Since I started this blog last July I have been looking more keenly at cookbooks. No big surprise there I suppose, but these days I’m not just looking for mouth-watering recipes and photographs, I’m interested in the stories behind them. I’ve learned from others and experienced firsthand how food can invigorate all of your senses, bring people together and stir long-forgotten memories. Some of the most thoughtful things people have ever done for me have included food, and I’m always first to put my hand up to make birthday cakes for friends or family. It makes me kind of happy that food in all its forms plays such a big part in my life these days.
Given the choice between two recipes for the same thing, one with a memorable bittersweet story, and one with only a pretty picture, which would you choose? Give me the story every time. This cake you’re thinking about making has touched, and even changed someone’s life. This someone is Dorie Greenspan, and it’s the cake that got her fired. “Creative Insubordination” was the reason her employer gave for her dismissal, when she switched Armagnac-infused prunes for the much-loved whisky-soaked raisins in this restaurant’s famous chocolate cake.
The thought of a chocolate whisky cake has intrigued me since I saw it in an issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine. It seemed like fate that I found Dorie’s book Baking: From My Home To Yours only a few days before my Nanna’s birthday, when I was looking for an intensely chocolatey cake spiked with whisky – the plump juicy raisins were a heavenly bonus. Let me tell you – and I don’t say this lightly – this is my new favourite cake without a doubt, and it garnered similar reviews from all of the samplers. In some cases, two slices were needed for confirmation. After all, it’s a big thing to commit to a favourite, especially where cake is concerned.
Chocolate Whisky Cake
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours
• ¼ cup raisins or sultanas
• ¼ cup whisky, I used Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch
• 2/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped
• ¼ cup plain flour
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 200g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
• 125g unsalted butter, chopped
• 3 large eggs, separated
• 2/3 cup sugar
• 85g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
• 3 tablespoons icing sugar
• 75g unsalted butter, slightly softened
1. The night before you intend to start this cake, place the raisins and whisky in a jar. Seal and shake a few times. Leave to soak for at least 3 hours, or up to 1 day. I left mine for about 15 hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F) and line a 20cm round cake pan with non-stick baking paper.
3. Whisk together the walnuts, flour and salt in a small bowl
4. Combine the chocolate and butter with 3 tablespoons of water in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate and butter are melted.
5. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until thick and pale, then stir in the chocolate mixture, the walnut mixture and the raisins plus any liquid left in the jar.
6. With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until firm and glossy. Gently fold into the chocolate mixture using a large metal spoon.
7. Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan, bake for about 30 minutes. When it’s ready, a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake should come out streaky – not wet but not dry.
8. Transfer cake to a rack and let it cool for about 10 minutes, before removing from the pan and letting cool completely.
9. To make the glaze, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Remove from the heat, then add the icing sugar, and the butter, a bit at a time, stirring until you have a smooth glaze. Now you can either pour the glaze over the cake straight away for a smooth finish and refrigerate for 20 minutes, or allow the glaze cool to room temperature for a more spreadable, swirl-able frosting.
10. This cake tastes fantastic at room temperature, but is also good straight from the fridge. It can be served with whipped cream or ice cream.