For someone who writes a food blog, christmas should be an uber busy time. It's a time for food and I should be doling out recipes left right and center but i think it's a bit pointless writing about how to cook a brussle sprouts. Most people generally know how to cook them (if you don't, my answer is briefly) and I want to be able to write something a little more different. This years been a strange one and I see christmas as my way to say goodbye to it. I guess most people think that that's what New Years Eve is for, but to me that's more about excitement for the coming year and what that holds, over remembering and saying goodbye to the one passed. So with the last few weeks been slightly strange for me and a little low, I didn't want a typical christmas, I wanted what any sane person would want... an ultra sparkly, pink and glitter; chocolate laced, alice in wonderland themed christmas shindig obviously. How had you not guessed sooner? My main grumble and I don't have many when it comes to christmas as I am still a complete woman-child, is christmas pudding; quite frankly I dont get it. I know that to some, most even, that not liking christmas pudding is like not liking christmas itself, its one of the christmas main-stays but after a glutinous lunch I can just never muster up the courage to attack one with any gusto. So this year, I simply didn't make one. I didn't even entertain the idea. I had something much more exciting I think. I present to you the words- flourless, chocolate and cake. It makes perfect sense if you think about it. You can put all those beautiful flavours into something saintly and light and avoid all that stodge that renders you slightly unconcious for the next 5 or 6 hours. The original recipe didn't have the almond crust but I have always wanted to try out the idea since I saw it on a cake by the mother of modern cooking- Julia Child. Since the cake is almond based anyway, I think its just helping to enhance the flavours already there and it gives a nice crunch and texture. This cake is, in a way, a bit of a homage to Ms Child but with a modern twist, I don't think she would mind too much as long as Julia said, you have the "courage of your convictions about you"
For the cake:
For the ganache and decoaration:
- 200g dark chocolate, min 60% cocoa
- 230ml single cream
- 1tbsp Tia Maria
- 150g toasted almonds
- preheat your oven to 180°C and line your cake tin with greaseproof paper on the bottom and butter on the sides.
- melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water. I don't like doing it in a microwave as i think it can catch and burn to easily and spoil the cocoa quality, but if your comfier doing it that way then do, just pay a little more attention to it and keep checking and stirring! leave the mix to cool a little.
- beat the eggs and sugar together until they are pale, doubled in size and beautifully moussey. this is best done in either a free stranding mixer or with an electric whisk. it could be done with a hand whisk but this would take dedication and muscle that I just don't have.
- GENTLY, GENTLY, GENTLY, fold the ground almonds, cocoa powder, tia maria and orange zest and juice into your egg and sugar mixture followed finally by your cooled, melted chocolate and butter.
- pour the mix into your prepared cake tin and bake! It can take anywhere between 30-45 minutes completely depending on your oven. start checking at 30 minutes by gently prodding the top of the cake it should be firm on top but still almost yielding underneath with a slight squash and wobble.
- remove the cake from the oven once cooked and leave to cool for around 10 minutes on a wire rack.
- once the cake has lost its initial heat, after around 1o minutes; drape a clean tea towel over the top and let it cool in the tin. the tea towel helps to stop the cake going crusty on the top and helps it to retain lovely moisture in the center, giving it a centre that is a unique cross between a firm mousse and a soft fudge- strange but completely satisfying. The top of the cake, due to its lack of flour will sink slightly and give a cracked surface with desert like fault-lines. Don't worry about this, I think it adds to its character anyway.
- while your cake is cooling you can make your ganache. simply melt together the tia maria, chocolate and single cream in a bowl suspended over some boiling water stirring slowly but regularly.
- once the cream and chocolate have combined, leave the mixture to cool so it firms slighlty. Your looking for texture like smooth peanut butter.
- remove the cake from its tin and move it onto a cake turntable if you have one or if not a plate covered in clingfilm. I would suggest putting clingfilm over your turntable also, it just helps when your ready to move the cake to its cakeplate or whatever your serving it from as it gives you something to grip onto without having to touch the cake and risking damage to it.
- give your cake a generous dusting of icing sugar till gloriously wintry white.
- with a pallet knife spread the outer edge with a thick layer of your chocolate ganache mortar.
- finally and my tip is to use a teaspoon as your hands get too chocolatey and spoil the pale glory of your almonds, take spoonfulls of almonds and press them onto the side of the cake using the chocolate ganache as your glue. all you then need do is move the cake to its final resting place, slice and munch, munch, munch. this cake is ridiculously addictive, amazing for parties and a simple and beautiful treat. compulsive baking!