“We are all a great deal luckier that we realize, we usually get what we want – or near enough.”
– Roald Dahl, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory
Given how much chocolate I eat, it seems remiss that this is the first chocolate cake recipe to appear on the site. Likely it’s because my favourite way to eat chocolate is straight up – a square or two of dark chocolate (90% is my fave) after dinner. I’ll admit that until reading this fantastic essay about Mast Brothers chocolate I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to the origins of cocoa beans in the way that I do to coffee, or eggs, or almonds. Now, though, I am doing my best to eat ethical and sustainable chocolate. Which isn’t too difficult, given the increasing popularity of artisanal products, but can be rather pricey if one has an excessive chocolate habit (umm…).
Talking about stuff being pricey (like my smooth segue there?!), present buying can be a real bitch. So if you’re having a slight panic ‘coz you are yet to purchase Christmas gifts, here are some suggestions that eschew the accumulation of stuff for stuff’s sake, are super-simple, and are also very easy to get at the very last minute.
- A subscription to independent (and awesome) lit. journal The Lifted Brow
- Donate to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
- Give the gift that gives twice by shopping at the Oxfam Shop
- Bake or pickle or make; everyone loves homemade foodstuffs (esp. preserved lemons)
- Do as Sarah of A House in the Hills suggests, and gift people experiences rather than things
And in the spirit of keeping things simple, this is my great go-to chocolate cake recipe. It’s dark and delicious, not too sweet and nicely toothsome. I’ve paired it here with a tahini frosting that adds the perfect amount of nutty-sugary goodness, but have also used this cake as the base for buttercream layer cake, or simply served it with a dusting of icing sugar and a generous amount of whipped cream. Lovely to bring to a dinner party or serve after your own. And perfect to have sitting on your kitchen bench for a late afternoon holiday treat.
Chocolate Cake with Cocoa-Tahini Frosting
1/2 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 cup plain flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup strong coffee
1/4 cup (60 grams) butter, softened
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 – 2 tbsps milk
8 – 12 strawberries, optional
Preheat oven to 180° celsius/350° fahrenheit. Grease a 20cm round baking tin and line the bottom with baking paper. Set aside.
In a large bowl sift together both types of flour with the cocoa, salt, baking powder and bicarb soda. Set aside.
In a smaller bowl whisk the egg together with the sugar until creamed. Add the oil, milk and vanilla extract and whisk to combine.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix with a wooden spoon until just combined. Slowly add the coffee and stir through until the mixture is combined and glossy. Pour into the prepared baking tin and bake in the pre-heated oven for 37 – 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Cool in the pan for up to 30 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely before frosting.
To prepare the frosting cream the butter in a small bowl. Add the tahini and keep creaming, then add the cocoa, the icing sugar, the vanilla extract and the milk, whisking until light, fluffy and completely combined.
Slather the frosting generously over the top of the cake. If using the strawberries cut them into quarters and pile on top. Serve immediately or store in the fridge until ready to eat.
Wow! I’m not much of a cake maker but I’d go for this one. I imagine the coffee gives the chocolate a really deep, rich flavor. I like your gift ideas too – couldn’t agree more about the stress of gift giving. Ironically, we also ask for donations to organizations like the International Rescue Committee.