“Paris,” said Ernest Hemingway, “is a moveable feast.” Today, July 14th and Bastille Day, is our daughter’s birthday which we always celebrate with something French, and always with red, white and blue flowers. When she was born we gave her the middle name of Marianne, the national emblem of France embodying Liberty and Reason. She of course has never forgiven us for giving her what she thinks is a naff middle name, but we were young and in love with Paris (still are). She lived in Paris for a while when she was younger, and as Hemingway said, if you’re lucky enough to live there when you’re young, it stays with you forever. She still works sometimes in Paris, but the time when we traveled backwards and forwards to see her is long gone. Unfortunately!
Clarissa is fascinated by Marie Antoinette and the Revolution. Marie Antoinette never said ‘Let them eat cake,” nor did she say “let them eat brioche,” which was the actual phrase supposedly attributed to her by Rousseau. In the year of the Revolution bread was plentiful and cheap and not the reason for the Revolution.
Clarissa cheerfully admits to not being very good at cake-making, but when pushed she’ll produce a cake that tastes amazing but can sometimes look a bit haphazard. We don’t eat much cake, even less chocolate cake (or chocolate!) but for today’s birthday celebrations she made a chocolate cake, one so rich it should carry a health-warning, death by chocolate indeed…
A Cake for le quatorze juillet, and for Marianne.
This cake will be sufficient for 16 slim portions, I’d serve with small cups of black coffee and Serge Gainsbourg on the gramophone.
150 g plain chocolate, the best you can afford
6 eggs, separated
150 g caster sugar
150 g ground almonds
Grated zest of 1 orange
150 g unsalted butter, melted then allowed to cool
For the filling,
110 g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 tbs icing sugar, sifted
1 drop of almond essence
For the topping,
200 g plain chocolate
200 ml double cream
Some chocolate stars (optional), because my daughter is a star. You can find these in cake-making shops such as Cake Expectations. You might find them in supermarkets.
Grease and flour a loose-bottomed cake tin, I used a tin 15 cm in diameter and 8 cm tall. You could use 2 shallower tins.
Heat your oven to 175 – 180 C, and meanwhile melt the chocolate in a bowl balanced over a saucepan of simmering water. Beat the egg yolks and sugar till the mixture is fluffy, then add the ground almonds and orange zest. Add the cooled melted butter and the melted chocolate to the mixture. Beat the egg whites in another bowl till they are stiff and in peaks, then fold into the chocolate mixture. Do this gently till everything is well combined. Then pile the mixture into the cake tin.
Place on a baking sheet and put into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes if you’re using 2 shallow tins, or 45 minutes if a single deeper tin. You can test for done-ness by piercing with a skewer, if it comes out clean the cake is cooked.Remove from the oven and cool still in the tin on a rack. The cake will have risen soufflé-like, but will collapse back as it cools because there is no flour in the ingredients.
While it cools make the filling by mixing the softened butter and the sifted icing sugar till smooth, then adding a drop of almond essence. When the cake is cooled, remove from the tin and slice in half so you have 2 cakes. You won’t have to do this if you used 2 shallow tins. Spread the filling onto one half and cover with the other half. Now make the topping by melting the chocolate as before in a bowl over simmering water, and when it is soft stir in the cream till everything is smooth and glossy. Swirl the icing over the cake with a palette knife, I added chocolate stars and red white and blue flowers from my garden. Vive la Révolution!
©2011 David Porter