…Chocolate is not everyone’s cup of tea, but in my house it is an essential food I dare say. Mr. Tomato simply cannot live without it. We cannot overindulge without consequences, but it is undeniably luxurious and delicious. The enveloping warmth of a cup of velvety smooth hot chocolate – my daily favourite which sends me to sleep like a calm baby, or that feeling of love, gratitude, affection and more evoked by a box of chocolates received as a ‘thank you’, ‘get well’, ‘I’m sorry’, ‘I love you’, or as a Christmas treat. Chocolate by any other name will still be.
Chocolate and orange is a divine combination, as the refreshing notes of citrus greatly compliments the richness of the cocoa. This cake is sticky and fudgy, quite the explosion of chocolate, and is now part of my Christmas celebratory menu. I usually soak it with drizzles of spiced orange syrup for that holiday flare. It is quite alright to slather it with a rich marmalade for a less celebratory occasion. Who ever said such a cake is for Christmas alone?
Now, let’s bake the richest, darkest, stickiest chocolate orange cake ever!
Sticky Chocolate Orange Cake
- 100g cocoa powder
- 9 tbs hot water
- 1 tbs butter (for greasing)
- 3 eggs
- 250g golden caster sugar
- 240ml sunflower oil
- 2 oranges
- 175g plain flour
- 1½ tsp baking powder
For the spiced orange syrup
- Squeezed oranges & zest
- 1 star anise
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- A few cardamon pods
- 1 tsp powdered ginger
- 1 tsp grated nutmeg
- 200ml water
- 4tbs golden castor sugar
For the chocolate ganache
- 200g good quality chocolate (70% cocoa and upwards)
- 250ml double cream
- 2 tbs golden caster sugar
Let’s get cooking!
1. Start by preheating the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4. Using your melted butter, grease the base of a 23cm/9in round cake tin or any other shape of considerable size and line with baking paper. In a large bowl, sift the cocoa powder and mix with hot water to form a smooth paste. In another large bowl, lightly beat the eggs, sugar and oil. Use a zester or a peeler to extract the top layer of your oranges, squeeze the juice of both oranges, and set aside the juice and the squeezed orange leftover for the syrup. Add half of the orange zest to the chocolate paste.
2. Stir the chocolate paste into the egg mixture and stir gently, sift the flour, and baking powder and gradually mix all together. Pour the cake mix into your greased and lined tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 50 minutes. Check if your cake springs back up when lightly pressed in the middle, then it is ready or use a wooden pick to check for any wetness inside the cake. If wet continue to bake another 5 minutes. If your cake is already browning, cover it with foil to continue cooking.
3. Once your chocolate orange cake is ready, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Turn out the cake carefully or release it if you used a springform tin and allow to cool further on a cooling rack. Now you can make the ganache and orange syrup to complete this wonderful cake.
4. To make the spiced orange syrup, remove all seeds and piths from the juice prepared earlier by passing through a strainer or sieve. In a saucepan add the juice, the leftover squeezed bits of the fruit, all the spices and water. On low heat, stir and leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Once slightly thickened, strain the contents the contents once more . Pour the liquid back into the pot and add orange zest. Cook for 5 minutes and finally add the sugar. Stir for a few minutes until the mixture becomes a syrup. Take the pot off the heat. Remove the orange zests and set aside for decorating the cake at the very end. Use a toothpick or barbecue stick to make holes in and around the cake but not all the way to the bottom. Use a table spoon to scoop and pour the syrup onto the cake. Repeat until you are satisfied with the amount of syrup in your cake.
5. To make the ganache, place a dry bowl over simmering water, taking care not to allow the water to touch the bottom of the bowl. We do this to melt the chocolate without burning it. Put the broken bits of chocolate into the bowl and wait for it to melt gradually. Stir the cream into the melting chocolate a bit at a time until it forms a smooth paste. Add the sugar and stir to completely dissolve. Set aside to cool until firm enough to be spread over the chocolate orange cake. It should be firm but still spreadable. If it gets to firm, put the bowl back on top of a simmering pot of water to loosen the mixture.
6. Now it’s time to finish the cake! Finish decorating I mean, not finish eating it! Use a palette knife if you have one or a large metal spoon to swirl the ganache around the top and sides of the cake. Scatter the candied orange zest or peel onto the cake as your final decoration and enjoy this wonderful treat.
Tip: If you cannot be bothered to make the orange syrup yourself, use orange marmalade with the orange peels and chunky bits in them and spread onto the surface and sides of the cake before pouring the ganache. It is simple and just as wonderful. Sometimes an easier life can be a sweeter life!
Originally published in The Guardian Life Magazine.