This is a fuss free birthday cake I baked for my teenage child. He didn't want to celebrate the occasion at all, but I thought we should all deserve a homemade treat on this special day.
Over the years, I have learned that a birthday cake for any of my family members would always be a chocolate cake. I don't even have to ask. A chocolate cake, in any form, would be well received.
I didn't decorate the cake as my teenager wouldn't care too much. I didn't have to, as the finished cake was sophisticated enough on its own...both in terms of taste and presentation (just my personal opinion). The cake was made with good quality valrhona dark chocolate with 71% cocoa content. It lent the cake a rich and intense bittersweet chocolaty flavour that suit our palates. The top of the cake was brushed with liquor, the recipe recommends brandy, but I experimented with kahlua. The taste was rather mild and no one could detect its presence. I will try with rum when I make this same cake for my baking friend, hope the liquor flavour would be more prominent. The dark and poke marked surface may not look visually appealing to most people, but somehow, I have a weak spot for rustic, crackly looking simple cakes. The photo of the cake caught my eye when I was flipping through the cookbook. I bookmarked the recipe right away, although I must confess my cake was a far cry from the one illustrated in the cookbook.
Another interesting ingredient that makes this cake special is the addition of whole chestnuts. I like the chocolate and chestnut combo since I love roasted chestnuts, especially those freshly roasted chestnuts from mobile roadside stalls(which sadly, can hardly be seen nowadays). My younger child who doesn't fancy chestnuts told me it is better to leave them out ^^! Nevertheless, the dense but velvety texture of the cake made everyone craves for a second, bigger slice. My sensible kids practised 'portion control' though...making sure there was enough leftovers for their breakfast the next day ;)
Chocolate and Chestnuts Cake
(makes one 18cm cake)
75g dark chocolate
80g unsalted butter
40g cocoa powder
20g cake flour
3 egg whites
40g caster sugar
3 egg yolks
30g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g ready to eat chestnuts, cut into halves
1 tablespoon brandy, for brushing
- Line base and side of 18cm pan(with removable base) with parchment paper.
- Melt dark chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure the bowl is able to sit above the water and it should cover the pot so that steam will not get inside the bowl). Remove from heat. Let cool.
- Sieve cocoa powder and cake flour, set aside.
- In a clean, dry mixing bowl, beat egg whites with an electric handheld mixer on low speed until mixture becomes frothy and foamy. Add half of the sugar and turn to high speed and beat the mixture. Continue to add in the remaining sugar mixture and beat until the egg whites reaches the soft peak stage. The soft peak stage is reached when the peaks of the whites curl over and droop slightly. The egg whites should appear smooth and glossy. Set aside. (Do not over beat the whites still stiff, it is better to beat the whites still soft peaks for easy folding with the yolk batter.)
- Place egg yolks and sugar in another mixing bowl. With the electric handheld mixer (Note: it is not necessary to wash the beaters/whisks after beating the egg whites), beat the mixture on low speed until it turns pale and thick.
- Add in the melted chocolate and butter mixture, milk and vanilla extract, beat on low speed to combine. Sieve over the flour and cocoa powder, mix with a manual balloon whisk until fully incorporated. The batter will be very thick.
- Fold the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk batter in 3 separate additions, each time folding gently with a spatula (I prefer to use a balloon whisk) until just blended.
- Add in the chestnuts, fold to combine.
- Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven at 160degC for 45~50 mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with a few moist crumb. Do not over bake.
- Remove cake from oven, brush top with brandy. Unmould, remove the parchment paper and let cool, right side up (do not invert) on wire rack. The cake tastes best when left over night at room temperature. If stored in fridge, bring the cake to room temperature before serving.