For me there are few things more rewarding than cooking for others, so I was super chuffed when those nice people at farm:shop asked me to start regularly supplying the cafe with my treats. These past few weeks have been a blissful blur of baking chard, smoked cheddar and mushroom quiches with delicate walnut and chive or nigella seed and parmesan crusts, ultra crumbly lavender shortbread, mini keema pies, feta and spinach rolls, artisan popcorn, pretzels and vats of panch phoran chutney. There’s such a buzz about hearing the lovely feedback from the customers and it’s great fun dreaming up new and exciting ways in which to cook up the latest harvest.
When a request for a cake came in, I wanted to make something decadent and “money’s worth” so decided to fox up a classic Green & Blacks’s chocolate marquise recipe. I massively heart the ruthlessly aromatic camphor of cardamom, which like its protean brethren nutmeg; means it’s just as comfortable in a rice pudding as in a biryani and makes it the perfect partner to pretty much anything cocoa based. Crushing those resinous pods to add a subtle twist to sweet dishes is something the Bangladeshi cook has been onto for centuries. As kids we grew up squabbling over clotted bowls of my mother’s legendary Bengali cardamom-infused rice pudding or “payesh”, shandesh (a ricotta, cardamom and pistachio dessert) and rasgullas (which literally means “globes of juice” and takes the form of pistachio curd dumplings soaked in a rose and cardamom syrup).
In this obscenely rich cake (you only need the teeniest slice), the cardamom is a veritable plectrum to the fruity, almost bitter notes of the dark chocolate and lingers gorgeously on the tongue. The separate cakey base and mousse may seem like a total faff, and I won’t lie – they are. If you really can’t be bothered and you’re in the area, I would recommend getting down to 20 Dalston Lane and treating yourself to what’s left of mine.
Serves 15-20 decadent little slices
For the base
Melted butter for greasing
300g (10 ½ oz) dark chocolate minimum 60% cocoa solids (I used 200g/7oz dark chocolate, minimum 60% cocoa solids plus 100g Maya Gold) broken into chunks
165g (5 ½ oz) butter
1 tbsp ground almonds, plus extra for dusting the tin
275g (10oz) caster sugar
A pinch of sea salt
5 large eggs
3 cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed to powder
For the mousse
250g (9oz) dark chocolate, minimum 60% cocoa solids, broken into pieces
100g (3 ½ oz) icing sugar
175g (6oz) unsalted butter
5 large eggs, separated
6 cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed to powder
150 ml (1/4 pint) double cream
Cocoa powder to dust
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
- Brush a 23cm (9in) springform tin with high sides and removable base
- Make the cakey bit by placing the chocolate, cardamom, sugar, butter, and salt in a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water until melted and amalgamated.
- Whisk the eggs and add the ground almonds and fold into the chocolate mixture off the heat. Continue to fold until the mixture thickens. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for about 30-40 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin for about 2 hours before starting the mousse.
- To make the mousse, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over some barely simmering water. Remove from the heat and add half the icing sugar, stir and then whisk in the butter and cardamom. Whisk in the egg yolks on at a time. Set aside.
- Whisk the egg whites to the stiff peak stage and add the remaining icing sugar. Keep whisking until glossy. In a separate bowl, whisk the cream until stiff peaks form.
- Add 1/3 of the egg whites to the melted chocolate mix and carefully mix to blend. Gently fold in the remaining whites, alternating with the whipped cream. You don’t want to over mix or crush out the air bubbles, but you do want it to be well blended. Pour this mousse over the cooled cake base in the cake tine and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, remove the tin from the fridge about 15 minutes before serving. Dip a palette knife in boiling water, dry it and slide around the edges of the cake to loosen it from the tin and then remove the ring. Re-heat the knife in boiling water, dry it and gently smooth the sides of the mousse.
- Dust generously with cocoa powder and serve with a dollop of crème fraiche.