No chocolate, no smile.

Some people are just great bakers.  I am not one of them.  It’s an effort for me and I have to concentrate to achieve anything approaching average or good.  This only makes me more eager to try new recipes and get better each time.

It can be disheartening when N’s good friend comes round with a gorgeous coffee and walnut cake and says, “Oh, I just threw it together before I came round.”  You “threw it together”?  I’d have spent the best part of an afternoon trying to make it and would probably have thrown it in the bin at the end.

Well, fear not!  The recipe that I’m sharing with you today is one that anybody could follow for a successful outcome.  I know this to be true because I managed to get a tasty result without any gnashing of teeth or pulling of hair.  This chocolate pudding is fool-proof and packs plenty of chocolate too.

I know what you’re thinking: Why a chocolate pudding when it is spring in England?  Honestly?  I’ll tell you why.  A week or so ago, I went for a meal with colleagues and was outraged to find that the set menu we had booked for did not contain a chocolate option for pudding.  To clarify, the puddings on offer contained not one ounce of chocolate between them.  There was souffle, sorbet and the like, but no chocolate.  There was more fruit than anything else and you know how I feel about fruit rearing its healthy head in a pudding menu.  Disgraceful!  I was sick to the stomach, but not sick enough to put me off my starter and main.  Jamais!

To be fair, I don’t always want a chocolate-based pudding after a meal, but I feel it is only fair to have the option.  Feeling disappointed, I returned home and decided to make a chocolate pudding that was quite traditional, but easy to make.  Steamed puddings were not in my repertoire, but now that I’ve had a go, I will definitely be making more!  What follows is my recipe for a chocolate pudding that is uncomplicated and satisfying.  The texture is pretty is dense, but I won’t apologise for that.  It’s a pudding that will stick to your ribs and finish your meal with a chocolate thud.  Hurrah!

What’s your favourite pudding?

Chocolate pudding with Bailey’s chocolate sauce

100g melted butter

100g melted dark chocolate

100g caster sugar

3 eggs

75g plain flour

50g cocoa powder

(For the sauce)

100g dark chocolate

50g butter

5 tblspoons water

50ml Bailey’s Irish Cream Liqueur

1 tblspoon caster sugar

This recipe will make four steamed puddings.  Begin by putting the eggs and caster sugar into a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water.  You’ll need to whisk the eggs and sugar for about ten minutes until they are light and frothy.  It’s not fun, but it’s good exercise.

Once this is done, take the bowl off the heat and gently fold in the cocoa powder and the flour with a spatula or wooden spoon.  Once combined, do the same with the melted butter.  Repeat with the melted chocolate until you have a luscious, dark liquid that is begging to be steamed into pudding glory.

Grease the inside of four pudding pots with a little butter and pour in the chocolate mixture.  Cover the puddings with foil and seal tightly around the edges.  You could use baking paper and string for this, but I didn’t and the results were good.

Pop the pudding pots into a big pan on the hob and pour in hot water.  The hot water should reach just over halfway up the sides of the pudding pots.  Keep the water simmering and steam the puddings for about forty minutes.  You can do this with the lid on the pan, but be careful not to let the water bubble up and into the puddings.  Alternatively, you can simmer the water without a lid on and just top up the water as it evaporates.

The puddings will rise up (and take over the world) and become firm on top when they are done.

To make the sauce, put everything except the Bailey’s into a small pan and melt together.  Stir the sauce, take it off the heat and then stir in the Bailey’s.  If you prefer not to have alcohol in the sauce, simply omit the Bailey’s and you’ll have a very nice chocolate treat to pour over your puddings.  You could use a liqueur of your choice.  I served mine with the sauce poured over and some coffee beans for decoration.

These steamed chocolate puddings are cute, but be careful.  I had stomach ache after finishing a second pudding.  Perhaps it’s best to eat just one.  Hmmm…an interesting idea.  I’ll certainly consider it.

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Fairtrade chocolate brownie cake with Bailey’s butter cream.

