I’m really up against it at the moment. My life is full of work, deadlines, stress – that toxic brew which leads to me waking up each morning feeling as though my jaw has been clamped in a vice because I’ve been clenching it so hard in my sleep. And that’s without the psychic swipes I keep taking at myself for not blogging as often as I should. In such circumstances, there’s only one thing for it. I need to bake.
When some people get stressed, they go and hit a punching bag. For others, the only way to work off their malaise is to go for a five mile run, or drink a tumbler full of whiskey and get into a fight. My personal release valve is none of these things. Indeed, I only feel that awful yoke of anxiety lift from my shoulders when I’m in the kitchen creaming eggs and sugar together, or thumping the living daylights out of a huge lump of dough whilst singing along to the radio. I come alive when I bake. Perhaps there’s something wrong with me.
So, last Sunday, I shoved my to-do list and my worldly cares to one side, broke out the chocolate, and decided to make a cake. A ‘Dense Chocolate-Rum Cake’ to be exact. It was supposed to be a straight up recreation of Nigella Lawson’s famous Dense Chocolate Loaf, but circumstances contrived to work against me. So, I decided to (for want a better term) ‘freestyle’ a bit. I’ve replaced the vanilla essence she uses in her recipe with dark rum (because hey, show me a person that doesn’t like rum) and I used Green and Black’s Dark Chocolate with Espresso Beans because it was just what I had in my fridge at the time.
The end result was magnificent – rich and delicious, with a dense consistency and an almost treacle flavour. The slight hint of coffee and rum complemented the dark chocolate perfectly, and it almost reminded me of a very grown up version of Parkin. Both myself and Mr. Cay ate huge slices of this with a vanilla spiked cream and a nice mug of builder’s tea, and suddenly all was right with the world.
This cake won’t write my work reports for me, blog for me, or even be accepted by my debtors in lieu of payment. But, when I’m eating it, it does make the world feel that little bit brighter. Even if it is only for five minutes.
DENSE CHOCOLATE-RUM CAKE (Makes 6-8 medium sized portions)
Adapted from a recipe by Nigella Lawson
You will need:
- 225 g salt soft unsalted butter
- 375 g dark muscovado sugar
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1 large glug of dark rum
- 100 g best dark chocolate, melted (I used Green & Black’s Dark Chocolate Espresso Bar for a nice coffee kick)
- 200 g plain flour
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- Preheat the oven to 190C/gas5. Grease and line a 23x13x7cm cm (9x5x3in) loaf tin (or, alternatively, you can use a silicon baking dish). Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and rum, beating in well.
- Next fold in the melted and cooled chocolate, taking care to blend well but do not overbeat.
- You want the ingredients combined: you don’t want a light airy mass. Gently add the flour, to which you’ve added the bicarb, alternately spoon by spoon, with 250 ml of boiling water until you have a smooth and fairly liquid batter.
- Pour into the lined loaf tin and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 170C/gas mark 3 and cook for another 15 minutes. The cake will still be a bit squidgy inside, so an inserted cake tester or skewer won’t come out completely clean.
- Place the loaf tin on a rack and leave to get completely cold before turning it out. It improves if left for a day or so before eating. This cake will probably sink in the middle because of its denseness.