Damp, dark and dangerous: chocolate espresso cake

January is a dangerous month for me. I’m always on the healthy-eating, budget bandwagon (doing penance for the indulgent fortnight between my birthday and Christmas), but my resolve is tested by my mother and partner’s mid-month birthdays. For a month of belt-tightening (in more ways than one), there has been a lot of chocolate cake.

Well, if you’re going to fall off the wagon, you may as well do it in style. And oh, I did.

For a food fanatic (and owner of so many recipe books that the kitchen shelves have started to list at a worrying deviation from the horizontal) it’s quite rare that I follow a recipe precisely. I flick, I look at pictures, I tweak and am inspired – but choose a recipe and follow it to the letter? Nah.

But when it comes to baking I’m much more fastidious. I didn’t want O to end up with a soggy chocolate lump with a candle stuck in the top. So, I turned to the wonky shelf for instruction and enlightenment.

O loves many things, but primarily chocolate, coffee, ice cream and cricket. Cricket was out (being the mainstay of his present) and there’s plenty of ice cream in the freezer, so it would have to be coffee and chocolate. First stop, only stop: Nigella.

‘Feast’ is a recipe book of beauty. It’s mostly split into ‘life events’, with a host of ideas for menus for Christmas, Easter, funerals, Valentine’s etc. But it also includes the ‘Chocolate Cake Hall of Fame’. Glory be. 30 seconds of flicking, and I alight on the dream recipe: chocolate espresso cake, with café latte cream. Chocolate and coffee, and then more chocolate and coffee. Oh my word.

You can see the recipe here or you can find it in Feast.

It’s pretty self-explanatory, and dead easy to make – the only thing I would say is that the eggs and sugar really did triple in size, but it probably did take 5-7 minutes, so do keep going, even if you think it can’t possibly expand any more; it does.

I also took liberties with the coffee content, and made it 7 teaspoons of coffee powder in the cake, and a full 2 in the cream, as O does love his coffee. I was a bit worried that the cake might be too bitter, but it wasn’t at all, and the coffee wasn’t overpowering. I might even sneak in an extra teaspoon next time.

Oh my, was it worth the diet-guilt to eat a piece of this. The cake manages to be damp, moussey, light and indulgent all at the same time. It has a beautifully grown-up, dark flavour too it, though it’s not too bitter, and the café latte cream is just stunning. Actually, the cream’s probably the most dangerous bit, as though I can just about resist the cake, I can’t stop myself stealing a small dollop of the mocha-y, latte-y goodness every time I go into the fridge.

Scores on the doors? Chocolate cake 1, health kick 0.


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