It’s been a time of miracles in the Lewishambles household, and much change. Housemate has hit the road and is now safely settled in her lovely new flat in Streatham and suddenly I have to take two busses to get a decent cuppa round here. We’re also finally looking at doing up the kitchen and have designs on buying what seems like SE London’s entire supply of chalk paint (holla at me Paris Grey!) to repaint the rather gloomy cupboards.
The weekend of the bank holiday was therefore spent redistributing items around the flat, washing and shampooing carpets and reorganising the kitchen cupboards so that I’m not consumed with guilt every time I open a door and look into the mess of pan lids and squashed spaghetti packets. We even got in and defrosted the freezer (and mysteriously, the fridge, which was busy eating up forgotten jars of miso).
In between all of that I managed to realise that it was a year ago today that the Lovely One took me on a walk up to Blackheath and gave me a sparkly little ring and asked me to be his missus, officially. On a day like today, in between moving around furniture and using the world’s noisiest Rug Doctor*, a nice little treat seemed entirely appropriate.
I’ve already extolled the virtues of Merle Parrish’s freaky fatless sponge, and I thought that it was time to tackle another Australian classic from her baking book. I half-considered a cinnamon sponge, which also turns up in the pages of the Golden Wattle Cookbook, a Perth classic which has been used by Home Economics students in WA since its publication in 1926. It even has a recipe for Kangaroo tail soup (a variation on Oxtail, friends!). I half-wondered if Merle might have taken a bit of cheeky inspo there, but fundamentally it’s what all cooks do. Half-inspiration, half-emulation, with maybe a pinch of something different.
That’s the approach I took to Merle’s chocolate sponge recipe, which looked like it carried the risk of being less chocolatey and more sugary. I wasn’t taken, though, with the “mock cream” filling, which frankly is something of an indicator of Merle’s upbringing, Australia being a place where “mock” so-and-sos are still acceptable. Don’t get me wrong, I like a buttercream, but the ratio of butter to sugar seemed less driven by deliciousness, and more driven by the desire to maintain a stable filling which won’t go rancid in the heat of a Country Women’s Association judging tent. However, if the previous recipe was any prediction, it would likely turn out rather a fine sponge, so I decided a filling with a little more oomph was required.
The Lovely One is obsessed with a Black Forest cake, so I decided a little twist would be rather well received, rippling cherries through a cream filling and adding a swirl of dark chocolate ganache to up the chocolatey goodness, as the final sponge is more “brown” than “chocolate”.
A final layer of simmered cherries creates a little burst of sweetness with every bite and is basically mouth porn. I also subbed in golden caster sugar for more caramel undertones in the sponge. This being a German-inspired cake, with a light fluffy texture, I decided to give it an appropriate name. It may even make an appearance at the wedding – who knows?
serves 8-10 – apologies for for American cup measurements, I couldn’t be arsed with conversions!
1 cup plain flour, less 1 tbsp
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cocoa
4 medium eggs, separated
pinch of salt
1 cup golden caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
30g butter, melted
2 tbsp boiling water
For the filling:
1 cup frozen cherries
3 tbsp golden caster sugar
200 ml double cream
- Grease and line 2 x 20cm sandwich tins, and preheat the oven to 180c. Prepare a shitload of bowls cos it’s going to get messy up in your kitchen. Sift your flour, cocoa and baking powder together three times to ensure you have the lightest possible result on the final cake.
- Now, you basically make a meringue. Take your egg whites, and in a large clean bowl, with a little pinch of salt, whip (with an electric hand whisk, obviously, no need to martyr yourself here) to soft peaks before spooning in your caster sugar a tbsp at a time. Gradually the sugar will melt into the egg whites, making it a glorious shiny caramel colour and becoming very soft and glossy. Take your time with this process, allow the cake time to whip up. Because you’re using plain flour, it needs the help!
- Add in the yolks and vanilla and beat in just to combine. Don’t knock out too much air! Then, taking a spatula, fold in the flour mixture before folding in the butter and boiling water. This is the weird bit – the boiling water ends up removing some of the volume which is a touch strange. But as long as you fold it in quickly and firmly, you’ll be fine.
- Divide the mixture between the two pans and put into the middle shelf of the oven for 20 minutes, or until risen prettily and springy to a gentle touch. They should turn out easily if you’ve greased the tins enough. Turn out onto a wire rack which you’ve covered with a tea towel, gently peel off the liner paper and leave to cool.
- While the cakes are cooking, take your cherries and sugar and 3-4 tbsp water, and simmer for 20 minutes. There will be a load of lovely soft cherries and a good amount of syrup. Ensure that you let both cool together.
- Next, make your chocolate ganache. Melt the dark chocolate with around 3-4 tbsp of cream in a microwave, then mix to combine. Transfer to a piping bag (or sandwich bag if you’re improvising!).
- Now, it’s time to assemble this bad bitch. Take your bottom sponge and nestle it on an attractive platter. Spoon the cherries from the bowl, trying to shake off as much syrup as possible while retaining it. Place on the sponge in a nice even layer.
- Now whip up your remaining cream to soft clouds, and fold in the cherry syrup in an attractive ripple. Snip off the corner of the bag and swirl over the ganache.
- Top with the second sponge and press down a little so your attractive ripple cream bulges a bit. You’re ready to serve!
*A “Rug Doctor” is one of those machines you see in Tesco and Homebase and is basically a giant carpet shampoo machine which is extremely noisy and hugely efficient. At £48 for two days, I would classify it as the perfect spring clean machine which cleans your carpets and sofas, makes a hell of a racket and gets you a shiny new flat for less than you’d pay a cleaner.