As soon as the words had left my mouth, I felt deep and utter shame.  What had I become?  Who was this slightly overweight individual who looked for opportunities to terrorize his arteries with butter and chocolate milk?  Why had I let myself turn into someone who could conceive of such a sentence.  Brownies are not boring.

I know, I know.  The sentence left my mouth before I’d had time to think of it.  N managed to barely conceal her disbelief behind a veil of disapproval.  The dog looked at me as if to say, “Shame on you.”  The fact is, that food blogging can push a person to look for more and more unique food ideas.  Not a bad thing altogether, but it can make a food lover look beyond the simple things and that is where sentences like the one I blurted out, can find themselves released into the open kitchen air.

N wanted to know why I’d used my brownie recipe to construct a cake?  Why had I made a butter cream filling and sliced it up?  Essentially, why had I not just made brownies?  My answer was unforgivable.

If you’ll continue to read, however, I can assure you that what follows is a chocolate-filled delight and one with a conscience.

I used a favourite brownie recipe and simply cut the whole baked brownie in half so that I could sandwich the butter cream.  I used Fairtrade sugar and Fairtrade chocolate and it only took a matter of minutes to whisk up the brownie batter.  A splash of Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur gave everything a new dimension.  Brownies are fun and delicious and so many things to so many people.  If you aren’t up for something like a cake filled with Bailey’s butter cream, I can highly recommend my brownie recipe as it is.  You’ll still end up with moist, rich brownies that have a thin, flaky crust and a chewy centre; and there’s nothing boring about that.

Faritrade chocolate brownie cake with Bailey’s butter cream.

200g Fairtrade caster sugar

100g Fairtrade dark chocolate

3 eggs

70g pecan nuts

50g butter

50g plain flour

1 tspoon baking powder

(For the Bailey’s butter cream)

200g icing sugar

120g butter

50ml Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur

1 tblspoon cocoa powder

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl.  Next, whisk the eggs and the caster sugar together in another bowl and then mix in the flour and baking powder.  Time for the chocolate!  Pour it into the flour and egg mixture and then mix in the pecans.

Line an eight inch tin with baking paper and pour the brownie batter into it.  Bake the brownie at 140 degrees Celsius for forty-five minutes.  I baked mine at 120 degrees because I used my fan oven.

When the brownie has cooled completely, cut it in half ready to assemble the cake.

Beat the butter, icing sugar, cocoa powder and Bailey’s with an electric hand mixer until they have formed a fluffy and light butter cream.  Spread over the top of one of the brownie pieces and then place the other half on top.  Fairtrade chocolate brownie cake with Bailey’s butter cream complete.  Cut off a chunk and switch your phone to silent.  You may be some time…

Why I’m not known for my lightness of touch.

The thing about a secret drizzle cake, is that nobody knows it’s a drizzle cake until they eat it, and even then, they’re not sure.  All they know is that it’s incredibly moist.

I am a huge fan of lemon drizzle cake and particularly those with poppy seeds in them.  I think that the sticky, sweetness and moist centre are just perfect.  It occurred to me recently, that I don’t know of any other types of drizzle cake.  This brought me to a question so staggeringly obvious that I could only answer with action: can I make a chocolate drizzle cake?

With N out of the house and the baby asleep, I set about completing what had now become a mission of the utmost importance.

My usual downfall is my need to represent flavours fully in every dish.  My poorest concoctions tend to be recipes in which I have added too much of something.  It happens more often than it should.  I sprinkle some cinnamon into a dish and then I think, “How will that tiny amount make a difference?  How will anyone even detect it?  Why bother putting such a miniscule amount in?  Need more.  Must have more.  And then some more to make sure”.  Dish is finished.  Dimitri tastes the dish and,  “Bin.  Must go in bin”.

