Although I can't possibly bring myself to agree with them, I know there are people out there who shudder at the thought of Christmas cake or anything that bats even the corner of an eyelid in the direction of dried fruit. Christmas can be a tricky time for them, faced, as they are, with Christmas cake, mince pies and Christmas pudding at every turn. It seems that a British Christmas is a veritable banquet of raisins, currants, sultanas, dates and figs. Personally I love a dried fruit, especially one that's been soaked in enough rum and brandy to keep a swashbuckle of pirates happy for a month, but hey ho. Different strokes for different folks. And Christmas is the time to draw people together, not drive them to hide food in their handbags. A time when no one should be excluded. Even if they are fussy eaters.
This is a cake that ticks all the boxes for chocolate lovers and its hit of spice has Christmas all wrapped up too. It is both naturally gluten and dairy free and so can provide a delicious Christmas treat for food allergy sufferers; although steer clear if you suffer from nut allergies. I say naturally gluten and dairy free because this is not a recipe especially adapted for the gluten or dairy intolerant, it requires no special gluten-free flours or soya "dairy", this just happens to be a cake that flour and butter were never invited to take part in, so there's no feeling of compromise in its taste or quality. I love the close-textured, fudginess of this cake, and it also has the benefit of keeping for ages without going at all dry (as long as you keep it in a properly airtight container) and freezes brilliantly.
The combination of chocolate and spice is wonderful at any time of the year, but there is something especially Christmassy about the smell of mixed spice, ginger and cinammon emanating from the oven door. This is a really indulgent and, dare I say, sophisticated, grown up cake, that works wonderfully served with strong coffee or is equally delicious as pudding with a glug of pouring cream.
Spiced Chocolate Torte
Preheat your oven to 180 C or 160 C Fan. Grease and line a 9" round cake tin
8 oz/ 200 g good quality dark chocolate (preferably 70% cocoa solids +)
7 oz/ 175 g granulated sugar
4oz/ 100 g molasses sugar
5 oz/ 125 g ground almonds
1 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp cinammon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp apricot jam
150g dark chocolate (pref 70% cocoa solids)
100g butter cut into cubes or, if you are making a dairy free cake, use 40ml groundnut oil
- Break up the chocolate and melt in a heatproof bowl suspended over barely simmering water. Leave to cool slightly.
- Separate 5 of the eggs and place the 5 egg yolks and 1 whole egg in a large mixing bowl with the sugars and whisk until pale and fluffy.
- Add the ground almonds, spices, salt and chocolate to the mixture and stir until well combined. It will be quite stiff at this stage, but nothing a bit of elbow grease can't overcome.
- In a separate, clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until fairly stiff.
- Place a large dollop of egg white into the chocolate mix and stir quickly and forcefully to slacken the mixture.
- Carefully fold in the remaining egg white until thoroughly combined.
- Pour into your prepared tin and bake in your preheated oven for around an hour to 1 hour 15, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
- Once cooked, leave the cake in the tin on top of a wire rack to cool before turning out.
- Heat the apricot jam and brush your cake with the jam.
- In a heatproof bowl suspended over barely simmering water melt your chocolate and butter/groundnut oil. Once it has melted and stirred, take it off the heat and leave to cool for a few minutes before pouring the chocolate glaze over the cake, still on its rack. To prevent too much mess, place a sheet of baking parchment or greaseproof paper under the wire rack to catch the drips.
- Leave the glaze to set before using a couple of palette knives to transfer the cake on to a cake board or serving plate. You can leave it plain or decorate with a dusting of edible gold glitter or chocolate snowflakes, either handpiped or cut out from rolled out chocolate plastique and dusted with edible lustre in snowflake.