Though I am not spontaneously drawn to this kind of light-textured, mousse-like chocolate cakes — given a choice I will opt for the dense and fudgy cake every time — sometimes the occasion calls for a cake just like this.
A couple of months ago, I was contacted by a girl named Camille, a senior student at the Camondo school of design and architecture in Paris. She was working on her graduation project, for which she had designed a new kind of lunch box for three, to be bought and shared, picnic-style, with your friends or coworkers. She had the box all designed, with nifty ideas and a clever stacking of containers, but the point was, after all, to serve food. And this is where she requested my help : could I create six chromatic menus to fill the containers — green, yellow, pink, orange, white and black, in pure Pink Buffet style?
The cake is fluffy and moist, and the ganache glaze — well, what can you expect from a ganache glaze but sheer sublimity?
I was charmed by the idea, and felt an instant connection to the delightfully sweet and friendly Camille (also, Camille happens to be my middle name). I eagerly agreed to help, and got to work. The challenge was to create a set of menus that made culinary sense, while following the color rule (I added a “no artificial coloring” rule) and also factoring in the box’s structure : it contained a fixed number of containers of different shapes, all linked together, that were to be unfolded and unstacked, from top to bottom, as the meal progressed.
Over the course of the last two months, in preparation for the grand jury, Camille and I worked on making these menus real, so she could take pictures for her project presentation : some dishes she made on her own from recipes I provided, some items were store-bought to save time, some dishes we made together. And among the latter (are you getting the where-in-the-world-is-she-going-with-this syndrome yet? come on, be honest) was this chocolate cake you see here, to be included as the dessert in the black menu.
I wanted a chocolate cake that would rise high enough to fill the cubic dessert containers prettily, and I wanted to glaze the servings with a dark chocolate ganache, to make them black and shiny. This recipe fit the bill perfectly, and was absolutely scrumptious : the cake part is fluffy and moist, and the ganache glaze — well, what can you expect from a ganache glaze but sheer sublimity?
Incidently, this is what Camille chose to serve the jury members, to illustrate her point. Point well illustrated apparently, as the results just came out, and I am most proud and happy to annouce that she graduated, and with honors, no less. Toutes mes félicitations Camille!
- 180 grams (1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) unrefined cane sugar
- 200 grams (7 ounces, 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
- 4 large organic eggs
- 220 grams (7 3/4 ounces, about 1 2/3 cups) flour
- 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) high-quality dark chocolate
- 100 grams (1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon) whipping cream
- Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Grease and flour a 25-cm (10-inch) cake pan.
- In a large mixing bowl or in a food processor, beat the sugar and butte until white and fluffy. Add in the eggs one by one, mixing well between each addition.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Add to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Avoid overmixing.
- Pour the batter into the cake pan, and bake for 30 minutes, or until the top of the cake feels springy to the touch, and a knife inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs. Don’t bake it to death, otherwise it won’t be as moist inside. Let rest on the counter for a few minutes, then remove from the pan and transfer to a rack to cool completely.
- Melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler (or in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water), stirring with a spoon from time to time to help it melt or just because you can’t keep your eyes off it.
- When completely melted, remove from the heat, stir in the whipping cream and keep stirring until completely combined. You will get a luscious, velvety mixture. Use all your strength and willpower to refrain from dipping your face in, for it is still hot and you may burn yourself.
- Let the ganache rest a little, until thickened to the desired consistency, say 15 to 30 minutes: if you want to spread it thin, don’t wait too long. If you want a thicker layer of ganache, give it a little more time.
- The simplest way is to just pour the ganache on top of the cake, and spread it on with the back of a spoon, letting it ripple onto the sides of the cake in a spontaneous fashion. But you can also glaze the sides completely. Alternately, slice the cake in two when completely cooled, and spread ganache or raspberry jam between the two halves, before glazing the whole thing.
- Serve immediately or allow the ganache to set.
I sometimes fold chopped chocolate into the batter. If it's bittersweet chocolate I keep the recipe as is; if it's milk chocolate I reduce the amount of sugar a little bit.