It’s rare that I knowingly pull off subtlety.  Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to thread needles while wearing boxing gloves.  I want there to be little hints of this, a suggestion of that, a slight background accent, an ever so delicate nuance within the combination of flavours.  Imagining my food were a painting, I’d be looking to achieve a gentle merging of light and colour that was akin to the work of Degas.  On a given Sunday (or in this case, Thursday), I am more likely to turn out a propaganda poster from the forties: bold, uncompromising, and all the subtlety of a brick.

Before I’d even cracked an egg into the bowl, I knew that with this chocolate cake, I should actually embrace my heavy-handed approach.  Why not produce a chocolate cake so uncompromising in its chocolateness that it would terrify every other cake on the shelf.  A chocolate cake so rich and dark that Victoria sponge cakes blush as he catches them in his steady gaze.  A cake so self-assured that the cup cakes huddle together to steady their nerves and the old fruit loaf keeps still and wishes he were younger and braver.  Yes, I would make a secret chocolate drizzle cake.  I would include lots of real chocolate.  I would use Amaretto, a shot of Bailey’s, cinnamon by the truck-load and enough syrup to fill a bath.  How do you make a secret chocolate drizzle cake?  I’ll show you.

Secret chocolate drizzle cake

(For the cake)

200g dark chocolate

5 eggs

250g butter

160g plain flour

100ml Amaretto

120g dark brown sugar

1 tblspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

(For the syrup)

250ml water

200g sugar

(For the filling)

140ml double cream

100g plain cooking chocolate

50ml Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur

(For decoration)

A tub of chocolate fudge icing

glace cherries

dark chocolate for grating

Before we begin, this isn’t really a recipe for the kids.  It’s a chocolate cake for the grown-ups.  Yay!  It’s also a rather long recipe, but here goes!

Line two 20cm sandwich tins with baking paper and set aside.  Preheat your oven to 170 degrees Celsius.  The first thing to do is to melt the butter, sugar and chocolate together in a bowl over some simmering water.  Set the bowl to one side once everything has melted and let it cool.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs until they are full of air and looking fluffy and bubbly.  They’re ready for the chocolate mixture to be whisked in.  Pour the chocolate carefully into the bowl as you whisk.  Next, add the Amaretto and continue to whisk.

Finally, add the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt and whisk until there are no lumps.  The cake batter is ready.  Divide it between the sandwich tins and bake in the centre of the oven for about twenty to twenty-five minutes until the top is firm.  Check that the cake is done by inserting a skewer into the middle.  If it comes out clean, it’s done.

Only two more things to make; the filling and the syrup.  Let’s do the syrup.  Boil the suagr and water for at least five minutes until you have a thicker liquid.  Set it aside to cool slightly.

When the cakes are done, let them cool and then make lots of holes all over them using a skewer or chopstick.  Try not to go all the way through.  Pour the syrup over the cakes so that they are soaked.  You don’t need to use all of the syrup if the cake will be too soft.  We don’t want the cake to crumble or become soggy.

While the cake absorbs the syrup we can move onto making the filling.  Simply melt everything in a milk pan and stir gently until there are no lumps.  You need to leave this to cool so that you can spread it onto the cake.

Now it’s the construction job.  Place the bottom half of the cake on a plate or cake stand.  Pour and spread the cooled chocolate filling onto the cake and then gently position the top half on it.  When I did this, I hadn’t let the filling cool enough and it oozed everywhere.  Thanks to Betty Crocker, I had a tub of chocolate fudge icing on hand to cover the entire cake.  This kept the filling where it should be and also turned the cake into a secret drizzle cake!  From the outside, it will look just like a regular chocolate fudge cake.

I finished my cake with cherries and chocolate shavings.  No contemporary finish here.  It was retro, but with good reason.  The cherries help me when I come to cutting slices.  I’m a simple creature.

If you want everything to firm up, put the cake in the fridge for a couple of hours.  Try heating a slice in the microwave for fifteen seconds and see it all ooze into chocolate loveliness.  I admit, there are lots of stages in making this cake, but it’s great if you’re feeling indulgent and have the time.  Go on, treat yourself to a big chocolate hug.