“Every French home cook does a great chocolate cake” or so says Trish Deseine in her book ‘Nobody does it better’. The ‘Somebodies’ that the ‘nobodies’ do it better than are the French. I love France and the affair started with their wine and food long before I ever set foot in the place. As a result, when I started learning about cooking and searching for information, one of the first books I bought was Larousse Gastronomique, the culinary encyclopaedia.
When it was first published in 1938 it was written by French chef Prosper Montagné. It’s incarnations since have been written by scores of writers who form the Gastronomic Committee of the Librairie Larousse. It is an excellent reference for cooking techniques, history of food and important culinary individuals, ingredient information and not to mention recipes for pretty much anything you might like to cook.
In the beginning it was the book I went to for things like how to make a roux for a béchamel sauce, or indeed to find out what a roux was. These were things that I needed clear instruction on as I had never done home economics or had studied anything to do with cooking. I was starting completely from scratch in my own tiny kitchen in a flat in Dublin. As Larousse Gastronomique was essentially based on classic continental cuisine, when looking for a good instruction I did move away from it slightly when I found the book Ballymaloe Cookery Course. This was much more accessible both because it was Irish and because Darina Allen’s instruction was so precise.
I still did love the French. And what could be better than a French cookbook written by an Irish woman living in France! I found myself then faced with Trish Deseine’s statement that every French home cook does a great chocolate cake. Far be it from me to let the side down so a few years ago I went through the arduous task of find our chocolate cake recipe. We went through everything from basic chocolate sponges with various fillings such as chocolate ganache or chocolate Chantilly cream to the princely Black Forest gateaux. Sean, being a complete chocolate addict, relished this quest. We went full circle and the cake that turned out to be our favourite was one of Trish Deseine’s French recipes!
It’s a chocolate fondant cake and so simple to make. The only drawback is that it should be made a day before it is needed so allow the chocolate flavour to fully develop. Also, for those of you who are wheat intolerant, it only has one tablespoon of flour in it. It’s not perfectly gluten free for coeliac sufferers but might be acceptable for the wheat intolerant chocolate addict in your house. It isn’t the prettiest chocolate cake in the world, but that taste….
- 200g good quality chocolate, minimum 65% cocoa
- 1 tablespoon strong coffee, hot
- 200g butter, softened
- 200g castor sugar
- 5 eggs
- 1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
- Preheat the oven to 180⁰C/350⁰F/gas mark 4.
- Grease and flour a 25cm sandwich tin.
- Place a mixing bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Break the chocolate into it. Pour in the hot coffee and stir until the chocolate has melted.
- Add the butter and let it melt into the chocolate.
- Add the sugar into the mixture and stir very well.
- Break the eggs into the mixture one at a time, stirring well after each addition. I use a balloon whisk for this. Finally, mix in the flour.
- Pour the mixture into the sandwich tin and bake for 20 – 25 minutes. The cake should still be very moist in the centre. DO NOT be tempted to leave it in longer.
- Remove from the oven and leave it to cool completely before turning it out. Wrap the cake in foil and try to resist it for at least a day. (Easier said than done).
- Best devoured simply with good vanilla ice-cream.
‘Nobody does it better’ by Trish Deseine (Published by Kyle Cathie Ltd. – 2007)
(Published in The Western People – 15 June 2015)