To get to our new flat from our old flat, you go out the front door, turn left and then left again and walk for a little under two minutes (we timed it one day).
It was a little over three weeks ago that we did that walk for the last time. It was pouring with rain and we ran down the road, clutching bin bags filled with whatever of our possessions wouldn’t fit in the van.
I just had to double-check my diary to make sure that it really was less than a month ago that we moved. It doesn’t seem possible that we could only have had 24 days in our new flat and that we haven’t always lived here.
When I thought about what I was going to say in this post, I imagined writing about how strange it was to come out of the tube station and turn left rather than right. About how the stacks of unpacked boxes make me feel unsettled. How is sort of feels like we’re just on holiday and will have to go back to our old flat soon.
Except it doesn’t at all. It just feels like home.
And that is despite the fact that we are still sleeping in the guest bedroom while we wait for our bedroom to be finished and that our kitchen is nothing more than a shell (albeit one that, as of last Friday, has a functioning oven). There may be boxes piled in every corner and a distinct lack of any pictures on our walls but it still feels like home.
On Saturday morning, I padded around the concrete floor of the kitchen with the radio on and the windows open. I riffled through boxes until I found a couple of cake tins. I gave up looking for a mixing bowl when I came across a saucepan that would do the trick. I used a mug to measure out my ingredients and a fork to combine everything. Soon, the smell of new paint was replaced by the smell of chocolate cake. In the afternoon, I stood in a patch of sun (sun! in my kitchen!) and iced the cake, swirling the frosting with an offset spatula that had turned up, slightly incongruously, in my make up bag. There were edible gold and silver stars bought a few months ago especially for this very occasion. As the cake chilled, I made a large pot of ragu bolognese and, that evening, we ate our first proper meal at our new dining table. If I didn’t feel at home before, I certainly do now.
Chocolate and sour cream cake
Yield: Serves 6-8
This cake is really just this chocolate & salted caramel bundt cake (adapted from my lovely friend Sarah) halved and poured into four 7-inch pans rather than a bundt tin. I realised when researching (in the loosest possible terms) this post that actually, a recipe involving 7-inch pans is not particularly helpful if you don’t live in the UK as 7-inch pans don’t seem to be as widely available elsewhere as they are here and 6 or 8-inch pans seem to be far more common. As my cake layers were pretty thin, I’d imagine that the same amount of batter would probably be fine in a 6-inch tin. If you only have 8-inch tins, I’d advise just making two layers. You might be able to cut them in half carefully if you are desperate for all four. With both sizes, you’ll probably need to cook the cake for slightly longer but you’ll need to keep an eye on the oven. The frosting – just a mix of milk and dark chocolate and sour cream – is wonderfully rich. You really don’t need more than a relatively thin layer between each layer of cake. The original recipe advises not keeping the frosted cake in the fridge; I much preferred the texture when it was plus I wasn’t really overwhelmed with having all that dairy out on the counter in the middle of June.
For the cake:
- 40g (1 1/2 oz) dark chocolate, chopped
- 30g (3/8 cup) cocoa powder (plus extra for the tin)
- 120ml (1/2 cup) hot strong coffee
- 70g (5/8 cup) gluten free flour (or plain flour)
- 30g (1/3 cup) ground almonds
- 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoonsea salt
- 180g (1 cup) dark brown soft sugar
- 30ml (2 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sour cream
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the frosting:
- 150g (6oz) dark chocolate, chopped
- 150g (6oz) milk chocolate, chopped
- 225g (1 cup) sour cream
- A generous pinch of salt
- Edible gold and silver stars, optional
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Grease four 7-inch round cake tins with butter and dust with cocoa powder.
Combine the chocolate, cocoa powder and hot coffee in a small bowl and gently stir until the chocolate has melted and the cocoa is dissolved. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
In a separate bowl, lightly whisk together the flour, almonds, bicarbonate of soda/baking soda and salt.
Whisk the melted chocolate together with the sugar, olive oil, sour cream, egg and vanilla for a couple of minutes until the mixture is smooth. Add the dry ingredients a third at at time, lightly whisking between each addition until the flour is just incorporated.
Pour the batter into the cake tins and bake for about 15 minutes until firm to the touch and a toothpick comes out clean if inserted in the middle. Leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack.
When the cakes are cool, wrap them up in cling film and chill in the fridge for an hour or two. This will make frosting the cake so much easier and much less infuriating.
When the cakes are chilled, make the frosting by melting together the dark and milk chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. When the chocolate has melted, take it off the heat and beat in the sour cream and salt until smooth. Allow the frosting to cool until room temperature before trying to frost the cake.
I’m the first to admit that I’m no expert at frosting a cake but my general technique is as follows: Place the bottom layer of the cake on the plate or cake stand that you’re going to serve it on. Tear off strips of greaseproof paper and slide them under the cake all the way round to minimise the chances of getting frosting everywhere. Place a generous dollop of frosting on the cake and spread it almost, but not quite, to the edges with an offset spatula. Place another layer of cake on top and spread another spoonful of frosting. Continue until you’ve used up all your layers. Pour yourself a drink and congratulate yourself on getting this far.
Next, I do a thin layer of frosting using my precious offset spatula again all over the cake (top and sides). This is the crumb coat designed to keep the final layer looking as pristine as possible. It doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect. I also try to fill in any gaps or lopsidedness. Chill the cake for 15 minutes or so. Finally, use the rest of the frosting to finish the cake. That offset spatula is useful again to get a smooth finish but I tend to leave my frosting looking fairly rustic (hence the edible gold and silver stars to distract everyone). If my explanation makes no sense, this tutorial from Butter Me Up, Brooklyn is really helpful.
This cake is pretty rich so you only need a relatively thin slice and little vanilla ice cream or creme friache definitely does not go amiss.