I was looking for a simple yet festive cake to bake for my mom’s 70th birthday. I stumbled upon this recipe from Nigel Slater’s cookbook, Appetite, and I knew this was what I wanted to make. The author adapted this recipe from Tamasin Day-Lewis’s wholewheat chocolate cake, which apparently she adopted from her cousin. This cake gets around. Her recipe called for muscovado sugar, which Nigel didn’t have on hand so he used Demerara. I was headed to Minnesota from San Francisco to celebrate my mom’s birthday, so I figured I’d better bring my fancy sugar with me. I could’ve bought either type sugar at Canyon Market, my local Glen Park neighborhood store- they had quite an amazing array of sugars given the small size of their “corner market”- but I went with demerara out of an allegiance to Nigel. I thought I was going to be arrested going through airport security with this sugar. They were very, very suspicious of this sugar. Why was I traveling with sugar for chrissakes! the security’s face read. I was equally upset. Why wouldn’t I be traveling with ingredients for my mother’s cake. Please. Luckily I made it through security (they allowed my wrapped present to pass through too- whew!!), and it was all worth it because the cake was delicious. So good that I’m looking forward to making it for Christmas day. I think it’d be best if served warm with a little homemade whipped cream or ice cream.
PS. I’ve really bonded with the digital scale my boyfriend bought for ~$25. Baking via weight is highly satisfying and- as far as I know in my limited baking experience- it is recommended by the experts out there as more accurate (aka. will give you superior results). Given my penchant for eyeballing ingredients in savory dishes (aka. I’m not a known baker despite my surname), I may not be the best one to advise on this front. Still- I’m just saying- you might want to investigate… I didn’t have a scale at my mom’s place, so I had to convert Nigel’s measurements. My conversions are included below. Happy Baking!
Serves 12 or a generous 8.
butter – 250g (a generous cup // ~ 17.6 Tablespoons // ~ 2 1/4 sticks)
demerara sugar – 250g (~one heaping cup)
eggs – 4 large free range
espresso coffee a small one, or about 3 tablespoons
unbleached flour – 250g (~one heaping cup)
baking powder – 2 gently heaping teaspoons
skinned hazelnuts (filberts)- 200g, coarsely ground (~ generous 3/4 cup) ***
fine, dark chocolate (I used Ghirardelli ~65%+) = 250g, coarsely chopped (like gravel)
1) Line a 23 cm (9-10 inch spring form pan) with greaseproof paper or parchment paper regardless if you have a nonstick pan.
2) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius (~355 degrees). Beat the butter and sugar until they are fluffy and pale. (Electric beater is best if you have one.) Add the eggs one at a time, beating lightly between each addition. You may find the mixture curdles a little but don’t worry, it will come good in the end. Stir in the coffee.
3) Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold them in, then fold in most of the hazelnuts and the chopped chocolate, keeping a little back for the top of the cake. The mixture should be quite firm; you may have to slide it off the spoon with your finger. Put it into the lined cake tin and gently smooth the top, scattering over the last of the chocolate and nuts.
4) Bake for an hour and twenty minutes or until the cake is springy (I think I only cooked an hour or so), testing for doneness by spearing the center with a toothpick. It should come out clean without any raw cake mixture on it. Leave the cake for half an hour or so before cutting.
***The most time-consuming part of this recipe is de-skinning the hazelnuts. Hazelnuts are a pain to skin. Don’t get caught up in perfection. I recommend toasting the nuts for 10-15 minutes in a toaster oven and then wrapping in a kitchen towel to let steam for ~1 minute. Rub nuts in the towel to remove loose skins and cool completely. Another site recommended shaking the nuts in a sieve after toasting at 350 degrees for the same effect. [Or substitute for almonds of walnuts (lightly toasted).]