Easiest Chocolate Cake
The trouble with labor-saving devices is that often they create labor. Take, for example, my electric stand mixer.
My mother used to have one called the Mixmaster. It sat on the crowded countertop in our kitchen and was rarely used unless my grandmother wanted to whip up one of her sponges.
It took up so much space. My own very heavy mixer sits in a cabinet with pull out shelves. I had those installed to make it easier to lift out the mixer but it is so unwieldy that pulling it out is like wrestling with an elephant. So it was with joy that I found this recipe for the most delicious chocolate cake, made with three pieces of equipment – two mixing bowls and a whisk. And of course a baking container. I use a springform pan sitting on a cookie sheet to catch spills. My go-to cake pan is usually the springform. It prevents bits of cake from refusing to come out of the pan and makes a pretty presentation.
I’m making this cake for my birthday this week. Credit for the recipe goes to Helen Goh – and Yotam Ottolenghi for his adaptation, which appeared in The New York Times, 19 September 2017.
Helen Goh was born in Malaysia but grew up in Melbourne, Australia, my home town.
A psychologist by training, Helen leaped into running a café without any experience and taught herself to bake. This fudgy chocolate cake from her tiny café, Mortar and Pestle, was deemed “the world’s best chocolate cake” by an enthusiastic journalist. Not one to sit on her laurels, Helen then went over to one of Melbourne’s best restaurants, Donovans, where she was a pastry chef for several years. Now, she works for Ottolenghi in London. She introduced him to Australian patisserie and has a book called Sweet.
What You’ll Need: THE CAKE 2 sticks plus 1 1/2 tablespoons butter at room temperature and cut into 3/4-inch cubes. If you use butter to grease your pan, you’ll need a little more. (Butter is recommended overspray.) 7 ounces dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa solids), chopped into 3/4-inch or smaller pieces 1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso coffee granules 1 1/2 cups boiling water 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar 2 large eggs, lightly beaten 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 1 ¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons self-rising flour, or, if you can’t find it in the supermarket, whisk together 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder and use this mixture instead. ⅓ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder ¼ teaspoon salt
THE CHOCOLATE GANACHE 7 ounces (70 percent cocoa solids), broken or chopped into 3/4-inch or smaller pieces ¾ cup heavy cream 1 tablespoon light corn syrup 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
THE ESPRESSO CINNAMON MASCARPONE CREAM (not necessary but the final splurge) 1 ½ cups plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream ¾ cup mascarpone Scraped seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod or 1 tsp. vanilla 2 ½ teaspoons finely ground espresso ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon 2 ½ tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
THE CAKE Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9-inch spring-form pan with butter and line with parchment paper.
Sift flour, cocoa powder, and salt together into a bowl and set aside.
Dissolve the coffee granules in the boiling water.
Put the butter, and chocolate in a large metal bowl and pour in the boiling hot coffee. This will help liquefy everything so you can mix until it is all meltingly combined.
Whisk in sugar by hand, making sure it all dissolves.
Add eggs and vanilla extract and whisk again until smooth.
Pour the dry ingredients gradually into the melted chocolate mixture, and whisk till smooth and liquid.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean or almost so. I was alarmed to see that the top had cracked, but Helen says this is normal. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool. After 20 minutes release the spring of the pan or remove from the layer cake pan. Let cool overnight.
THE GANACHE Chop the chocolate very finely and put it into a heat-proof bowl. Or, if you have a food processor or blender, use this to mix until fine, then dump it all into the bowl.
In a small pan over medium-high heat, mix the cream and corn syrup. Just before it comes to a boil remove from the heat.
Add the hot cream-corn syrup mixture to the chopped chocolate, and stir with a wooden spoon till it is almost melted. Then add the butter. Stir again till smooth. Or if you are using the chocolate-filled blender or food processor, pour in the hot cream-corn syrup. Process for 10 seconds, then adds the butter and whirr again till smooth. That’s Ottolenghi’s suggestion, but I wanted to use as few utensils as possible. I used the wooden spoon-in-bowl method and it is one less item to wash, for one thing. Chocolate, hot cream and warm butter make a lovely, easy to mix combination.
Cover the ganache in the bowl with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic to touch the top of the ganache.
Set aside until it has set. For a thin layer to spread over the cake, pour it over while still liquid. For a thicker ganache with a spreading consistency like a regular frosting, leave it for about 2 hours at room temperature.
The ganache can be stored at room temperature for 3 days or kept in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
If you insist on the final touch, whipped mascarpone and cream flavored with espresso, cinnamon, and confectioners’ sugar, you may have to resort to the electric mixer. Place all the ingredients in the bowl of the mixer and beat until soft peaks form.
Peel the parchment from the cake and discard it. Transfer to a serving platter and spread the ganache, if using, on top of the cake. Slice into wedges, divide the cake among plates and, if using, spoon the mascarpone cream alongside. With or without icing, the cake will keep well for 4 to 5 days in an airtight container.