chocolate ginger cake {+ chocolate leaves!}

The Xmas decs are up, the Michael Bublé album is on, and it’s bloody cold outside… it can only be December time!

I handed in a piece of coursework this morning that I’ve been working on for weeks, so I felt I truly deserved a leisurely afternoon singing Christmas tunes and baking something full of wintery flavours. Life has been busy; not only on the work front but also on the amdram side of my life. I was part of the backstage team for a play at my old halls of residence last week, which meant lots of rehearsals, three performances and a couple of hilarious nights out. It was so much fun, particularly hanging out with all the freshers (man, I feel old writing that!) but I’m enjoying having a quieter week to recover!

Let’s talk about this cake. I’ve had my eye on it for a little while and an idea in my mind for decorating it – tempered chocolate leaves (more on that shortly!). The cake made our kitchen smell awesome – one of those warm, spiced scents that I always associate with the festive season – and it went down very well with my housemates. I had great fun this morning walking in random circles round campus trying to find a holly bush and then not look like a nutter whilst choosing the ‘best’ leaves and spiking myself in the process. Ah, the life I lead 😉

I found that this was the best guide to the tempering process, although I didn’t follow it to the letter. My bowl was far too big, which made getting accurate temperatures difficult I’m such a scientist. But it seemed to work ok. Although the end result wasn’t insanely shiny, it did have a very satisfying ‘snap’. More practice needed on that one, for sure! Peeling the leaves off was the trickiest part. The holly came off easier because the leaves are shiny, but the chocolate broke because of the rippled shape. The sage was a bit of an experiment, and didn’t end particularly well. Nigh impossible to separate the two… I’m concluding that a flat, shiny leave like bay would probably be best in future.

Not sure I feel the chocolate bits in the cake are necessary. Maybe I should’ve coated them in flour but they just sank to the bottom and felt like a bit of an afterthought. I may just leave them out next time or use the dark chocolate in the icing instead.

from Scarletscorchdroppers (which in turn was from Nigella)

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 85g unsalted butter/marg
  • 70g dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 100g golden syrup
  • 100g black treacle
  • 1/8tsp ground cloves (a generous pinch)
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb. soda
  • 1 tbsp warm water
  • 1 egg
  • 125ml milk
  • 140g plain flour
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 80g dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces

Icing: {optional, I think it would work equally well without}

  • approx. 1 tbsp butter
  • cocoa powder
  • icing sugar
  • hot water
  • ground ginger

Method:

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Line a small rectangular tin with greaseproof paper. 
Measure out the butter, sugars, syrup, treacle and spices into a saucepan, and heat gently on the stove until the ingredients have melted and mixed together. Take off the heat.
Mix together the egg and milk in a jug; mix the bicarb and water in a mug.
Transfer the syrup into a large mixing bowl; add the egg/milk mixture and the bicarb/water mixture and combine with a spatula. 
Sift the flour and cocoa into the bowl and fold through. Finally, add the chocolate bits and pour into the tin. Bake for 45 minutes (a good time to muck about with melted chocolate!), until coming away slightly from the edges of the tin. Leave to cool.
Remove the cake from its tin. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat, add about a tablespoon of cocoa powder and mix it through. Add icing sugar until it gets saturated; then add a little water to thin it out. Repeat this process until you have the desired quantity and consistency, adding cocoa powder and a pinch of ground ginger along the way if you feel the need to! 
Spread the icing over the cooled cake and decorate. 

Chocolate leaves:

  • 100g dark chocolate {this would probably cover 10 leaves}
  • Clean, non-toxic leaves {shiny and flat is best, ie. bay leaves}
  • Vegetable oil
If you’re not tempering (it requires a thermometer), then melt all the chocolate and use it as soon as it’s runny. 
Tempering: melt two-thirds of the chocolate and save the remaining third for later. Bring the chocolate up to around 45 degrees Celsius.
Now, as I understand it, you have to reduce the temperature to around 27. The quickest way to do this is to take the bowl off the heat and add the remaining third of chocolate. Stir quickly so that it all melts together (I found that I had to return the bowl to the double-boiler for 10-second bursts a couple of times).
Finally, bring it back up to around 31 degrees before using. 
Using your fingers or a clean paintbrush, coat the underside of the leaf in a little vegetable oil. Next, paint quite a thick layer of melted chocolate on the same side, making sure to cover the whole surface. Transfer the leaves to the fridge to set up.
Such a professional job 😉
When the chocolate is solid you can {very carefully!} peel the leaves away, and use them as decoration. 

Our house Christmas tree!
Hope you’re all enjoying the run-up to Christmas! 🙂
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