Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sticky Chocolate Cake

I love the smell and flavor of brandy, and have been particularly enchanted by the idea of soaking various things in brandy for cooking projects, so this recipe appealed to me right away (Sometimes I feel like one of Jack Lemmon's characters in The Great Race, whose mantra is "Brandy! More brandy!"). Not to mention the fact that it's a chocolate cake. Or that it employs prunes, whose pairing with chocolate I have long been curious about. Or that it has almost no refined sugar (only what is in the bittersweet chocolate). Or that it's called "sticky," which also aided its recent publication on Chocolate and Zucchini.

In any case, this was an interesting cake to make, although not one that I expect to receive many party invitations. It would be worthwhile to try it with white whole wheat flour, just to bump it completely out of the refined carbohydrate orbit and make it even more hearty. Come to think of it, I also made it low fat, except for the one egg yolk in it. I'll keep this tasty wall flower around just for the brandy and relative healthfulness!

I would hesitate to recommend its flavor and crumb to all, except for the fact that I just ate, ahem, two of them. I guess I approve the prune-chocolate coupling.

Sticky Chocolate Cake
From Chocolate and Zucchini

For the cake:
8 oz plump dried prunes (about 16 medium), pitted
1/3 C brandy* such as Cognac, Armagnac, or other brandy
1/2 C plain nonfat yogurt
1 egg
6 T unrefined light brown cane sugar
3 T maple syrup
1 C flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
3 T unsweetened cocoa powder
5 1/3 oz bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

For the syrup:
1/4 C unrefined light brown cane sugar

Preheat the oven to 360 degrees, grease the sides of a small cake pan (about 1 liter or 4 cups in capacity) and line the bottom with parchment paper, or line a muffin tin with cupcake liners for 12 cupcakes.

Place half of the prunes and the brandy in a small saucepan and heat over low heat until just slightly warm. Set aside to plump up.

Put the remaining prunes and the yogurt in a blender or mini-chopper, and process until smooth.

Pour into a large mixing bowl. Whisk in the egg, sugar, and maple syrup, beating well between each addition.

In a medium mixing bowl, place the flour, baking powder and soda, salt, and cocoa powder. Stir with a whisk to combine and break any lumps.

Fish the prunes from the brandy (reserve the brandy) and cut in halves. Set aside.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined; don't overmix. Fold in the chopped chocolate. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, level the surface, and top with the prune halves, pressing them down gently so they're half engulfed in the batter.

Bake for 30 minutes (15-20 for muffins), until set. A cake tester inserted in the center should come out clean (but don't mistake a melted chocolate chunk for raw batter).

While the cake is baking, prepare the syrup: add the 1/4 C sugar and 1/3 C water to the brandy in the pan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and remove from heat immediately.

When the cake comes out of the oven, pierce a few holes through it with a skewer and brush liberally with the warm syrup with a pastry brush, until saturated. Let cool completely before unmolding.

* If you can't or won't have liquor in your cake, you can replace the brandy with good black tea.

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