Most of my friends know that I reallllly like to bake. And cook. But baking is something particularly satisfying: you follow some instructions, maybe it’s scary and complicated, but in the end, if you do everything you’re told, you come out with the end product you were supposed to get. It’s so great! That never happens in life. Over Christmas break I had my baking fix when Min Ya, Kristel, and I made an extremely complicated bûche de noël. I think they were a little incredulous as we were making the four different parts, and it didn’t turn out quite like the picture but it was still beautiful and very tasty. Maybe then they started realizing why I’m hooked on baking ridiculous, over-the-top complicated desserts.
I’m now living in Uppsala in a real apartment, with a real kitchen and all the kitchen-y things inside. So I finally, for one of the first times since beginning my masters program, can do some serious baking. Last week my roommate Marta’s boyfriend Gonçalo arrived from Portugal to work at the department here for a month, so it seemed like the perfect occasion for a cake. Marta and Gonçalo and I all lived on the same corridor in Flogsta during my very first semester in Sweden. So I was pretty excited to see Gonçalo again coming back to visit!
This is a heavy, dense chocolate cake. It’s tangy with buttermilk (or filmjölk, an even thicker version they have here in Sweden) and tastes slightly of coffee, with some seedy sweetness of raspberry jam and a thick coating of ganache. Mmmmm.
(A note about the ganache: it’s a great trick, covering a cake with ganache. The cake can be, like really ugly, but then you dump this chocolate mixture on top, swirl it artistically, and let it harden. Nobody knows how ugly the actual cake part used to be. In my case this was good, because while the house has many things, it only had one actual cake pan. The second pan that I used didn’t have the same finish in it and when I tried to remove the cake from the pan…. disaster. It was in a lot of pieces. I cobbled it back together, and then the ganache hid the whole thing. And! Ganache is super easy to make. I think I may use it to cover everything now.)
Welcome Chocolate Cake
Preheat oven to 325, and grease two round cake pans. Do whatever your chosen magic is to ensure that the cake won’t stick to the pan – flour it, dust it with cocoa, just grease it, you do you.
In a bowl, mix:
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder (natural, not dutch process)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups dark brown sugar, lightly packed
Into the middle of this dry-ingredient mixture, add:
1 cup filmjölk + 1/4 cup water, or, just 1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
two tablespoons instant coffee granules dissolved in 3/4 cup hot water
Mix everything together until the mixture is smooth and uniform. Divide between the two cake pans and bake for about 40 minutes (check after 30 minutes). Let them cool ten minutes in their pans, then try to turn them out onto a cooling rack.
Once the cakes are cool, place one on a platter. Spread the top with a thin, but not too thin, layer of raspberry jam (not jelly). Place the second cake on top of the first one.
Make a ganache: this means equal parts cream and chocolate. I did 250 grams of dark chocolate and 250 mL heavy whipping cream, and it was a little too much, but who doesn’t want to have some leftover chocolate? Anyway, cut up the chocolate into very small pieces and put it in a bowl. In the meantime, heat the cream in the microwave or on the stove until it is almost boiling. Then pour it over the chocolate and stir, stir, stir. Eventually the chocolate will melt and the mixture will become thick and uniform. Let it cool for a bit until it begins to thicken up, then use a spatula to spread it all over the cake, like a chocolate casing.
As the cake cools, the ganache will harden into something almost like a shell.