RECIPE TITLE "Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake" by Nigella Lawson author of Feast: Food to Celebrate Life
Makes one 9-inch cheesecake--about 16 servings
Everyone needs a recipe to turn to when anything special is called for. But the important thing is that special food isn't fancy food: it's something you cook when you want to make everyone, including yourself, feel good. I make this cake again and again--for my children, for bake sales at school, for dessert when friends are coming over--because I know it works and it's so easy, it requires no energy, expertise ore enormous application to make it. You can pretty well bung everything in a food processor and blitz and you're done. And there's something about its old-fashioned simplicity that makes it nourish the soul as well as indulge the body.
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup best-quality unsweetened cocoa
1-1/2 sticks of soft unsalted butter
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup sour cream
For the frosting:
3/4 stick unsalted butter
6 oz good quality semisweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
2-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
sugar flowers, optional
RECIPE METHOD Take everything out of the fridge so that all the ingredients can come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two 8-inch layer pans with removable bases such as Silpat or parchment paper.
Now all you have to do is put all the cake ingredients--flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, cocoa, butter, eggs, vanilla, and sour cream--into a food processor and process until you have a smooth, thick batter. If you want to go the long way around, just mix the flour, sugar, and leavening agents in a large bowl and beat in the soft butter until you have a combined and creamy mixture. Now whisk together the cocoa, sour cream, vanilla, and eggs and beat this into your bowl of mixture.
Divide this batter, using a rubber spatula to help you scrape and spread, into the prepared pans and bake until a cake tester, or a thin skewer, comes out clean, which should be about 35 minutes, but it is wise to start checking at 25. Also, it might make sense to switch the two cakes around in the oven halfway through cooking time.
Remove the cakes, in their pans, to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before turning out of their pans. Don't worry about any cracks as they will easily be covered by the frosting later.
To make this frosting, melt the butter and chocolate in a good-sized bowl either in the microwave or suspended over a pan of simmering water. Go slowly either way: you don't want any burning or seizing.
While the chocolate and butter are cooling a little, sift the confectioners' sugar into another bowl. Or, easier still, put the confectioners' sugar into the food processor and blitz. This is by far and away the least tedious way of removing lumps.
Add the corn syrup to the cooled chocolate mixture, followed by the sour cream and vanilla and then when all this is combined whisk in the sifted confectioners' sugar. Or just pour this mixture down the funnel of the food processor on to the confectioner's sugar, with the motor running.
When you've done, you may need to add a little boiling water--say a teaspoon or so--or indeed some more confectioners' sugar: it depends on whether you need the frosting to be runnier or thicker; or indeed it may be right as it is. It should be liquid enough to coat easily, but thick enough not to drip off.
Choose your cake stand or plate and cut out four strips of baking paper to form a square outline on it (this stops the frosting running on to the plate). Then sit one of the cakes, uppermost (slightly domed) side down.
Spoon about a third of the frosting on to the center of the cake half and spread with a knife or a spatula until you cover the top of it evenly. Sit the other cake on top, normal way up, pressing gently to sandwich the two together.
Spoon another third of the frosting on to the top of the cake and spread it in a swirly, textured way (though you can go for a sooth finish if you prefer, and have the patience).
Spread the sides of the cake with the remaining frosting and leave a few minutes till set, then carefully pull away the paper strips.
I love to do the top of this with sugar pansies--and you must admit, they do look enchanting--but there really is no need to make a shopping expedition out of it. Anything, or indeed nothing, will do.
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