Over the weekend it dawned on me that I should create a valentines treat. However, for anyone who knows me, they'll know that I'm not the most romantic person in the world. I like meaning and thought, but I'm not particularly interested in things being in the shape of hearts or coloured in every shade of pink, just for the sake of it!
So, when I challenged myself to find a new recipe for a valentines cake, I knew only too well that I could never be satisfied if it was simply a victoria sponge with a few drops of pink food colouring added to the mixture - That would have been a pathetic attempt. All the e-numbers would have left me on a terrible downer in the evening - not really want you want on Valentine's Day.
My first thought was to make a red velvet cake, but a genuine red velvet cake, not one pumped full of red food colouring as so many are these days. I conducted some research to discover that the red colour of a traditional red velvet cake comes from a reaction between cocoa and buttermilk. However, the traditional red velvet cake is a great deal earthier in colour, almost like a dull terracotta. A friend of mine, Linda, then passed a recipe onto me for a red devil's cake, which I have adapted slightly. Perfect! And for the topping...well, nothing compares to passionfruit. Delightful!
Ingredients for the chocolate mixture (in saucepan)
150g good quality dark chocolate, minimum 70-80% cocoa solids
4oz soft light brown sugar
1 egg yolk (keep the white for the egg mixture below)
Ingredients for the cake mixture (in large mixing bowl)
125g unsalted butter, softened
200g golden caster sugar
2 egg yolks (keep the whites for the egg mixture)
250g self-raising flour
2 tsp bicarb
1 tbsp warm water
Ingredients for egg white mixture (in electric mixer - if you have one)
3 egg whites (from eggs above)
Ingredients for buttercream
2oz unsalted butter, softened
8oz icing sugar
Pre-heat the over to gas mark 4 (180 degrees). Grease the base and sides of a 23" inch tin.
Firstly, the chocolate mixture. Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a saucepan. Add the buttermilk, sugar and vanilla extract. Place over a low heat and warm through until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Turn off the heat. Lightly whisk the egg yolk in a bowl and add to the chocolate mixture. Mix thoroughly until the mixture has thickened slightly. Put the mixture to one side to cool slightly.
Now for the cake mixture. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar. In a small bowl lightly whisk the egg yolks with the milk and add to the cake mixture. Sieve the flour into the mixture, a little at a time, combining it in as you go. Dissolve the bicarb in the warm water and then add to the mixture, mixing thoroughly.
Pour the cooled chocolate mixture into the cake mixture and mix together until combined. I would suggest using your spatula to get into all of the nooks and crannies as the cake mixture has a habit of sticking to itself. If you have the urge to plunge your entire face into the mixture then it is ready.
In an electric mixer, if you have one, whisk the egg whites to a soft creamy peak. Gently fold the egg whites into the mixture, a little at a time, taking care not to knock the air out of the eggs.
Once completely combined, pour the mixture into the greased tin and place on the top shelf of the oven for 50 minutes or until a clean skewer, inserted into the centre of the cake, comes out clean.
Allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack, before icing. And on that note, for the icing; cream the butter in a mixing bowl. Because we don't want any passionfruit pips in the buttercream, you should sieve the fruit pulp into a small bowl so you only have the juice. Add the juice to the butter and mix well. Sieve the icing sugar into the buttercream mixture, a little at a time, and combine until it is a smooth and pale consistency but still easy enough to spread. You may need slightly more or less icing sugar, depending on how much juice the passion fruits contributed.
Spread the buttercream over the surface of the cooled cake and serve. When this cake is cut, it is a deep red earthy colour that I had been looking for.
Enjoy, as ever, with a brew (or perhaps a snuggle)