I should know by now that experimenting with recipes before a dinner party is not a good idea. But who else can I experiment on but my hapless dinner guests?
My goal was a dense, gooey, flourless chocolate cake, maybe with a glossy dark chocolate ganache poured over top. I thought I had found the ideal recipe here. It had four simple ingredients and no-nonsense instructions. It even gave me the opportunity to use my kitchen scale, which had long sat unused. Working in metric is such fun.
I’ll give you the recipe here, and then you can see for yourself how things went horribly wrong.
Preheat your oven to 180°C (that’s about 350°F for those of you who don’t have both measures on your ovens). Grease (with lots and lots of butter) a 22cm/9″ cake pan and set that aside.
Measure yourself out 250g dark chocolate and chop that sucker into pieces.
Melt that in a double boiler with 100g butter until smooth. Remove from the heat.
Separate 4 large eggs. Sift 175g icing sugar into a bowl, add the 4 yolks, and whisk until pale and creamy.
Fold the melted chocolate into the egg mixture.
In yet another bowl, whisk the 4 egg whites until soft peaks form.
Using a metal spoon, gradually fold the whites into the chocolate mixture.
Pour the mixture into the greased pan. Mine nearly filled it, so I put a pizza pan underneath to catch any spills. I needn’t have worried, it turns out.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until the surface begins to crack but the centre is still gooey.
Alas, though the cake baked up perfectly and smelled divine, it wouldn’t come out of the pan, no sir. Not at all. I don’t even think lining the pan with parchment paper would have helped.
This is it after it cooled.
I ended up with warm, gooey, dense chocolate cake bits in a pile on a plate.
With three hours until the dinner guests arrived, the Pie said, “Well, you have time to make another cake.”
I gave him a dark look.
“Or,” he says, backtracking, “you could make a trifle?”
Huzzah! Dessert is saved! Another floor pizza crisis averted.
Of course, having never made trifle in my life (I save that duty for my mother-in-law, because Mrs. Nice does it so well), I do not own a trifle bowl. Not to worry, I will improvise. Though I wouldn’t mind getting a trifle bowl someday, hint, hint …
Trifle is all about the layers. The traditional version is a sponge cake, usually soaked with some form of alcohol, like brandy or sherry, topped with fruit, custard, and whipping cream in alternating layers. In a straight-sided container like a trifle bowl you can see all the layers and the effect is quite pretty.
This being a chocolate cake, I thought the custard would be inappropriate. If I had more time, I would have made chocolate pudding as a substitute for the custard, but I didn’t have the time needed for the pudding to set. Instead, I opted for a strawberry fruit sauce with drizzled melted chocolate between the layers of whipped cream, and topped with fresh raspberries. I drizzled a wee bit of Grand Marnier over the cake and let that sink in.
When I made the fruit sauce I added a little bit of corn starch just so it would thicken, and then I made sure to let it cool.
I added butter to the melted chocolate so that when it cooled it wouldn’t be as hard as it was originally.
I also added a wee bit of cream of tartar to my whipped cream so that it would hold its shape better while chilling in the refrigerator.
Then I did my layering …
Gooey cake. Drizzled chocolate. Strawberry goodness. Whipped cream. Repeat.
Drop a handful or two of fresh raspberries on top and drizzle the remaining chocolate all over and we’re set.
The layering doesn’t look as pretty from the side but we have to sacrifice aesthetics sometimes. Chill that sucker for a couple hours then feed it to your unsuspecting dinner guests with a sob story about your failed dessert.