I live in a sleepy town that if you were´t specifically headed for it, you could easily miss it. Not even the train has a station here, and even though there are buses that connect us with the outside world, the shire is quite the quaint and peaceful little place, where time seems to stand still, and non us really mind at all.
If anything, living in a place where the world seem a million miles away, and where time has a distinct slower beat, only makes me treasure this tiny part of the world even more.
One cold and foggy autumn on the brink of winter´s day about two years ago, I arrived by taxi as the day drifted into evening, and the car came to a stop outside a wee thatched cottage, on the outskirts of town.
My heart skipped a beat, and I instantly knew this was my new home.
I felt I belonged there inside those thick stone walls, that weary yet strong hands had built over 200 years earlier.
So I began unpacking my new life, lit the grand fireplace on most evening to stay warm, and went for long wanders in the surrounding hills to introduce myself to this new land, and home.
I must admit, that even if my wanders were filled with stunning vistas of green rolling hills, history filled wonky cottages, and fern and moss overgrown forests, I quickly adapted to the afternoon tea ritual so promptly followed by many of this towns inhabitants. And began snuggling up inside teahouses around town, more often than not.
I´d wile the afternoon hours away with a pot of tea and a slice of cake. With each sip I felt like my mind and heart settled in more and more, and with each sweet bite, my palate developed a pinch for this newfound cake and scone world.
Afternoon tea is possible my favourite ritual, and I take it quite seriously, stopping the world with an hour of pure cake and tea heaven each day, where letters are written and books are read.
This is my hour, my hour to reflect, and to breathe.
Outside stack of wood are now piled high to keep the old fireplace going all winter long, sending comforting smoke signals to all the other cottages in the shire, letting them know I´m home.
It´s one of the most comforting things in the world, knowing that even if the heat of the summer has left, and cooler winds sweep across the landscape outside, fireplaces all across town are lit up at night to keep us toasty and warm, much like a cup of tea does during the day...
Although I definitely have my favourite cake or two, that I enjoy more often than not with my afternoon tea, there something to be said about a little seasonal change to my cake indulgence.
The hedges all over town are humbled to the point of breaking under the weight of the luscious and ripe blackberries that, at this time of the year, can be used in pretty much every meal of the day.
I sprinkle them on my warm porridge in the morning, make crumble and jam for the afternoon, and sauces for supper, but when made into a ganache, it instantly become best friends with chocolate.
Both so dark and sultry in colour and taste, they are practically begging to be mixed, folded and slathered in layers on top of each other, and that is precisely what I did for the cake inspired by this time of the year.
The recipe is an adapted version of Nigella Lawson´s "Devil Chocolate cake" and not that any of her recipes need to be altered one bit, I still took the liberty to tweak it here and there, and add my blackberry and balsamic ganache into the mix.
And please don't be intimidated by the seemingly long ingredients list, theres a lot of the same ingredients in both the cake and the frosting, and you probably have most of it in your pantry already...
Sultry chocolate cake with blackberry ganache
60g Organic cocoa powder
100g Dark muscovado sugar
2,5 dl Boiling water
125g Salted butter and some for greasing
150g Caster sugar
225g All purpose flour
½ tsp Baking powder
½ tsp Bicarbonate of soda
One handful of ripe blackberries for decoration
2 tsp Vanilla syrup
2 Organic free range eggs, room temperature
125 boiling water
20g dark muscovado sugar
150g salted butter
200 g milk chocolate
100 g dark chocolate
Pinch of freshly ground pepper
6 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp lemon juice
Begin with making the frosting and the ganache so that they have time to cool while you bake the cake.
Preheat the oven to 180 Celsius.
For the frosting:
In a pan on medium heat melt the butter in the water, and then add the chocolate, breaking it into bite size pieces so they melt faster.
Swirl the pan around while the chocolate melts, then drip in the vanilla syrup and with great gusto mix it all together to a luscious and glossy mixture, before setting it aside to cool.
For the ganache:
In a saucepan over low heat combine the blackberries, sugar, balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. Let it simmer over a low heat for 10 minutes, then set it aside to cool.
I like to mash the blackberries at bit with the back of a spoon at this point to really combine it all and make it into one syrupy and soft sauce.
Once cooled it´s ready to be used.
For the cake:
Mix together in a bowl the cocoa powder and muscovado sugar with the boiling water.
I like to sift the cocoa as I mix it in so as to avoid lumps in the batter.
In another bowl mix room temperature butter with sugar to a fluffy almost white mixture, feel free to ue and hand mixer as your arms will ache for days attempting this with bare muscle power.
Then whisk in one egg at the time.
I like mixing the flour and baking soda and baking powder together first and then sifting and folding it into the sugar and butter batter, so as to keep as much fluff as possible.
Then fold in the cocoa mixture folding to keep the air in.
Grease two cake tins with butter making sure you cover every nook, before dividing the batter between the two cake tins.
Pop them in the middle of the oven, till a toothpick comes out clean, about 25-30 min depending on the oven.
Let the cake tins rest on a rack for 5 min before removing the cakes, and leaving them for another 10 min to cool down.
On a serving tray plonk the first cake down, then slather on the first chocolate frosting layer, keeping enough to cover the top and sides of the cake once you´ve put the top layer on.
Follow up by generously spreading on top of the frosting, a layer of blackberry ganache.
Plonk the top layer of cake on, and get down with the frosting, decorating the cake as beautiful or rustic as you want with the remaining chocolate frosting, before adding a handful of fresh blackberries to the top like a wee seasonal crown.
Sprinkle over a careful dusting of cocoa powder, and serve with a warm cup of tea, or a cooling glass of slow gin, as shown in the firs picture..