This was a cake that I made for my parents’ wedding anniversary – they’ve been together for forty-<cough> years. Isn’t that amazing? What’s more amazing is that I can’t quite put my finger on whether it’s 42 or 43. I can, however, make cakes, and rely on this ability to gloss over the cracks in other abilities, like counting years. I will also be glossing over the amount of off-topic chuntering in this post with liberal application of pictures of chocolate cake. Like this.
This was a ‘what do I have in the cupboard?’ recipe, if you count the fridge and freezer as cupboards. I’m only asking you to count them as such for the duration of this post; after that time you may go back to treating them as separate entities where only the privileged and pampered food lives. You wouldn’t catch a Pot Noodle asking to live in the fridge, would you? No, it knows its place, as its nasty ad campaign was at such pains to prove a number of years ago (there I go not processing the passing of time properly again). Nor would you catch a bag of rice in the fridge – the very idea! And as for bananas, well they go brown at the merest suggestion of being put in the fridge. So definitely don’t think of the fridge-freezer as just another cupboard lest you ruin the class structure of your kitchen and, more importantly, end up with shelves full of milk you could use as a biological weapon and some extremely inefficient ice cubes. I’m glad we cleared that up. What *I* had in the cupboard/fridge/freezer was as follows:
- most of a punnet of raspberries
- about half a bag of pistachio nuts. What size the original bag was is a mystery, so how I know there was about half of it left would seem to be even more mysterious
- chocolate – I almost always have plain chocolate in the baking cupboard. Not milk, though, because I inevitably eat it in a Chocolate Trance
- flour, sugar, eggs – almost always have these, though run out of eggs most often, what with them being of a lesser lifespan
Those aren’t the only ingredients that I had in the house. I also had potato waffles, frozen spinach, egg noodles, dried shrimp, tinned mackerel, herbs and spices galore and some cornflakes, to name only some of the things around my kitchen. The ones mentioned above were the key cake-related ones. Originally I was just going to do a spiced pistachio cake. The chocolate sort of crept in while I wasn’t looking. I think it was partly because I love the texture that melted chocolate gives a sponge, helping it slice evenly and without letting off crumbs like a startled porcupine (one made of cake, I suppose) and giving it richness and moisture. Yep, chocolate in cakes is good. It wasn’t till I was mixing the cake that my brain fell upon the raspberries. That was just colourful language, there was nothing about this recipe that was so unhygienic or would require so much medical assistance as my brain falling out and onto soft fruit. I liked the thought of the sharp raspberries in against the smooth chocolate and nut combo that was going on. So, I combined ingredients as follows:
- 175g margarine
- 100g sugar
- 150g plain chocolate, melted
- 2 eggs
- unspecified amount of pistachios, though allegedly ‘about half a bag’, shelled and ground to a powder
- 175g flour
- 1tsp baking powder
- 100g fresh raspberries
- pinch salt
To be honest, I wouldn’t follow this recipe if you’re a ‘stick to the recipe’ kind of baker. I’d hate for someone to try it out and find it was disappointing, because this cake was really enjoyable and the balance of flavours was good in the end result. I’ve left a notepad in the kitchen now, so that I can start jotting down recipes as I do them. Not sure how many people actually follow recipes that I’ve posted, but it’ll be handy for me to have a note of these things myself, probably.
To make the cake, I mixed the margarine and sugar with a hand-held blender, added the eggs, mixed again, then added the melted chocolate. Once this was all well-combined, I added the flour, baking powder and pistachios, and a pinch of salt. A few words on the subject of salt: I have five kinds of salt in my kitchen now. It’s more than a bit excessive, I feel. It started out with your normal table salt, the kind that comes in a big red drum that you seem to never run out of. Why it’s called a drum when for any other product it would be called a canister or a box is beyond me… Anyway, it has run out now, but I’m not unduly worried given that I seem to have enough salt to melt an igloo in my kitchen. The picture of the cake here is dusted with icing sugar, just to be clear. I acquired coarse sea salt next, possibly for garnishing some kind of savoury baked items, or possibly just because I decided it was a better quality product. I added flaked sea salt to the salt inventory next, and I remember buying that to use in place of fleur de sel, for a recipe that called for a gentle garnish of salt that a veritable rock of coarse sea salt wouldn’t provide. Coarse salt’s more your up-front, in everyone’s face, on your pretzels kindofa salt, where flaked is more your softly-spoken, a whisper’s louder than a shout sort of chap. I love them both, and they both have their own place. Soon after I bought the flaked salt, I got a jar of the real deal, fleur del sel, which I have yet to really apply my mind to finding good uses for. I know it’s good with caramel and with dark chocolate flavours – it’s to my taste, at least, though I realise not to everyone’s. I understand that fleur de sel is only worth using if you’re putting it on as a garnish at the last minute – if you cook with it you mask the more delicate flavours and may as well just be using one of your FOUR OTHER KINDS of salt…
Talk ing of applying my mind to fleur de sel, imagine applying fleur de sel directly to your mind. By which I mean brain. Argh. Except, is it true that you don’t have any nerve endings in your brain and it would just make you smell bacon or hear the colour blue or something? I don’t fancy trying it out, just so that we’re clear.
The penultimate… I stop here because I have a really clear memory of learning the word penultimate. I felt really clever, but felt like I didn’t have any outlet to show off that I knew this word. I think I managed to wrangle it into a story at primary school at one point though, and remember being sad that nobody commented on it. Maybe it’s not such a clever word after all.
The penultimate addition to the salt family is the smoked sea salt, which I am more or less in love with. It’s a Johnny-come-lately kind of salt, and it’s turned my head with its fancy ways. It has replaced the coarse sea salt as my go-to guy for savoury garnishing needs and absolutely knocked it out of the park when it came to my last round of mini pretzel bites. Again, I haven’t applied myself to finding really excellent uses for it, but it’ll be there when I come up with something. The final salt I bought this week, and it’s just nothing but good old fine sea salt. I bought it to replace the table salt that ran out near the beginning of this surprising ramble about salt, after I filled a mill with coarse salt only to find that turning it gave out vast amounts of only slightly less coarse salt, rather than the small amounts of finely ground salt I was hoping for. It’s a cheap plastic mill, I think I’ll use it for a spice mix instead.
Now that you’re up to date on my salt habits, I’ll get back to the cake. After adding the pinch of you-know-what (salt! I can’t stop saying it), I folded in the raspberries to the mixture. It was ready to bake, which I did at 200C for fifteen to twenty minutes in my heart-shaped cake tin – the mix had to be done in two
batches, I only have the one tin. I let the cake cool, then stacked it up in my cake carrier to be finished of once I got to my parents’ house the next day. On my way there, I bought a tub of double cream, which I whipped up with about a tablespoon of granulated sugar and used to sandwich the cakes together, and also to serve for extra sweet-toothed decadence. To paraphrase Terry Pratchett, decadent doesn’t mean ‘having ten teeth’, but it could well lead to that state of affairs.