Chocolate orange and cardamom cake

It’s December tomorrow. Seriously? I know me, you and everyone we know is saying the same thing but HOW IS IT DECEMBER TOMORROW?! It just freaks me out how quickly this year has gone. With December comes party season and with parties comes at least one fancy ass cake. I like to think this would be a great addition to any dessert table this Christmas. It’s dark and chocolatey but perfectly flavoured with orange and a hint of cardamom. Cardamom is hands down my favourite spice and I’ll find a way to work it into most desserts if I can.

A few years ago I thought I had found my favourite chocolate cake recipe but it turns out it was just a place holder for this one. The credit has to go to Hummingbird High as I slightly adapted the recipe from her chocolate cake. I used all purpose flour instead of cake flour, replaced the buttermilk with creme fraiche and a splash of milk and instead of coffee I just used boiling water. I didn’t want the coffee to throw off the flavour from the orange zest. I also added in two teaspoons of ground cardamom as well. The result is an incredibly moist (ugh I know but there’s no other word) and fudgy chocolate cake. I left the cake out overnight last night with a slice cut out and it wasn’t even dry this morning. It would keep really well if your guests didn’t polish the whole thing off.

The lovely guys at Lindt very kindly sent me over some of their chocolate orange truffles to try out and I thought they’d make the perfect decoration for a cake. If I was really going all out I’d love to brush a little edible gold leaf onto the truffles before adorning the cake with them. I frosted the chocolate sponge with an easy orange cream cheese frosting and poured dark chocolate ganache over the top just because it’s nearly Christmas and if you can pour dark chocolate all over a cake at Christmas when can you šŸ˜‰

Chocolate Orange and Cardamom Cake
(cake adapted from Hummingbird High)

  • For the Chocolate Cake:
  • 260g (2 cups) plain all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 400g (1 3/4 cups) caster sugar
  • 90g (3/4 cups) cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 200g (scant 1 cup) full fat creme fraiche, room temperature
  • 50ml whole milk
  • 120ml (1/2 cup) vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 240ml (1 cup) boiling water
  • zest of 1 large orange

For the frosting:
125g (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
175g (3/4 cups) cream cheese, room temperature
500g (4 cups) icing sugar, sifted
zest of 1 large orange

For the dark chocolate ganache:
150ml (2/3 cups) double or heavy cream
75g (2.6oz) dark chocolate, roughly chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas mark 4. Grease and line two 8inch/20cm cake tins and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cardamom, sugar, cocoa powder, bicarb and baking powder.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the creme fraiche, milk, vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla, water and orange zest. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated.
  4. Divide between the two cake tins. Tap the tins onto the worktop to knock out any air bubbles and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 30-35 minutes, or until a wooden skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool completely before removing from the tins.
  5. For the frosting, beat the butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer until just combined. Sift in the icing sugar and slowly mix together. Turn the speed up and beat for 3 minutes until fluffy then add in the orange zest.
  6. Level your cake layers off and place the bottom one on the stand. Cover the top with frosting and place the second layer on top. Crumb coat the top and sides and leave to set for twenty minutes in the refrigerator. Ice the cake with the rest of the frosting using a palette knife to smooth it down.
  7. Leave to set for an hour or more. In the meantime, make the ganache. Heat the cream until just hot but not boiling and add the chopped up chocolate. Take off the heat and keep stirring until all the chocolate has melted. Leave to cool until it reaches room temperature and has thickened slightly.
  8. Starting in the centre of the top of the cake, spoon the ganache on and slowly work it out towards the edges using the back of a spoon or an offset spatula so it starts to run down the sides. Don’t overdo it, you might not need to use ALL the ganache. You just want it to start dripping over the edges, not covering the sides.
  9. Decorate with Lindt chocolate orange truffles and add a little drizzle of ganache to each truffle.
Recipes revisited: two ways with dulce de leche

Recipes revisited: two ways with dulce de leche

It’s been a little while since I was last here: toward the end of last year I launched NorEats, a directory of the best independent food and drink in Norwich, and so have been busy eating and writing about all the region has to offer. Truly, a hard task.

I’ve not been resting on my laurels, though, having been told in no uncertain terms that I had to bring a birthday cake to my friends’ celebrations. Cue the troublesome jar ofĀ dulce de leche.

A jar of dulce de leche in the cupboard that you need to get rid of is a good problem to have, even if the necessity is there because you can’t help dipping a spoon into it with alarming frequency. So instead of going directly jar to mouth, I’ve taken it on a slight detour via two tweaked recipes: one for white chocolate & salted caramel cake and one forĀ After Eight chocolate mint cake. Continue reading

After Eight chocolate mint cake

After Eight chocolate mint cake // The Dinner BellWhat this blog is, really, is a series of love letters about the people in my life, and sometimes to vegetables. There’s even one love poem, about speculoos. It’s never truer than with cakes, and a round cake on here is almost always a food-based emotional outpouring, because I’ll only make a big, proper dessert, big enough that it could almost be a weapon,Ā for someone I really care about*.

This one was for the work wife.

It’s weird, the intensity of the relationships you form at work, with people you see more than your housemates and family. The ones that are right there when things go wrong, and bring snacks to remedy it, and the ones that make you cry with hysterical laughter. Continue reading

Strawberry and pecan courgette cake

This courgette cake was a long time coming.Ā Strawberry and pecan courgette cake // The Dinner BellThe cake stand in my kitchen had gathered dust.Ā Perched atop the cabinets, it’s stood unloved since the Marvellous Night Circus cake, a state of affairs that 2012 me would never have predicted.

She also wouldn’t have predicted me being caught out with a cache of enormous courgettes that need eating.

ThoseĀ ones went into courgette andĀ ComtĆ© gratin (recipe tbc), but they got me thinking about courgette cake. When I said those words, people recoiled slightly, much like they did with avocado cake, but I’ve proven ’em wrong once and I’ll prove ’em wrong again.

This cake is perfect for this time of year, when strawberry season comes to an end, courgette gluts leave home gardeners desperately pressing the vegetableĀ into the arms of visitors, and the clouds open to remind us that yes,Ā we’ve had a delightful three days of summer but weĀ areĀ still in England, giving you just enough time to put the oven on and consider branching out into wearing sleeves again.

Continue reading

White chocolate & salted caramel cake

So that was a bit of a gap between posts, eh? 2014 has already been somewhat bonkers, to the point that food has been about what can be cobbled together in the few hours between getting home and going to (sweet, sweet) bed, rather than something of experiments and long weekends in the kitchen.

White chocolate & salted caramel layer cake // The Dinner BellLetting go of the festive season has been a struggle. Our Christmas tree came down long after January 6th, and the rest of the month saw me gleefully throwing leftover Roses and Quality Street down my gullet and swigging beer while I chuckled at the poor chaps giving up sugar and taking part in Dry January.

But it’s February in a few days, and nothing makes you realise you need to step out of Hotel Chocolat, even if thereĀ areĀ bargains to be had, like facing Valentine’s Day as it rushes at you head-on.

Of course, I realised thisĀ afterĀ I made this cake. It was a multi-purpose delight: a birthday cake, a look-how-strong-my-willpower-is-I’m-not-even-saving-myself-some cake (kidding no-one, I know), and as the last slice was devoured with a cup of tea by a friend, fork in one hand, tissues in the other, a break-up cake.

The cake itself is layers of salted caramel, carried by a simple vanilla sponge and wrapped in white chocolate buttercream, the sweetness offset by the touch of salt. What a way to wave goodbye to January. Continue reading