chocolate ginger sparkle cake

chocolate ginger sparkle cake

i really do have a thing for cake. i should probably start posting some different desserts. more pies and tarts, or maybe a torte or crumble or a custard or even a fool. i’ll put that on my to-do list. today though, it’s all about this rich and decadent chocolate ginger sparkle cake.

i don’t remember where this recipe came from, but i have it written in a recipe notebook i started in 1991, when i really started getting into food. it’s written in point form, which leads me to think i was watching a cooking show and frantically wrote it down. i’ve made this so many times since, for special occasions and catering jobs, and it’s always a hit. the ginger was an addition i made later, because i think ginger and chocolate get along famously and that it makes this cake even more special.

pay attention to the times for beating the eggs, and don’t skimp. this cake contains no chemical leaveners, so it relies on incorporating air into the eggs for volume. fold very carefully too, so you don’t deflate your egg whites. is a dense cake, but it shouldn’t be stodgy. the plus side is that it’s easy to handle the layers, and it comes out very straight.

chocolate ginger sparkle cake

chocolate ginger sparkle cake

12 ounces grated semi-sweet chocolate (the best you can wangle)
1 1/2 cups cake flour
pinch salt
8 eggs, separated
3/4 cup + 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 lb + 2 tbsp. very soft butter
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger

for the icing:

1/2 lb softened butter
3/4 cup good cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup half and half cream or milk
4 cups sifted icing sugar

butter 2 8-inch cake pans and line with parchment paper, then butter the parchment, and set aside. preheat oven to 350F. place the egg whites and the 1/2 cup of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. using the wire whip attachment, whip on high speed until stiff, but not dry, peaks form. scrape into a bowl and set aside. switch to the paddle attachment. place the yolks in the mixer bowl with the remaining 3/4 cup sugar. beat at medium-high speed until very light, about 4 minutes. add the butter to the egg yolks, a little at a time, until incorporated. reduce speed to low, add flour and mix until just blended. remove bowl from mixer, and using a rubber spatula, gently fold in half the egg whites until still a bit streaky. add the remaining egg whites and gently fold until incorporated. it may take several passes, as the batter is very dense. gently fold in the grated chocolate and the ginger. divide into the two pans, and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean of any raw batter (there will be melted chocolate on it)

cool on rack for 20 minutes, then turn out onto the rack, remove parchment, and cool completely.

meanwhile, prepare the icing by placing all ingredients in a food processor and blitzing until smooth, scraping the sides down once or twice. scrape into a bowl, cover, and chill for 1/2 hour.

to assemble, split each cake round in half lengthwise. spread each layer with about 1/2 cup icing, then coat the whole cake with a very thin layer (this is the crumb coat, which seals the cake for further frosting) chill for 15 minutes. at this point you can either slather on the rest or add another smooth layer and pipe the edges.

makes 1 serving. (ok, 12-16)

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steel-cut oats with ginger-roasted figs

steel cut oats with ginger roasted figs

i recently posted a photo of figs on instagram and someone commented that they were adorable. aren’t they though? figs are truly the cutest of fruits! with their perfect shape, smooth aubergine-hued skin and varying shades of pink/ruby/berry inside, they may be my favourite little fruit to eat and photograph. don’t even get me started on kumquats. kumquats deserve their own post entirely.

i’ve written before about how i’m really not much of a morning person or a breakfast person, but damn if this blog isn’t making me one. it’s a fun process to develop interesting breakfast recipes that don’t make me shudder at the thought of eating before 2pm.

steel cut oats, also called irish oatmeal or pinhead (har!) oats are so far removed from those gloppy pouches of instant oatmeal. they are both oatmeal the way a can of pop and an 1869 chateau lafite are both drinks.

so why not make the lafite of oatmeal? ok i’m ahead of myself, you can decide if these are that good, with their luscious, juicy roasted figs, honey, ginger, and the secret ingredient, balsamic. don’t be weirded out! a few drops mellow the sweetness of the figs and honey and make the resulting saucy juices really pop. a scatter of toasted pecans hemp seeds adds texture and a hit of protein.

so don’t be a pinhead (like me). eat some breakfast!

steel cut oats with ginger roasted figs

steel-cut oats with ginger-roasted figs

1 cup steel-cut oats
4 cups water
1 lb fresh figs, cut in half
4 tbsp. honey
2 slices candied ginger, slivered
3 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup toasted pecans, chopped
2 tbsp. raw hemp seeds

prepare the steel cut oats. (this can be done the night before*). in a medium pot bring the water to the boil and add a pinch of salt. stir in the oats. bring back up to the boil, cover, remove from heat, and let stand for 1 hour.

preheat oven to 400f. in a small glass roasting pan, toss together the figs with the honey, balsamic, and ginger. cover tightly with foil, and bake for 20 minutes. remove foil and cool to warm.

spoon oats into a bowl, top with 1/4 of the figs and some of the lovely oozing juices. scatter pecans and help seeds on top.

*you probably already know you can use this method to prepare your oats the night before. i did not make this up. what you will likely find in the morning is a very greeny-blue substance on the surface of your oats. people have asked me,

“what the hell?”
“is this mould!?”
“i left the oats out all night, and they’ve gone bad!”
“am i going to die??”

yes, you are going to die, we all are. but not from the green stuff on overnight oatmeal. they haven’t gone bad and mould can’t grow that fast. it’s a result of a chemical reaction and completely harmless. scrape it off and move on.

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