Friday, May 12, 2023


The joy of savouring a cake, to me as a baker, includes each and every step; from blending the batter, to carefully filling and frosting the cake, to lovingly serving each slice. The beauty is in the entire process.
And at times, all one needs is a slice of homemade chocolate cake. Simple, unadorned, yet utterly soft, flavourful, and rich. Just like every cake should be.
To me, the combination of apricot and chocolate is a seldom-dethroned classic when it comes to desserts. Especially with a homemade apricot jam, still slightly warm and even a tad soft.
If they are not in season, jam can also be made with tinned apricots, of course, only omitting any additional sugar. Simply blended into a fine purée, and cooked until thick and fragrant, they pair marvellously with the chocolate in every way.

For the soft chocolate cake layers
250 grams plain flour
40 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons instant espresso powder
200 grams granulated sugar
100 grams light brown sugar
400 millilitres boiling water
80 millilitres vegetable oil
20 millilitres dark rum
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
For the apricot jam
350 grams apricots, fresh or frozen, stones removed
100 grams granulated sugar
30 millilitres unfined Riesling
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the chocolate mousse
150 grams dark chocolate (75%)
50 grams extra dark chocolate (95%)
500 millilitres plant-based double cream
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
small pinch of salt

Start by making the chocolate mousse filling, as it needs a bit of time to chill and set before filling the cake. Chop up the chocolate finely, add it to a heavy bottomed saucepan, add in the plant cream, salt, and the vanilla, and place over medium heat. Gently stir with a spatula as it melts, making sure it does not come to a boil. It will take some time to fully blend, but that is normal. This can also be done in a double boiler or in the microwave, in increments. Once everything is smooth and combined, remove it from the heat, snugly cover with cling film, and let it cool down to room temperature. As soon as it does cool, transfer it to the refrigerator for 5-6 hours.
Next, make the small batch apricot jam. Blend the apricots into a fine, smooth purée, add them to a heavy bottomed saucepan, and add in the sugar. Place the saucepan over medium heat and let the mixture come to a simmer. As soon as it starts simmering, add in the wine, and start stirring. Because it is such a small batch, it really needs attentiveness while it cooks. Cook, stirring almost constantly, until it reduces by about half. After about 15 minutes of cooking, it should be done. It can be cooked even further, and the jam will only get thicker and more intense in colour. Once you are happy with the consistency of the jam, remove it from the heat, and let it cool down.

To make the soft chocolate cake, take a very large bowl and sift in the plain flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add in the sugars and mix very well. Line a rectangular cake pan (20x30 cm) with baking parchment, bottom and sides, and set it aside. Make a well in the very centre of the dry ingredients; pour in the water, oil, vanilla, rum, and the vinegar, and whisk until just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, tap it lightly on the work surface, and bake immediately in a preheated oven, at 180°C, for about 18-20 minutes, or until done. As every over bakes differently, do check it with a toothpick, making sure it stays fudgy, soft, and not dry. Let it cool in the pan completely.
Once everything is ready, proceed to assemble the cake. Level the cake and trim the sides, if necessary, and slice it in half crosswise and lengthwise, to create four thin rectangular layers. Set them aside for the time being.
Take the chocolate filling out of the refrigerator, and whip it into a mousse, using an electric mixer on the highest setting. Whip only until firm peaks start to form, so it does not split. If desired, reserve a few tablespoons of the mousse for the decoration, and divide the rest into three equal parts. Slightly heat up the jam so it is easier to spread.
Place the first cake layer on the serving platter, place a cake form around it, line it with a tall sheet of acetate, and close it in place.
Spread a third of the apricot jam over the cake layer, and wait so it starts to soak into it, and then spread a third of the chocolate mousse on top. Be gentle with it, so it does not deflate. Repeat this until all the ingredients are used up, and the cake is topped with the final cake layer. If you have some jam leftover, spread it over the last layer, if not, it will still be fine.
Place the cake into the refrigerator for at least eight hours or overnight. When ready, remove the cake form and the acetate, decorate with the reserved mousse, and slice it into thin slices. Serve with strong coffee. Yields 12 servings.