When I lived in Belgium, we would often have chocolate mousse cake at work for special occasions. Coming from Britain, I always thought of this as French chocolate cake – one of those rich, dark, dense chocolate cakes that was something like eating pure chocolate.
The thing was, for a while I tried to some up with something similar at home, but never managed to find the right recipe. The obvious answer would have been to buy a French cookbook, but I didn’t, and none of the books that I did own had a cake such as this. Then, a couple of years ago, I was asked to bring a dessert to a dinner, and I happened to see a recipe on the inside of a packet of Green & Black’s dark chocolate and I decided to give it a bash. The result was fabulous, and the recipe so easy. The secret is basically that there is no flour and just a couple of spoons of ground almonds in the recipe. Otherwise, it is a combination of chocolate, butter, eggs and sugar. I can assure you that the result is definitely not light, but the cake is also smooth and rich.
When serving, of course you could go with the classic dollop of loosely whipped double cream to lighten the cake (yes – this is so rich that cream can be added to lighten it when you eat it!) but I prefer something sharper – either creme fraiche or a tart fruit sauce. Raspberry sauce is in my view the perfect companion, and an orange coulis also works well. The key point is that whatever you use, it should be light and fresh with a bit of a kick to contrast with the heavy, lazy richness of the chocolate.
There are two other important things about a cake like this to make sure that the taste is as good as can be. Firstly, make sure you are using the best quality chocolate, and the freshest eggs and butter. Something this rich is served in small slices, so there is no excuse for skimping. Second, make it a day ahead of time, allow to cool, then leave overnight in the fridge (which means the cake is rich and dense) but take it out in good time to allow it come up to room temperature (so that the flavour is alive and intense). I am still amazed when a pudding that does not need to be chilled is served fridge-cold, as serving at room temperature makes many dished so, so much better.
When I made this yesterday, I also tried a twist by putting some of the mixture into cupcake cases to make mini-brownies. This worked terrifically – just bake for 10 minutes, and you have richest and most decadent brownies ever.
For the chocolate cake (from Green & Black’s):
• 2 tablespoons of ground almonds
• 300g dark chocolate
• 165g unsalted butter
• 275g caster sugar
• 5 eggs, well beaten
• 1 generous pinch of sea salt, finely ground
Set the oven to 200°C.
Grease a baking pan (20cm diameter) with butter, and add one spoonful of ground almonds. Shake around the pan so that it is coated.
In a bain marie, gently melt the chocolate and butter and stir thoroughly. Add the sugar and salt and mix well, then allow to cool to lukewarm. Combine the eggs with the remaining spoonful of ground almonds, and then add the eggs to the chocolate mixture. Whisk well until evenly mixed.
Pour into the prepared pan, and cook for 40-45 minutes. The cake will puff up in the oven and then collapse when it comes out and cools down – don’t panic, as the resulting craggy appearance is quite normal. Allow to cool (ideally, leave overnight in the fridge so that the cake becomes rich and dense). Serve with a good dredging of icing sugar.
Worth making? Yes! This is foolproof, and everyone that has ever tried this has loved it. It is perfect for dinners as it tastes fabulous and can be made well ahead of time (and indeed actually benefits from being made the day before). If you’re looking for something easy with the “wow” factor, then this is it! This is also a great brownie recipe – the result is extremely rich, but makes for something a little more mature and perfect for adults.