This is undoubtedly one of those cakes that you make just for the love of someone. Yes S, this one is for you.
I got the idea of making a Valentine’s cake for S last week when I was in Barcelona. My friends and I were in a traditional patisserie in the oldest neighbourhood of central Barcelona. The kind of place that bewitches you as soon as you walk in, and makes you long for all the desserts and chocolates displayed so prettily in the window. I ordered a slice of chocolate cake... it blew my mind after just one bite. I ate it as slowly as I could, breaking it up with my fork into thin layers and savouring every single little piece, letting it melt in my mouth. Oh my! This is heaven, I thought.
On the plane home, my mind was in overdrive, imagining what my future cake creation would taste like. Coffee. It would definitely have to have coffee in it. Andchocolate, of course. Then, I knew it would be a moist, decadent and rich chocolate and coffee cake.
Next, the ingredients took a back-seat while I focussed on the shape of the cake. Bit by bit, it started to take shape in my imagination. A majestic cake, beautiful to behold, covered with an indulgent layer of decadent ganache and topped with plump, juicy strawberries. Then I remembered I had bought a mould in Barcelona, to make little heart-shapes, with nothing more in mind than making ice cubes one day. But somehow I found myself surrounded by strawberries and chocolate hearts fluttering around.
Hang on a minute though! I know what you're thinking. I’m not that kind of person who goes all sickly sweet and sentimental over Valentine’s Day! In fact, I almost bought a similar mould to make penis shapes, but... aren't the little hearts adorable?
I had everything planned out in my mind - the only drawback was that I had to make the cake two weeks before Valentine’s Day. Never mind, I had heard that early birthday celebrations may bring bad luck, but this couldn't happen with Valentine's Day, right?
The kitchen was giving off a sweet chocolately aroma when S appeared half asleep. Then I looked at him and saw the peculiar expression on his face. Yeah, I know that face. S gets it when he's basically freaking out because of the mess I've made. Well, what he calls mess...
Let's say we have slightly different ideas of tidiness. I'm sure you'll agree with me that when you're baking, it's normal to get flour all over the worktop and part of the floor ... or to get dollops of chocolate on the ceiling, or even on your cat. It's understandable, isn't it? But S doesn't agree with me on that front. Can you believe it?!
Luckily for me, S decided to go out - half asleep and half annoyed - to do our Saturday shopping. He's such an angel.
By that time, the cake was already in the oven, rising slowly. I had got the chocolate to a very creamy, soft consistency, flavoured with strong coffee and a large splash of rum. I also used muscovado sugar, which would give the dough even more moistness.
While the chocolate for the ganache melted slowly in a saucepan, I washed the fresh strawberries carefully, cutting a few of them in half and letting them dry. The most entertaining part of making this cake was about to start: decorating the cake.
Once the cake was covered with the ganache, I took the little heart-shaped bonbons from the fridge, which I had made the night before. My original idea was to arrange them all around the cake, but I decided that may be too much love in one cake! Just one would be better. Next, I topped the smooth surface of the cake with strawberries. A few rose petals in the centre were the finishing-touch to the cake I had been dreaming of since that afternoon in the patisserie in Barcelona.
A few hours later, S came back home and by then I had made sure to tidy everything up. The cat had licked himself clean of chocolate and the flat was so tidy you wouldn't have been able to tell I had been baking. Deep-down, I am an angel too.
I cut two generous slices of cake and offered the one with the heart-shaped bonbon on top to S. Your early Valentine's treat - I told him.
-Lau, two weeks left till Valentine’s Day...
-Well, it’s not going to bring us bad luck, is it? - I replied him.
The texture was as moist as I'd hoped and our minds were blown by the first bite. We ate as slowly as we could, breaking it up with our forks into thin layers and savouring every single little piece until it melted in our mouths.
Oh my! This is heaven - S said. - All your mess was worth it.
RICH CHOCOLATE AND COFFE CAKE
Rich, moist and decadent chocolate and coffee cake, topped with strawberries and little hearts-shaped bonbons. Pure love.
200 grams unsalted butter
200grams dark chocolate (min. 70%), roughly chopped
1/2cup strong brewed coffee
150 grams ground almonds
6free-range eggs, separated
180grams muscovado sugar
1tablespoon rum extract
For the ganache and decoration
200grams dark chocolate (min. 70%), roughly chopped
100grams mascarpone, at room temperature
2cups chopped nuts (I used hazelnuts and almonds)
Rose petals (optional)
- FOR THE BONBONS:
- Make the chocolate bonbons, ideally the night before.
- Over a slow heat, put the chopped chocolate into a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water and melt gently. Then, spoon carefully the chocolate mixture into the hearts shaped silicon mould and let it cool overnight in the fridge.
- FOR THE CAKE:
- Grease and line the base of a 18 cm / 7 in springform cake with baking paper.
- Heat the oven to 180 C. In a large saucepan over a low heat, met the butter, chocolate and coffee. Stir in the ground almonds, then cook for 5 minutes.
- Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg yolks and muscovado sugar for 5 minutes or until mixture is creamy. Then, pour in the chocolate mixture and rum and combine well.
- In a very clean bowl and using an electric mixer with clean beaters (this is very important), whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
- Pour in the batter into the cake tin and bake on the middle shelf for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer pushed into the centre comes out clean. The cake will rise almost two times its height.
- Leave the cake to cook in the tin for 15 minutes, then carefully take out of the baking tin to cool completely.
- FOR THE GANACHE:
- Over a low heat, put the chopped chocolate into a bowl set over a pan of simmering water (just half cup of water is enough) and melt gently.
- Once chocolate is melted, removed from the heat, let it cool for 5 minutes, then stir in the mascarpone and mix slowly until it form a thick texture. Cover with cling film touching the surface and set aside to cool for about 5 minutes. Don’t allow the ganache to cool completely so that you can spread it and stick the nuts to the cake.
- While, wash and cut in half the strawberries. Let them dry. Take the bonbons out from the fridge.
- Using an offset spatula, spread the ganache all over the cake.
- Then, press carefully handfuls of chopped nuts onto the sides (just half height). Use a piece of wax paper to press the nuts into the ganache.
- Top with the strawberries and arrange the bonbons (and rose petals) as you desire.
By Laura | Lau Sunday cooks