A Decadent Chocolate Pudding Cake
March 31, 2012 § 4 Comments
It’s hard to focus on this post. 8 feet ahead of me are floor to ceiling windows revealing a classic winter wonderland: gusting snow settling in large clumps on the edges of tall pine trees clustered around wooden cabins, identical to the 60s-throwback one in which I sit and write. I’ve always found snow mesmerising. Growing up it mostly meant a day off school, and almost always a snowman with a carrot for a nose, pebbles for eyes and mouth, and an old scarf foraged from a parent’s drawer to keep him warm. The closest we got to skiing was hurtling down a hill on a tea-tray – not really that dissimilar in skill or grace from my snowboarding attempts these past years in California. Anyway, as I am with child I am not currently advised to continue my wobbly progress on the slopes for a little while at least. So I find myself with a blissfully quiet cabin by a roaring log fire, with two snoaring dogs for company. There’s a loaf rising for tomorrow morning’s bacon sandwiches, no-knead pizza dough finishing its slow, bubbly ferment. In the oven tomatoes slow-roast along with beets for a salad, and earlier I caramelized leeks with butter, onions with balsamic, and fried off some spicy Italian sausage. For now at least, I’m quite happy to potter at leisure, and get ready to feed the hungry masses when they return damp and flushed from the slopes.
If your normal routine is cooking for two, cooking for 6 or 8 or 10 for a weekend is actually a treat. You can make things that you just wouldn’t consider within your normal couple’s routine, either because of effort or through fear of eating leftovers of the same dish for a whole week. This is true on a whole other level when it comes to cake. Knowing well our lack of self-restraint, I rarely dare knock out, say, a cheesecake or chocolate roulade just for fun unless we are guaranteed to have company. We will eat the whole thing and then never want to eat it ever again, and that’s just too tragic an ending to any story involving cake.
So when a friend recently asked me to bring a dessert to a dinner party, I wanted to make something truly decadent, worthy of a spring gathering on a Saturday night. I did think about cheesecake, since it comes with the added benefit of requiring an overnight rest, reducing chances of total ruin or last minute panic. But, as it so often does, chocolate called to me. And when I came upon this recipe, serving 10-12, that basically combined a cheesecake base with a sinfully rich chocolate mousse style topping, and that came with a note suggesting it was better made the day before, I was sold.
You begin this cake as many good things in life should begin: the melting together of butter and chocolate. While they meld into dark glossy ribbons, you blitz or bash biscuits (of the English rather than American breakfast variety) into fine crumbs. The original recipe specifies digestive biscuits, a British ingredient if ever there was one, and I had intended to switch out graham crackers instead. But when I saw the bag of gingernuts on the shelf I was sold. I love ginger in all forms, not least combined with chocolate. The slight spice in the base gave the cake a subtle warmth as well as the characteristic gingernut chew. And then, as the base readies itself for the glorious next steps with a short rest in the fridge, you melt more butter and chocolate together, whip eggs, muscovado sugar and cream into a frothy delight, and then combine the two gently into an airy mousse-like batter which tops the base. With the coaxing of gentle heat from the oven, the batter rises proudly into a soft souffle, then cracks and sinks in perfect encouragement of a topping of mixed berries and cream. Call up your 8 best friends and get baking, stat.
Chocolate Pudding Pie
Adapted from The Green & Black’s Organic Ultimate Chocolate Recipes: The New Collection
Serves 10-12, with berries and cream
for the base:
80g/3oz/6 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
60g/2oz dark chocolate (70-80% cocoa solids)
225g/8oz gingernut biscuits
for the filling:
180g/6oz chocolate (Green and Black’s recommend 70%; I used mostly 63% as that was what I had in the house)
180g/6oz unsalted butter
4 large eggs
180g/6oz muscovado sugar (you can use soft dark brown sugar if you can’t get hold of muscovado – or don’t want the added expense)
180ml double cream
Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Butter and line the base of a 9 inch round springform tin.
Begin by preparing the base. Set a small bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, being sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water (or use a double boiler if you have one). Place the chocolate and butter in the bowl and stir occasionally until just melted. While the chocolate is melting, blitz the gingernut biscuits in a food processor or with a blender. Alternatively you can put them in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin, which can be satisfying on a bad day. Tip the crushed biscuits into the melted chocolate/butter and mix to combine well. Pour into the prepared tin, press down gently and evenly, and then place in the fridge to rest while you make the topping.
Melt the butter and chocolate for the topping in the same way as for the base, in a bowl over a simmering pan. Set to one side to cool. Combine the eggs, cream and sugar in a food processor or blender and mix together (or use a whisk). The next step is to combine the chocolate with the egg mix but you have to be very careful as the warm chocolate can curdle the eggs and cream. You can either wait until the chocolate is at room temperature or you can carefully temper the two together by mixing a spoonful of the egg mix into the chocolate and combining, then another spoonful and so on, until both mixes are roughly the same temperature. When the two are mixed together, return to the processor/blender/whisk and blend well.
Remove the base from the fridge and pour the chocolate batter over. Place in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes, until firm. My cake took a lot longer – maybe 15 minutes longer – for the centre to bake through. It might be worth considering using a water bath to keep the cooking gentle and even – I will try that myself next time.
Remove the cake from the oven and cool for about 15-20 minutes in the tin. Remove to a wire rack for the cake to cool completely. At this point you can wrap it well in plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight, bringing it back to room temperature for eating. Top with mixed berries and serve with cream or creme fraiche.