So I turned a year older! One of the things I look forward to is the cake I bake for myself. Its more fun as I don’t have to organize for a birthday party as I do for the kids. And I can get away without cooking anything for the day if I chose to! A good time to get experimental as I can survive a not-quite-there cake as it is my birthday cake and just for the immediate family.
A chocolate genoise I baked did not quite rise to the occasion – was I grouchy! My mother thought I was crazy to be spending half a day baking myself a birthday cake and even crazier to be baking another after one failed! But that’s me and it makes me happy! At times like this, old cakes in your repertoire are saviors. You know you are sure to turn out something decent.
This cake is one from my earliest baking days, a recipe I have used innumerable times. Always tasted good and (sheepish!) was the only recipe I knew! An oil based one, makes a good tea-cake, works well as a base for a cream filled cake when moistened with the right amount of syrup. It is not in the same league as a fatless sponge in terms of texture, but the chocolaty-ness of the cake makes up for it. But the cake surely takes fairly well to a decent amount of syrup and retains its texture when moistened and chilled.
The cake came together quickly and baked quickly as I wanted a thinnish layer of cake and not too many cakes in numbers. Lots of coffee, ground almonds and agar agar powder just enough to help the cream hold its shape once out of the supporting mousse strips. Layers of chocolate cake and coffee almond cream – not a bad dessert for the birthday girl to eat on her birthday…and the next day too!!
Chocolate Cake – A Nita Mehta recipe ( Sorry, don't remember the name of the book)
All purpose Flour – 65 grams / 1/2 cup
Cocoa powder – 4 tablespoons /20 grams approx
Baking powder - 3/4 teaspoon
Powdered sugar - 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons
Oil – 6 tablespoons
Eggs – 2, large / 96 grams
Pure vanilla extract - 1/2 teaspoon
For the syrup
Hot water –1/2 cup
Instant coffee - 1 teaspoon
Powdered sugar - 2 tablespoons (or 3 for a sweeter cake)
Vanilla - 1/4 teaspoon
Mix everything together, taste. I like the syrup to be just about sweet. Cover and keep aside. This can be made ahead of time and refrigerated. If using coffee in the syrup you will need more sugar to temper the bitterness.
For the coffee-almond cream :
Sweetened whipping cream, chilled – 2 cups
Instant coffee powder –4-5 teaspoons ( I used 5)
Powdered Sugar – 2 tablespoons (Read note)
Agar agar powder (not flakes) –1/2 teaspoon
Ground raw almonds (ground till powdery but with a bit of texture) - 1/2 cup
Note: The non-dairy cream is sweetened, but I have used a bit more as there is enough coffee (to give good coffee flavor) to temper the sweetness. Without the extra sugar and so much of coffee the cream may taste a bit bland.
If not using agar agar, whip the cream to soft peaks (which hold their shape when the beater is raised) and use immediately. In this case, the cream will not hold its shape firmly. Bake 1 ½ recipe of cake above in an 8’’ round spring-form, increase baking time accordingly. Make 3 layers and layer with cream (you will need more of this too). Chill, release and decorate with a chocolate lace collar.
A note on agar agar: I am experimenting with agar agar powder, used it to give texture to just hold its shape and this looks like it worked! The cream took on a slightly mousse-y texture and held its shape while it was still creamy, but obviously not the same mouth feel as softly whipped cream. How do you use agar agar?