Yotam Ottolenghi: The world’s best chocolate cake

As well as being delicious, this cake is also easy to make and versatile

It’s hard to live up to the promise of being the world’s best anything, but this deeply chocolaty cake manages to do so. It’s made in a single bowl and is as elegant unadorned as it is with the optional ganache and mascarpone cream. And a word about that ganache: It’s made in a food processor, not on a stovetop, for a result that’s airy, lush and ingeniously streamlined.

The recipe for this cake, adapted from the cookbook Sweet, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh, first appeared in an article written about Goh when she ran her cafe, the Mortar & Pestle, in Melbourne, Australia. Rather intimidatingly for her, the headline for the article was “World’s Best Chocolate Cake.”

It could actually be called lots of things: “world’s easiest cake,” possibly, requiring nothing more than one large bowl to make it all in. Or “most versatile cake,” given that it can be served without icing and just a light dusting of cocoa powder, or dressed up to the nines, as it is here, with a thin layer of chocolate ganache and served with espresso cinnamon mascarpone cream.

In the Ottolenghi shops in London, it is smaller and goes by the name Take-Home Chocolate Cake, designed to be shared by four people after a meal. This larger version is no less delicious, and keeps well for four to five days.

World’s Best Chocolate Cake

Serves 12
Total time: 1 1/2 hours, plus cooling

Ingredients
For the cake:
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into two-centimetre cubes, plus extra for greasing the pan
200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped into two-centimetre pieces
1½ tsp instant coffee granules, dissolved in 350ml boiling water
250g caster sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
240g self-rising flour (see tip below)
30g Dutch-processed cocoa powder, plus 1½teaspoons, for dusting
1/4 tsp salt

For the chocolate ganache (optional):
200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken or chopped roughly into two-centimetre pieces
180ml double cream
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the espresso cinnamon mascarpone cream (optional):
375ml double cream
190g mascarpone
Scraped seeds of ½ vanilla pod
2½ tsp finely ground espresso
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2½ tbsp icing sugar

Method
1 Heat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Grease a 23-centimetre round springform pan with butter and line with parchment paper, then set aside.

2 Make the cake: Place butter, chocolate and hot coffee in a large heatproof bowl and mix well until everything is melted, combined and smooth. Whisk in sugar by hand until dissolved. Add eggs and vanilla extract and whisk again until thoroughly combined and smooth. Sift flour, cocoa powder and salt together into a bowl and then whisk this into the melted chocolate mixture. The batter here is liquid, but don't think you have missed something; this is how it should be.

3 Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, or until the cake is cooked and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean or with just a few dry crumbs attached. The top will form a crust and crack a little, but don't worry, this is expected. Leave the cake to cool for 20 minutes before removing from the pan, then set aside until completely cool.

4 Make the chocolate ganache, if desired: Place chocolate pieces in a food processor, process until fine and set aside. Combine cream and golden syrup in a small pan and place over medium-high heat. As soon as bubbles begin to appear (just before it comes to a boil), remove from the heat. Get the food processor running again, with the chocolate still inside, and pour in the hot cream in a steady stream. Process for 10 seconds, then add butter. Continue to process until mixture is shiny and smooth. (You can also make the ganache by hand; just make sure the chocolate is chopped fairly finely before adding the cream mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until almost melted, then add the butter. Stir again until the ganache is smooth.)

5 Use a rubber spatula to scrape the ganache into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, with the plastic actually touching the top of the ganache. Set aside until it has set to the consistency you want. If you want a thin layer to spread over the cake, it can be poured over while liquid so that you get an even, light and shiny coating. For a thicker ganache with a spreading consistency, leave it for about 2 hours at room temperature. (The ganache can be stored at room temperature, providing it's not too warm, for 3 days or kept in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. It can also be frozen, although it will lose a bit of its shine when defrosted.)

6 Make the espresso cinnamon mascarpone cream, if desired: Place all the ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat for 1 to 2 minutes, until soft peaks form.

7 Peel the parchment from the cake and discard. Transfer to a serving platter and spread the ganache, if using, on top of the cake. Slice into wedges, divide the cake among plates and, if using, spoon the mascarpone cream alongside. With or without icing, the cake will keep well for 4 to 5 days in an airtight container.

Tip: If you can't find self-rising flour, whisk together 240g plain flour and 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder and use this mixture instead.

Recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh, adapted by Yotam Ottolengh. – This article originally appeared in the New York Times.

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