First things first. WCC25 stands for Weekend Cookbook Challenge Number 25. Each month a different food blogger picks a theme, other bloggers post their recipes and the host collects the results. February's theme is Nigella Lawson, hosted by foodiechickie. Ideally one would choose a recipe from one's library of cookbooks, but I found a great recipe online from her book How to Eat. A word of warning, Nigella is a sassy Brit gal and so uses the metric system. Grams and millilitres don't convert so well to cups and spoons. After consulting an online conversion site, I gave up and purchased a digital scale.
The recipe I chose was a Chocolate Cloud Cake, a version of flourless chocolate cake finished with mounds of flavored whipped cream. I've made flourless chocolate cakes before, however, this one folds in beaten egg whites just before baking. This creates a delicious, light texture to a cake that is usually dense and fudgy. (Not that dense and fudgy are bad!) The cake's texture is smooth and quite similar to the whipped cream topping but with a little more substance.
Chocolate Cloud Cake à la Nigella
250g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
125g unsalted butter, softened
6 eggs: 2 whole, 4 separated
175g caster sugar: 75g in the cake, 100g in whites ( I used Superfine Baker’s Sugar)
2 tablespoons Cointreau – optional (didn’t use it)
Grated zest of an orange – optional (didn’t use it)
23cm springform cake tin
500ml double cream (used heavy whipping cream)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Cointreau (substituted Kahlua)
.5 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder for sprinkling
Method: (these are pure Nigella with my notes alongside.)
1.Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. (This converts to 356F – I used 350F with great results)
2.Line the bottom of a 23cm Springform cake tin with baking parchment.
3. Melt the chocolate either in a double boiler or a microwave, and then let the butter melt in the warm chocolate. (First time I used the microwave. 30 seconds at a time is a good pace to let the chocolate melt a little, stir, and let it go again.)
4.Beat the 2 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks with 75g caster sugar, then gently add the chocolate mixture, the Cointreau and orange zest. (I hate how fruit and chocolate tastes together, so I omitted the Cointreau and orange zest in the whole recipe. I added nothing in place of it in this step.)
5. In another bowl, whisk the 4 egg whites until foamy, then gradually add the 100g of sugar and whisk until the whites are holding their shape but not too stiff. (I saw Alton Brown and his egg whites episode the night before, and he recommended not using a stand mixer for your egg whites, as it tends to leave a pool of unbeatened whites at the bottom of the mixing bowl. I attempted to whip these to a ‘soft peak’ state by hand, and couldn’t do it in 15 minutes. My advice is to do it by hand as long as you can manage, then transfer it to your mixer. If you have a hand mixer, by all means use it.)
6. Lighten the chocolate mixture with a dollop of egg whites, and then fold in the rest of the whites. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes or until the cake is risen and cracked and the centre is no longer wobbly. Cool the cake in its tin on a wire rack; the middle will sink as it cools.
7. When you are ready to eat, place the still tin-bound cake on a cake stand or plate for serving and carefully remove the cake from its tin. Don't worry about cracks or rough edges: it's the crater look we're going for here.
8. Whip the cream until soft and then add the vanilla and Cointreau and continue whisking until the cream is firm but not stiff. Fill the crater of the cake with the whipped cream, easing it out gently towards the edges of the cake, and dust the top lightly with cocoa powder pushed through a tea-strainer. ( I decided on Kahlua for the whipped cream; however, bourbon would be good, too)
Uh, I obviously forgot to dust with cocoa powder, too. It was a great cake, though!