Soured Cream Chocolate Cake

After the 19-hour Harry Potter marathon engaged in by myself and a few friends on Monday, I found myself with some soured cream on my hands, which had been intended for some nachos which proved the final straw in our simultaneous 19-hour eat-lots-athon.Spurning the idea of using the cream for its original purpose, I decided to make a cake. It’s been an absolute age since I made a cake. In fact, thinking on it, 18 months! I’m surprised I managed to last this long to be honest. After some scouring of the interwebs, I found this recipe from Nigella Lawson. I’m not normally a fan of her work, but it had the best reviews and only required 2 eggs; perfect as this was just a cake of convenience rather than for a special occasion. Not quite sure how economical making a chocolate cake in order not to waste some soured cream is, but never mind.

This is also a great example of why you shouldn’t be scared of baking: after baking a variety of dishes following the recipe strictly, you can then have some leeway in substituting ingredients (incidentally, crème fraîche would work equally well, being essentially – in the UK anyway – the same thing), and also, if disaster strikes you can be fairly confident that mishaps in process will still produce a good output. Here, I put the food processor bowl on the scales, added the ingredients as instructed, then realised there was no way to shove down the blades. I scooped everything out into a bowl, put in the blades, scooped it all back, turned the food processor on… and nothing. (Yes, it was switched on.) So I unplugged it and tried to take out the blade and bowl again, but they now wouldn’t budge. After some twisting and turning, the lid came off with a spurt of energy… cakemix all over the surfaces. Now with no guarantee at all that the quantities were right, I scooped out everything again into the bowl and beat it with an electric whisk. Even after all that manhandling and slight loss of ingredients, the cakes came out absolutely fine. Moral: Nigella’s penchant for food processors is stupid. 2nd moral: relax; baking is far from an impossible task.

It’s a relatively small cake as you might expect from the fact it uses only 2 eggs; 2x20cm circular baking tins are recommended (good quality silicone if you can, then you need only the merest smidge of butter and flour for greasing), though I used my heart-shaped ones as I didn’t have any circles to hand. Say 8 slices.

Base

200g plain flour
200g caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
40g cocoa
175g soft unsalted butter
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
150ml sour cream

  1. Take everything out of the fridge so that all the ingredients can come to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C (less for fan ovens) and grease & flour 2 cake tins
  3. Either process all ingredients together in a food processor, or else:
    1. Mix the dry ingredients and beat in the butter until combined and creamy
    2. Whisk together the sour cream, vanilla, and eggs, then beat into bowl of mixture
  4. Divide this batter (weigh it so it’s evenly distributed) into the prepared tins and bake until a cake tester/ cocktail stick comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes
  5. Remove the cakes, in their tins, to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before turning out of their tins. Don’t worry about any cracks as they will easily be covered by the icing later.

Icing

75g unsalted butter
175g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
300g icing sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
125ml sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Decorations

  1. Slowly melt the butter and chocolate in a good-sized bowl either in the microwave or suspended over a pan of simmering water.
  2. While the chocolate and butter are cooling a little, sieve the icing sugar into another bowl.
  3. Add the golden syrup to the cooled chocolate mixture, followed by the sour cream and vanilla and then when all this is combined whisk in the sieved icing sugar.
  4. When you’ve done, you may need to adjust the thickness by adding a teaspoon or so of boiling water to thin it, or some more icing sugar to thicken it.
  5. Choose your cake stand or plate and cut out four strips of baking parchment to form a square outline on it (this stops the icing running on to the plate). Then sit one of the cakes on it.
  6. Spoon about a third of the icing on to the centre of the cake half and spread with a knife or spatula until you cover the top of it evenly. Sit the other cake on top, pressing gently to sandwich the two together.
  7. Spoon another third of the icing on to the top of the cake and spread it in a swirly, textured way.
  8. Spread the sides of the cake with the remaining icing and leave a few minutes till set, then carefully pull away the paper strips.
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