Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Not quite a high 'C'

There's nothing bad you can say about chocolate cake. After all it's chocolate and it's cake, two of the best things in the world. And this week's Alpha Baker's baking test is no exception. In fact the Chocolate Pavarotti with Wicked Good Ganache is a superior version of the genre. It's a rich chocolate cake covered with a rich dark chocolate ganache with a surprise kick.

There's nothing difficult about the cake. Unless of course you mistake the self raising flour for the plain flour.  Again! I swear I don't make a habit of it. I only realised once I had added the baking powder and since I was taking this to work for a morning tea I couldn't just plough on and pretend it would be fine (my first instinct). I discarded the flour and, with it, the last caster sugar I had in the house. 'That golden caster sugar left over from another Alpha Baker project will be fine to substitute', I think to myself, 'after all it's the same texture'. (No, you're right Rose, I haven't learnt much over the last eight weeks.)

This cake has cake flour, butter, oil, sugar, eggs and cocoa and a surprise ingredient of white chocolate. I don't generally use cake flour for reasons discussed in an earlier post but I did decide to be a good sport and substitute some of the plain flour with cornflour to lower the gluten levels. In fact I forgot to do this the first time I measured out the (self-raising) flour so I remedied this the second time around.

First you melt the white chocolate. 

I find myself a bit disconcerted by deviation from the familiar movements and syncopation of the traditional methods of putting together a cake - cream the butter and sugar...add the eggs...etc I don't have any objection, it just takes more time to put everything together because it's in a different order and the resulting textures are different. I guess it makes you wonder more about the science behind the results, particularly because I know that Rose has designed the methods for particular results.

Then you mix the cocoa powder with hot water and combine it when cool, with the flour, sugar, butter and oil.

Then add the eggs and then the white chocolate.

And bake!

It should only take about 30 minutes but (I presume) due to the raw caster sugar mine took about an hour and even then I was worried that it wasn't cooked in the middle.  If I had realised earlier, I could have used a cake nail in the middle but hindsight is, well, pretty annoying really.

The cake felt pretty dry and crusty on the outside and was obviously pretty wet in the middle but I wasn't that worried since I knew it was going to be covered with melted cream and chocolate. I didn't mind if my colleagues just licked it off the cake. Actually a lot of people at work don't bake and are impressed by the most minimal display of kitchen prowess so the threat of humiliation was small.

The ganache for this cake includes a small amount of 99% chocolate and a larger amount of 62% chocolate. I couldn't find the exact percentage called for so I combined 90%, 70% and 59% to get the result,  performing complicated mathematical acrobatics like my fellow Alpha Bakers in the attempt (channelling ButterYum). Actually I abandoned the attempt after one headsplitting second and just fudged it to get the mix I imagined met the ratio (ignorance is bliss).

Being pretty slapdash, as I think we've established, I didn't follow Rose's more complicated method for the ganache although I am curious as to whether it gets a superior result. Not curious enough however, so I heated the cream on the stove and, off the heat, added the roughly chopped chocolate and stirred it until it was melted and combined.

I then added a small amount of golden syrup (in place of corn syrup which I didn't have and couldn't find in the two shops I looked in. In fact golden syrup is ubiquitous here and corn syrup not very common at all). I was worried it would make the ganache too sweet but it was delicious. I discovered I didn't have any cayenne (which is meant to be the kick in this ganache) and given I was taking this to work for a specific purpose I didn't rush out to get some.

I was still a bit doubtful about the cooked-ness of the cake but decided to plunge on anyway and slathered it with the ganache.

It was quite plain with just the ganache but it was nice and shiny so I didn't adorn it.

I cut it before the morning tea to see if I needed to convert it to a ring cake. It was definitely on the mud cake side of cooked but perfectly edible. The crusty outside had moistened with the ganache and was fine. I was telling a colleague about the missing cayenne and she said she was going to suggest a touch of chilli would be nice!  So overall it was a cake that didn't sing as designed but was still delicious.

Next week is Lemon Posset Shortcakes.


  1. Your pics are great! Your ganache is so shiny! I enjoyed reading your post. You're a brave soul to change around ingredients like you do, and you pull it of every time. I admire that.

  2. I've never seen that Lindt white chocolate before! Love LIndt, it's my favorite. Using golden syrup was your secret ingredient! I thought of using it myself but didn't know if the corn syrup was a chemistry thing. Glad to know it works; much prefer golden syrup. I imagine these would be great rolled into truffles.

    1. I've never seen that white chocolate before either, it was just in the supermarket. It was very nice.

  3. Golden Syrup, damn, I should have used that. The cayenne really made the ganache good though. Great pictures and post.

  4. Your cake looks like a high C to me :). I admire your perseverance and "ignorance is bliss" - funny! I bought corn syrup for this. Glad to hear it works with golden syrup.

  5. Catherine: It looks great! I'm jealous that Golden Syrup is so easy to find. Your attempt at chocolate math made me laugh--mine would have been much worse! I am hopeless!! Anyway, your cake looks delicious. It's not my favorite, but I do love the ganache with cayenne pepper. So glad to be baking along with you, and looking forward to our adventures in bread as well!

  6. I love golden syrup - don't know if I would have been brave enough to use it as a substitute, but it worked for you! We didn't like the cayenne in the ganache at all, and we love spicy things. Oh well. Looking forward to the lemon posset shortcakes.

    Patricia @ ButterYum

  7. Thanks everyone. I was just lucky the golden syrup worked out. I was quite surprised myself.

  8. ב''ה

    I love how your baked cake looks. I would have enjoyed seeing a picture of the crumb.

    Still trying to figure out what a "ring cake" is though...

    1. Thanks Mendy. I didn't quite get to a crumb photo. I felt a bit self conscious about photographing the cake at work :)

      A ring cake is a cake with no centre. What do you call them? Occasionally I've converted a cake to a ring cake (ie cut out the middle) when the middle wasn't quite cooked enough.

  9. Gorgeous cake - so strange that the middle didn't set up. I love your ganache - it looks so thick and creamy :)