Wow! eat, little bird is 1 year old!
It is rather incredible to believe that, only one year ago, did I embark on this blogging adventure, extending my forays into the world of food by embracing new technology (WordPress, CSS and html coding were not part of my skill-set prior to the last 12 months), embracing a new medium through which I could share my love of cooking and photography and, most important of all, embracing a whole new community out there who are just as passionate as I am (if not more) about all things related to food.
I had previously shied away from the idea of having my own food blog, not least because there are about a million others out there, many of them being of a such a premium standard that their photographs could have been lifted from the pages of a glossy food magazine. And then I slowly realised that those food bloggers whom I admired did actually do professional work for real magazines and were merely blogging in their spare time, thus explaining the high standards which are prevalent on so many food blogs.
Whilst I could never achieve the glossy professionalism of photos displayed in the likes of Gourmet Traveller and Donna Hay magazines, I have always yearned for a way to share my recipe and cookbook reviews with other like-minded people and, at the same time, trying my best to convey a recipe through photographic images. So rather than being intimidated by the pro-bloggers, I decided it was better to be inspired by them and to try and find my own way through the blogging medium.
I have been immensely happy by the shape and form which my blog has taken in the past year, and hope that you also agree that eat, little bird is a fun and inspiring place to visit
To my subscribers and regular readers, thank you, thank you so much for your time in visiting and reading my blog, cooking your way through some of my favourite recipes, and leaving your valuable feedback along the way. It is truly your appreciation which motivates me to further progress and improve eat, little bird.
For those who wish to see glimpses of what is happening in my kitchen in between my posts here on eat, little bird, please visit me on my Facebook page or Twitter page where you will find updates and photos which I do not normally publish here.
And for a wrap-up of what’s been happening on eat, little bird in the past 12 months, here is a feast for your eyes …
In deciding how to celebrate eat, little bird’s first blog anniversary, chocolate cake instantly came to my mind, but I knew that it had to be a special one. For quite some years now, my online foodie friends have been raving about what has become known as the “Epic Cake”, so-called because it started out life as a chocolate cake on the Epicurious website, and which was later lovingly adapted by a good online friend who calls herself SamIam. And considering it was her who recommended the Chocolate Pound Cake which was to be my first ever post here on eat, little bird, I thought it was only fitting to go with her recommendations to celebrate my blog’s first anniversary.
This Epic Cake came to be well-known amongst the online foodie community because there was a debate as to what was the best chocolate cake recipe – was it Nigella Lawson’s Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake or was there a better recipe? For a long time, I was a faithful follower of Nigella’s chocolate cake from Feast, a recipe which has been fail-proof in my kitchen and which hits the spot whenever a craving for chocolate cake ensues. It might sound strange, but Nigella’s Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake tastes like a packet-cake mix, but in a good way. Hopefully I will get a chance to post on this recipe soon.
But presented with the perfect opportunity to try a new celebration cake, I proceeded to make SamIam’s Epic Cake. One look at the ingredients and I couldn’t help but notice how fitting the name was; the cake could be described as epic simply for the quantities of the ingredients. The recipe calls for 2 x 26 cm cake tins, a sign of how massive this cake is intended to be. But not wanting to buy new cake tins just for this occasion (nevermind that this size is nowhere to be found in the shops in Zurich), I proceeded to make the cake in 2 x 20 cm cake tins, meaning that I had enough batter leftover for a third cake in a 20 cm cake tin, plus some muffins. So from one recipe, many cakes!
Due to the large quantities of ingredients required for this cake, especially the quantities of cocoa powder, I felt it was necessary to use some more budget-conscious brands for this cake. When it comes to cocoa powder, I often reach for the Bensdorp Cocoa which I loyally buy from Dean & Deluca everytime I am in New York. But as this cake recipe required 1 ½ cups, that would have quickly depleted my existing supply. One brand of cocoa which I like to use in baking is from Cailler, a Swiss company which owns the oldest chocolate factory in Switzerland, located in the idyllic town of Broc in the Gruyère region which is famous for the cheese of the same name. Whilst this cocoa is not necessarily cheap, it is definitely cheaper than a flight to New York.
Chocolate cakes which are rich in cocoa powder tend to be on the dry side, but this one happens to be quite moist, thanks to the high liquid content. The addition of coffee also intensifies the chocolate flavour, making it a somewhat rich and deeply flavoured chocolate cake.
The chocolate ganache frosting is something which I have only previously used to ice cup-cakes, but it works quite well on a large tiered cake like this. The main consideration is that you need to let it set in the fridge until it reaches a spreadable consistency, and once you have spread it all over the cake, it does set well after a few hours.
Overall, I felt it was a really good chocolate cake recipe, but for the quantities. However, if an occasion called for a super-large chocolate cake, I think this recipe could be worth turning to. It was certainly worth making to celebrate this particular special occasion
The Epic Chocolate Cake
For the cake:
75 g (3 oz) dark chocolate (I used 68% Lindt chocolate), broken into small pieces
2 teaspoons instant coffee
1 ½ cups hot water
3 cups caster sugar
2 ½ cups plain flour
1 ½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Cailler brand)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ cups natural yoghurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F). Grease and line 2 x 26 cm round cake tins. (I made 3 x 20 cm cakes plus 2 muffins and gave the extra cake to my neighbours, but you could also make a 3 tiered cake, if you wish.)
Dissolve the instant coffee in the hot water in a small saucepan over high heat. Add the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted. Take the saucepan off the heat and leave it to cool slightly.
Sift the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder into a large bowl.
In the bowl of a food mixer, beat the eggs with the whisk attachment until they are thick and pale yellow in colour. Slowly whisk in the oil, natural yoghurt, vanilla extract and chocolate mixture.
Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients and beat until everything is well incorporated. I have two bowls for my KitchenAid and used the smaller bowl for the wet ingredients, and the larger bowl for the dry ingredients, mixing everything together at the end with the flat paddle attachment.
Divide the mixture between the cake tins. (If using 20 cm cake tins, you should have about 600 g of batter in each tin.) Bake for about 50-65 minutes if using 26 cm cake tins, or about 40-45 minutes for 20 cm cake tins. The cakes should be ready when the sides of the cake start to come away from the tin and a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Invert the cakes onto a cooling rack and leave for about 5 minutes before removing the tins, and let the cakes completely cool down.
For the chocolate ganache frosting:
1 ½ cups double cream (heavy cream)
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons golden syrup or light corn syrup (or honey, at a push)
325 g (11 oz) dark chocolate (I used 64% Cailler cuisine chocolate), broken into small pieces
170 g (6 oz) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix together the cream, sugar and golden syrup (or light corn syrup). Take the pan off the heat and mix in the chocolate until it has melted. Stir in the butter and mix until the butter has melted and everything is well combined. Pour the mixture into a bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge for at least 1-2 hours until it is a spreadable consistency. It should be thick and not too runny.
Please note that the following instructions are for cakes which are 26 cm in diameter. If you are making smaller cakes, you will not need all of the frosting.
Place one cake layer on the cake stand upside down (i.e. the bottom of the cake should be facing up). Take about one-third of the frosting and spread it evenly across the cake.
Place the second cake layer on top of the bottom layer, right-side up. Take another one-third of the frosting to evenly cover the top of the cake, and the remaining third to cover the sides.
The cake keeps well at room-temperature, covered with either clingfilm or a glass lid on a cake stand. I made the cake the night before frosting it and found that it kept well overnight, uncovered on the kitchen bench, and remained very moist during this time. Even a few days after making and frosting the cake, the remaining slices of the cake are remarkably moist and the frosting has set very nicely. This is definitely a cake which improves with time.