I’ve gone through this before with the blog, but this time its work. During the week just past, I made two batches of sponge that went wrong. Not completely horrendous but still not right. I made Blood Orange Marmalade that was too thick and syrupy that I had to let it down the next day with more water. I then wrapped up some beautiful Green Tea Chiffon Gateaux’s that I had made, only to find the next day that the paper had stuck to the white glaze like superglue and I lost half of them.
I recite all this now and it doesn’t seem like much, but at the time I felt like a crap Pastry Chef. Things like this don’t usually happen to me, especially with things so basic, so it was a bit of a blow to my Chef ego. Granted most of these things happened on day 8 of being at work. Still, I felt like I had lost it. I was so thankful for my days off as they couldn’t have come at a better time. I think I just needed some time away from the kitchen. The worst thing about all this was that in most of these baking failures, I didn’t actually know what I had done wrong.
However, there is one good thing that came out of that disastrous week and its kind of restored my faith in myself a bit. Kind of. This indulgent, beautifully basic, but delicious Chocolate Ale Cake.
I absolutely adore desserts like this; easy and simple but still comforting and packed full of flavour. Using Dark Ale within the Chocolate Sponge gives it an almost treacle flavour as it mixes with the Dark Muscovado Sugar. It also adds a lot of moisture into the cake.
As you serve this out to your loved ones, you dip through the dark sponge and hit a layer of soft fruity Pears. This pairing is so delicate and unassuming, but the rich sponge works perfectly with the more timid flavour of the juicy Pear. I decided to serve this dessert with a Chocolate sauce mottled with the roasted flavour of Coffee.
Get away from the dull and dreary weather, sit down, snuggle up and wrap your hands around a steaming bowl of this treat and just melt into unadulterated you time.
- 3 small-medium pears
- 200ml dark ale
- 50g cocoa powder
- 2 tsp. fine ground instant coffee
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 110g unsalted butter, softened
- 275g muscovado sugar
- 2 eggs
- 175g plain flour
- 1/4 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
Chocolate Coffee Sauce
- 100g good quality dark chocolate
- 250ml double cream
- 50g unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp. caster sugar
- 2 tsp. fine ground instant coffee
Preheat your oven to 170C.
Begin by peeling your Pears and cutting them in half. Take out the core using a small melon ball or a small spoon as well as cut off the top stalk and bottom. Place each half pear facing down onto the base of 25cm by 20cm baking dish (or something similarly sized) until the base of the dish is covered in pears.
For the chocolate ale sponge, start by whisking together the ale, cocoa powder, instant coffee and vanilla until a paste is formed. In a medium-sized bowl, cream together the butter and muscovado sugar until fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Stir in the ale/cocoa paste until fully combined.
Note: I have made this sponge twice in the past and each time had problems with splitting at this stage. Don’t worry though, it should come back together when the dry ingredients have been added.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Mix this into your wet ingredients in three batches until the batter is smooth and lump free.
Pour the chocolate batter over the Pear dish and level so that it is one smooth layer. Place in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes depending on your oven. Keep an eye on your cake as it may need to be covered with aluminium foil part of the way through cooking to keep it from burning on the top. Take out of the oven when a knife is inserted and it comes out with a few moist crumbs. (Because this is a ‘serve in a bowl’ kind of dessert, its ok if it’s still a little gooey. Some may even say better!)
While the cake is cooking, you can get on with the chocolate sauce.
Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water until melted. In another small pan, place the cream, butter, coffee and caster sugar. Bring this just to the boil so that the cream is hot and the butter is melted. Whisk the cream into the melted chocolate and place in a jug for serving. This can be kept in the fridge for three days and reheated when needed.
Serve the cake warm with a generous serving of hot chocolate sauce.