The Nigella Diaries – Birthday Cake

I have to admit to not being a lover of either chocolate cakes or birthday cakes. I know, shock horror, who is this woman? But I have been known to make both because apparently, and more believably, other people are lovers of both birthday cakes and chocolate cakes.

The last birthday cake I made was for my daughter’s 18th birthday party. It was a cake that I’d made a few times before and one that if asked, I would have said was the failsafe chocolate cake in my repertoire. That cake was an Annabel Langbein recipe and had, surprisingly, a cup of boiling hot black coffee in it.

And the best part about that cake is that it takes literally 5 minutes to make. I’ve timed it. The longest part of the preparation was boiling the water for the coffee – which, incidentally, you don’t really taste…a good thing in my opinion – and cutting out the little paper circle for the bottom of the baking tin.

The recipe is here. You’re welcome.

I topped it with the best chocolate ganache slash sauce you’ll ever make too. This one takes some trust. You use equal quantities of double cream and chopped chocolate, bring the cream to a near boil, drop the chocolate in, let it stand for a few minutes and then whisk the living daylights out of it. Although you might doubt, persist…whisk through it…the result is a glossy creamy chocolate sauce that you’ll want to eat by the spoonful.

Don’t worry, the recipe for that is here too.

This cake, Nigella’s birthday cake, is also good. It also contains an unexpected ingredient – condensed milk. Yes, you read that correctly. Nigella calls this one her birthday cake because that’s what it’s usually made for. Indeed, it’s what I made it for – to celebrate Sarah’s 21st birthday – albeit a week after the event given that she didn’t want the fuss of a cake and candles on the day. She had some friends up from Sydney and it was raining so they were sitting around the kitchen table playing Monopoly. As everyone with even a tiny bit of life experience knows: Monopoly rarely ends well. Chocolate cake, however, does.

This cake takes a little longer than 5 minutes to put together, but it was still iced and ready for that part of the game when people are landing on Regent Street with a hotel and going straight on to land on Mayfair with a hotel – if you’ve ever played Monopoly you’d know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s usually at that point in the game when tempers fray and boards begin to fly.

Anyways, the cake. It’s rich – that goes without saying – so you only need a small slice. Also, this is a cakey-cake, not a moussey or puddingy cake – which I happen to think is a good thing.

I used 2 lined and greased sandwich tins for this so I could pop ganache in between and over the top. As for the ganache, I used 250g each of cream and chopped chocolate. The chocolate needs to be chopped quite fine so either smash it with a rolling pin or toss it in a food processor – although the latter option does create washing up. I like dark chocolate for this but also had some light chocolate too because there was some left in the fridge that needed to be used. The method is the same as above – heat the cream, drop in the chocolate, leave it, trust, and whisk like the blazes.

Okay, to the cake…

  • Sift 225g self-raising flour, 30g good cocoa and a pinch of salt into a large bowl and set aside.
  • Into a saucepan place 200g caster sugar, 100g unsalted butter, 200g condensed milk, 100 g good dark chocolate that has been broken into little pieces. Heat until melted and smooth. You might need to stir it about from time to time to make sure that the condensed milk doesn’t catch and burn.
  • Stir this melted chocolatey mix into the flour-cocoa and then when it’s all nicely amalgamated, beat in 2 eggs.
  • Pop the tins into the oven that you’ve remembered to preheat to 180C and cook for about 25-30 minutes – checking after about 25. When cooked the top should feel firm. If it’s cracked on top, cover with ganache.
  • Leave to cool in the time for 10 minutes before cooling completely on the rack.
  • When it’s cooled and you’ve made the ganache – and let that cool a bit as well – use some to stick the 2 cakes together and pour the rest over the top. While you might think that it’s way too soft, it will firm up.
  • Present to Monopoly players and watch as peace descends once more.

I’ve taken on the challenge to cook my way through Nigella Lawson’s How To Eat. You can find other episodes here.

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

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