a bit of faff.  I declined the option to use food processor to grind my chocolate.  Weird, given I had it out to grind the faffing sugar.  I must have been channeling a bit of Raymond defiance!  Knowing how hot caramel gets, I figured out that it would be plenty hot enough to melt the broken bits of chocolate.  Also a bit weird, was that I seem to have maintained the confidence that comes from baking week in week out.  You know, the kind of confidence that results in skim reading the recipe, getting it wrong, then with a shrug of the shoulders, doing a slight adjustment and thinking it will be right!  I used 85% chocolate in the ganache (it was midnight ganache after all!!)  Anway, on my second skim, I realised that Rose had instructed 60% so I switched out some of the 85% for some lower % and called it roughly right.  So what if I was a few hours post midnight in the ganache stakes?

The caramel was a great success.  Whilst I was in Australia recently I had to consult Rose (via You Tube) on correct caramel preparation.   (How great is it to have Rose on call, whenever you need her... kind of like having your Mum at the end of the counter, except that my Mum doesn't know how to make great caramel!).     I gifted our hosts with the two Ottolenghi cookbooks and whipped up the Macadamia and Caramel cheesecake.  Except my Caramel (made on brown sugar!) was a crystallised disaster.  So I learned from Rose that you need plain old white granulated to make proper caramel.  You know what - she is right (like I should be surprised).  So the caramel of the ganache was simple - so long as you know the difference between deep amber and burnt.  Which I do.  Through bitter experience (literally!).  Not that I burned it this time.  But I have.  In the past.

After caramelising the sugar and tipping in the cream and butter, you add it to the chocolate (it doesn't need to be finely processed, chunked into rough squares is good enough if you put some elbow effort in).   I tasted it at this point and was very tempted to stop.  I could easily taste the caramel coming through the chocolate.  Divine.  But this was Midnight Ganache, not Caramel Ganache.  So onwards with adding in a shedload of cocoa mixed with boiling water.  Again, I didn't cool this as instructed because really, what was the point?  Cooled cocoa mixed with hot caramel/chocolate didn’t really make sense to me – just lengthened the process.  So I just mixed and then let it cool for a few hours.  Not the five as instructed.  More like about three.

I didn’t ice it as artfully as Rose.  I just smoothed it on and called it done.  I also didn’t bother with the macerated cherries – they too fell victim to the skim read.

The verdict on this cake?  Hmm.  I can’t say that I am sold.  The cake itself, whilst tender, is quite crumbly.  There is no way you can sneak a piece of this cake.  A friend dropped over to collect Chris for an early morning motorbike ride on Sunday and helped himself to a slice of cake.  I knew this even before I lifted the lid on the cake plate because there were chocolate crumbs all over the floor.  Granted, he is a bachelor and cake plates and forks are not his thing – especially at sparrows on a Sunday morning.  Still, it is worth noting that this is not the moist heavy chocolate cake that makes you regret even a sliver.  It is light.  It is tender.  It is a tad crumbly, or more politely worded – delicate.  That midnight ganache does ratchet down the delicate nature of the cake – I think I would have preferred it less cocoa-ey, more like it was with just the caramel and chocolate.  Chris described it as chocolate cement.  But that hasn’t stopped him having five slices in 48 hours.

I quite like the delicateness of the chocolate cake, but would pair it with a lighter whipped caramel ganache or something.  Assuming my levels of procrastination permitted, of course.

My other baking endeavor is well underway.  I can’t procrastinate my way out of that one.  Fortunately I don’t have to read any recipes or talk myself into the baking, otherwise who knows how long it would actually take me to come up with the goods.  All going to plan, two more little boys will be here by mid June.  I am fervently wishing for a longer torso, but other than that, it is thankfully, boringly normal and uneventful, if a little on the large size.  

In other news, we are moving in the next two weeks from our two bedroom gardenless flat to three bedroom small back yarded house, which, although nice, doesn’t have quite the same high quality German appliances.  Sob.  I will do my best not to add that to my list of baking avoidance excuses.


  1. Hey Nicola, glad to have you back. I miss your funny post! Your cake looks excellent. Sorry to hear that you don't like it's crumbly-ness. Next time you might want to try the alternate mixing method that's on Rose's website. I can assure you the result is quite fudgy (I used this method). You can see the slice picture on my blog.

    Oh and please don't wait 3 months until coming back! We'll miss you!

  2. Oh, my gosh, boys! How utterly delightful! So glad all is going well. Your little guy gets cuter and cuter. I have to say I preferred the cake batter before the chocolate and the ganache before the chocolate puddle. Now if Rose would just adjust the recipe I'd be most happy!

  3. Nicola, we're so glad to have you back, but I'm guessing there won't be a lot of baking going on 3 months from now. Congrats on your twins! I know what you mean about a long torso, our twins are 27 now. Your cake looks wonderful, but I think the cherries were the best part of this recipe.

  4. Look who is back in the fold! And moving again! As always love your post... and you are growing things inside of you, a bit of laziness is totally ok in my book.

  5. i want that cake .. the kid looks enjoying the cake .. thanks for sharing ..


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