Over the years I have worked my way through a lot of chocolate bars. What started off as love for anything sweet and sugary has now developed into a slightly snobby desire for sophisticated bean to bar satisfaction. Gone are the school blazer pockets crammed full of Snickers bars (then Marathon), KitKats and Twix. Now in my handbag I have nestled between dairies and books, pens and the odd lipstick, large bars of handmade and hand wrapped hand printed even, exotic 70 or 53% chocolate bars. There is such an enormously good selection of exciting bars available on the market at the moment. Last week in Shoreditch, I sampled a Madagascan goat’s milk chocolate (AMAZING and delicious), a vanilla bean and smoke 75% chocolate, and a S’mores bar with piece’s of marshmallow candy and Graham crackers covered in even more chocolate.. Admittedly each of these bars cost in the region of £8 so that all I did was sample, far too tight on a Monday morning to fork out quite that much for a single bar of chocolate, however delectable it might be. On the same day I wandered, quite by accident, into the very cool Mast Brothers Brooklyn chocolate factory re-created and also in Shoreditch. Here they offered single origin drip hot chocolate in a variety of high to higher percentages and their own chocolate spread slathered on toasted sourdough. They also offered a peek, via glass doors, into the pristine and very modern looking chocolate factory itself. In this space, chocolatiers in denim utility aprons navigated enormous chocolate churning machines and the whole thing had a calm and shiny air to it. Willy Wonka’s it was not.
At treacle we always have a few different chocolate cakes, tarts and ice-cream on offer. We have cakes that are warm and squidgy and others that are cool and crisp. What they all share in common is the quality of the chocolate used. It is always 70% and it is melted slowly over a pan of simmering, never boiling, water. Sometimes a brute cocoa powder is added for depth, or a few shots of espresso or whisky for extra layers of flavour. The magic though, the one thing that makes our customers, and staff, come back for more is the addition of Maldon sea salt. And by addition I mean, not just a pinch, but heaped teaspoons of the stuff. It is also never completely crushed so that tiny flakes of crystal salt burst their salty deliciousness onto your tongue with an intriguing moreish ness. Granted the odd customer is aghast and returns their slice of cake in confusion but on the whole we have a dedicated clientele with the sea salt caramel and pretzel tart being the most prevalent choice by far.
Please find below a really lovely chocolate cake recipe:
Velveteen chocolate birthday cake with raspberries
1 x 8” in 3 x layers – bake for approx. 35mins
250g 70% chocolate
60g cocoa extra brute
4 x eggs
300g soft light brown sugar
175g plain flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ level teaspoon Maldon sea salt crushed lightly in the palm of your hand.
250g sour cream
½ capful good quality vanilla extract.
2 x shots strong espresso
Preheat oven to 160’
– Melt the butter with the salt and the vanilla in a large saucepan
– Take the pan off the heat and and stir in the chocolate, the espresso and the cocoa mixing until you have a thick and glossy emulsion
– Whisk together the eggs and sugar until light, and the gently fold this into the chocolate mixture. Stir constantly until you have a smooth emulsion.
– Sieve together the flour and bicarbonate of soda
– Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the chocolate and stir well to combine
– Add 1/3 of the sour cream and stir
– Repeat this process again until you have used up all the flour and sour cream. Do not over beat at any point. I usually use a large spatula to fold everything together.
– Spoon into pre-prepared tins and use the back of the spoon to level each cake. Bake until the top of cake feels springy to touch and a skewer comes out clean.
150g very soft butter
150g icing sugar sieved to remove any lumps (I use unrefined or Demerara icing sugar…)
1 x capful vanilla essence
– Beat together the sugar and butter until very soft and light in colour.
– Use this icing to sandwich the chocolate cake together and to swirl attractively on the top most layer.
– Cover with as many raspberries as possible and then dust these lightly with cocoa powder. You can also break up raspberries and put these in between the layers for an extra fruity effect.