I was a bit occupied on the weekend when the Monarch butterflies started to hatch out of their chrysalis and kids have cried out to remind me to take pictures for them while I was wanting to try out Denise's Coconut and Lime Cupcakes which couldn't happen. We'd chosen to spend more time in the garden, watching 7 black pupa out of 92 caterpillars 'registered' (today, it is 5 more fresh-wings-butterflies!) transforming into beautiful butterflies. How could you not, while this moment is only to be happening once a year, a rare occasion indeed, if you're lucky to have them in your garden. Fortunately, it is our second year to have them in our garden, but the first year for the children to be aware of their presence with their observant minds. They're very excited to wait the black pupa to hatch. I am sure they won't forget this precious moment.
After all those pretty moments, I decided to come down to the creek down the valley. It is just beautiful as I can imagine. It's like an oasis in a dry-dry-land. So dry as far as you can see everything is brown. And this little creek gives the freshness, the green lane in the middle of wilted grounds. So lovely. Reminds me of the forest I used to play in when I was a kid, searching for twigs or watching monkeys swinging from one tree to the others, fishing in a small river sheltered by huge trees. So lovely.
However, I meant to bake something I love today, precisely on the list from weeks and weeks ago, and I want something gooey, something chocolatey, something pleasant. The thing that I've missed and craved for. Nigel Slater has the answer for me. Frankly saying, this is my second try-out of this gooey almond cake. Last week, I failed it. I think I made a mistake on the whisking the egg whites with my own balloon whisk, giving me cramps on my shoulders and I had to stop a few minutes at a time, just to rest my shoulders. One of these days, you see, you just want to go back to the old days when there were no sophisticated mixers with multi-task attachments, just to feel the feeling how hard it must be. But, I admit, I must have been spoilt by the modernity, the easy-to-get-and-operate tools and didn't give too much credit to myself doing the most labour work those ancient days that I could have done. Anyway, I suppose that I should just leave it well enough alone.
Now, about the cake, I think I also over-baked it which then gave a dry result, I confess I really hated it. I don't like the taste of dry cake, it is just like eating a sandpaper. I'd rather to have them soaked in orange juice and hide them in the bottom of a trifle, or else, give them to the birds. So, I am very happy with the latest result which appeared as gooey as I expected and superb taste as I loved. My mood is back! YAY!!
My suggestion: make it when you crave for it rather than make it when you have to do it for other reasons (well, except you're making money out of it).
Chocolate Almond Cake
Source: Nigel Slater. The Kitchen Diaries. p. 99-100.
Enough for 10.
200g fine dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids—I use my favorite Whittaker's Dark Ghana 72%, a local production and it is pleasantly dark),
a small, hot espresso,
80g plain flour,
1 tsp baking powder,
2 level Tbs very good quality cocoa powder,
200g golden unrefined caster sugar
Prepare 23-24cm cake tin, 5cm deep, buttered and lined. Preheat the oven, 180C. Break the chocolate and put them in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water (on a low heat, of course). When the chocolate starts to melt, pour in the hot espresso (I used about 70ml), then add in the butter. Don't stir. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder together. Set aside. Process the almonds (not blanched) in the food processor until resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Separate the eggs. Put the white eggs in a mixer bowl (and put the yolks in another bowl), whisk until stiff and thick, fold in the sugar gently (this is the tricky part; watch out not to mix brutally, you will kill the air bubbles). Nigel suggests to use a large metal spoon and you know, that splendidly works! Now, remove the chocolate from the heat and stir the last butter which hasn't melted yet. Add in the mixed egg yolks and stir into the chocolate mixture until just combined and this will make the mixture thickened. Nigel asks us to fold in the egg whites and sugar, followed by mixed flour and then almond powder, but I did it on the other around as I do believe it's much safer to retain the bubbles in the egg whites to their best after flour and almond powder are mixed and combined. However, you do your technique that works best for you.
Bake for 25 minutes which only was done for 19 minutes in my oven. Just test with the skewer, it must be no batter should be clinging to it. Leave to cool. I just love to eat it warm.