At any given time, I am a confused mixture of self-doubt and arrogance.
Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, there is a part of me that believes that that I can do anything and everything relatively effortlessly.
After all, it is so much easier to believe that you will be good at something than to risk trying and failing.
It's one of the reasons why my sporting endeavours are limited to a quick run around the block; it's why I gave up learning the piano as soon as it became clear that I was not a natural musician; it's one of the (many) reasons why I can't be bothered with diets. It is also why I decide to give up this blog approximately 14 times a day.
(As an aside, this isn't meant as a plea for sympathy. I've found one of the benefits to getting older is being able to recognise these traits in your character and learning how to live with them and, to a certain extent, laugh at them.)
I'm not going to give up this blog anytime soon though because as much as I'm learning about ingredients and techniques and writing and photography, it's actually teaching me some far more valuable lessons. That it doesn't matter if you're not the best. That life isn't as black and white as success and failure. That the journey is sometimes more important than the destination.
And, it seems, that blog posts often take on a life of their own. This is really not what I was planning to write about today at all.
What I did want to write about was this cake.
This a cake born out of frustration and my lack of patience with myself.
It started off as a doughnut. A baked chocolate doughnut, tender with ground almonds and rich in chocolate flavour. As it turns out though, I'm not very good at making doughnuts. I get flustered when I'm trying to fill the tin. I overfill some of the holes and underfill others. They never quite bake up right and I end up throwing the batch away more often than not. After a couple of attempts, I gave in, banished my doughnut pan to the cupboard of ridiculous kitchen equipment that I never use and poured what remained into a trusty round cake tin.
It was a very good decision.
This is my very favourite kind of recipe - one in which the result is completely disproportionate to the effort involved. In the best possible way, there's not really much of anything in this cake. There isn't an excessive quantity of sugar or dozens of eggs. Most of the ingredients can be measured in tablespoons and teaspoons. There are no complicated techniques, no crucial moment where you have to focus all your attention on what you're doing. If you can lightly beat an egg, you can make this cake.
We have eaten versions of this cake most days recently, nominally because I was tweaking the recipe but really because it's easy and delicious. It's not too dense or heavy. It has an intense chocolate flavour without being overwhelmingly rich. It's wonderfully moreish - every time I go into the kitchen I have to cut myself off a sliver.
It's the kind of cake that reminds me why I'm still doing this.
Flourless chocolate cake
Yield: A 20cm cake (serves 6 - 8)
- 85g (3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) ground almonds/almond meal
- 30g (1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) cocoa powder*
- 90g (1/2 cup) unrefined dark brown sugar (muscavado sugar works well)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 egg
- 80ml (1/3 cup) natural yogurt (it will also work with sour cream)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 170C/325F (fan) and grease a 20cm round baking tin.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the ground almonds, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda/baking soda, salt and coffee until they are completely combined.
- In another bowl, whisk together the egg, yogurt, oil and vanilla.
- Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, pour into the baking tin and bake for 20-22 minutes until the cake has set and it feels slightly springy to the touch.
- Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
* I use Green & Blacks because it's what I tend to have on hand. I've never seen a distinction made between Dutch-process and natural cocoa in the UK but a little googling lends me to believe that Green & Black's is Dutch-process. I haven't tested this cake with natural cocoa but I think it would still work because of the presence of both baking powder and soda; the taste probably won't be quite the same though.